Lord Tennyson famously wrote, “'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” In the realm of romance and friendship, this statement is profound. But does it apply to other walks of life?
What about the sports world? I am a diehard fan of the New Jersey Devils, who just lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals. The Devils were a team that was not predicted to make it all the way to the championship round, but beyond expectations, there they were.
The consolation should be that my team gave me an unexpected thrill, and I should be happy that it overachieved. I’m afraid I’m not feeling that way. I think I’d rather just have my team not make the playoffs.
Ridiculous, you say?
If I were to apply the thinking of Lord Tennyson, I could comfort myself in the blanket of memories that come with an exciting playoff run. But this blanket is itchy, like one of those Army surplus wool blankets, not like the soft duvet of winning.
The reason Tennyson’s words ring so true is that most people have had their hearts broken. To have loved and lost is a growing process, and each time that love is lost, a lesson can be learned. Whether it be that a person didn’t spend enough time with his or her partner or completely smothered the departing mate, each broken relationship can serve as a lesson for the next one.
The experience of love can be the most thrilling of feelings but when it’s gone, can also be debilitating. That is, until the next time, when we learn to treasure the experience just a tad more. As Frank Sinatra sang, “Love is lovelier, the second time around.”
In sports, there is no lesson, as such.
I’ve enjoyed my teams winning championships. The thrill of winning a championship takes several years to fade, whereas the pain of losing a championship game is permanent. There’s nothing to be learned. It’s all or nothing.
The only exception is when a team has never won a title. Then, making it far can be quite thrilling and the solace of a hard-fought battle can be comforting.
Take the Tampa Bay Rays for example. Rays fans suffered with an awful team for a decade, and then in 2008, they found their team in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Rays lost, but this was such an unexpected experience, especially considering that the Yankees and Red Sox are also in the Rays’ division, that making the World Series was a badge of honor, not a stinging memory.
I tend to go along Vince Lombardi, who said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
Winning fills all those little crevices that are left open when our teams lose. The longer the losing, the deeper the chasm. Winning fills the void. Losing deepens the wound.
While I’m thankful that my team gave its best effort to try and win a championship, the loss takes away all the joy. If I was in love with a girl who cheated on me, I wouldn’t be thankful for the good times. I’d fret over what went wrong.
Losing championship games is like having dinner with your wife at a fine restaurant and then her sneaking off that night to sleep with your best friend. It doesn’t matter that dinner was good. It was all for naught.
So, is it better to have made the playoffs and lost than to have never made it at all? With all due respect to Lord Tennyson, that sounds like something a loser would say.