In 1987 I reached the finals of the Wonderland Pre-primary sprint. I didn’t have enough coordination to crack the egg-and-spoon race, wasn’t enough of a team player for the three-legged race and the sack race made me claustrophobic. So I didn’t even enter any of those. I only play the games that I win at. And the sprint was my game.
After blitzing through the preliminary rounds I had just one more race to win in order to step on top of the podium and receive my gold foil wrapped chocolate coin. I had this.
But I didn’t win. One of my competitors tripped and I stopped to help, forfeiting greatness and my gold foil wrapped coin. You’d think that there’d be a special something to reward me for epitomising the spirit of the games, but instead I went home empty-handed.
My mom believes that that was the last time I did something nice ever again…
Which is why today there’s no such thing as a friendly game of 30 Seconds. Teary-eyed partners are the norm. It’s always their fault. (Who doesn’t know the name of the guy who built the Ark?) And best you check the card after I’m done with it, because chances are I’ve just rattled off a bunch of easy-to-explain clues that weren’t even printed there in the first place (Like, Who built the Ark?). Also, wasn’t the red marker further back, and, what, maybe I did just drop the dice so that it landed on zero, but you weren’t watching.
Lance Armstrong is a douchebag, sure, but nobody said that when he was winning. When he was winning he was a survivor and a role model and an inspirational athlete doing more with one testicle than you or I could with three. Despite his personality, Armstrong could do no wrong. Now that he’s had his titles stripped we don’t need to forgive that douchiness any more. Now we can hate him just like every other loser.
Do I blame Lance for cheating? No, I empathise with the man. Losing sucks. I don’t care how much you enjoy the game: when you do something, you want to do it right. And doing it right means winning by any means necessary.
F’rinstance, if I could’ve rigged last Saturday’s raffle, I would’ve. I’ve got it down at press launches, so I was pretty sure I could nail this. (Sometimes we’re asked to drop our business cards into a box and the one that gets pulled wins a prize. Life hack: drop in all of your business cards.)
Unfortunately, the entry mechanism for this competition was watertight, so I’d just have to rely on good ole Lady Luck.
The prize was a scooter. I didn’t want a scooter. But I do like to win scooters, so I spent a grip on plants at Starke Ayres (paying in five R200 instalments so that I could enter five times), stapled my till slips to the entry forms and then diarised the day of the draw, because the rules stipulated that only those present would be eligible.
Saturday was a deluge – flash floods, rivers burst their banks, roads washed away and animals were lining up two-by-two… This was definitely not a day for perambulating amongst plants – which made my odds even better. However, when I arrived the parking lot was full. People piled up onto the pavements and the hordes were running towards the entrance.
One of the pros of having kids is that the baby-seat in the backseat allows you to park in those special spaces reserved for expecting mothers and parents with infants, so I parked right by the door and then threw elbows while manoeuvering my way through the crush. I had this.
Well, at least I thought I did. Losing that lucky draw put a dampener on an already very waterlogged weekend.
Why does this affect me so much? Because men are competitive. I know this because of the “friendly” five-a-side kick-about that I play twice a week. The guys I play with have known each other their whole lives, but you wouldn’t say that if you watched us. Every single game is a battle and with no refs we go in late with studs to shins and the phrase “Come at me, bro!”
Why? Because no man wants to lose. Whether it’s that little game we play in the office when the boss is out – the latest is where you need to bounce a ball onto an office chair five metres away – or the pub quiz night – every guy plays to win and his value is determined by under-handing a teabag into a coffee mug a few metres away. (Another great office game to determine who’s the best amongst your colleagues.)
When I was initially asked to write this column, I did it with awards on my mind. So when our company awards were announced I played it casual. Cool as a cobra. When I didn’t get invited to the event, I knew it was because seats were limited. When there was nothing on Twitter I suspected it was because the after-party was huge. But when I arrived at work the next morning there was no backslapping, no framed certificate on my desk, no runner-up, no first princess… Nothing!
Do you even know how difficult it is to type while lying prone on the floor beating your fists and kicking your feet? If there was a prize for that, I’d need a new trophy cabinet!
But there are no prizes for that. Which is why I call bullshit on awards. Do whatever you need to do to win – whether that’s landing a teabag in a coffee mug or writing and rewriting 1 000 words until they’re right – but if someone deems your efforts second-rate, fuhgeddaboutit.
The musicians being lauded at music awards? Teeny-bopper starlets who pay for their saccharine tracks to be played on high rotation. The best-selling book – Harry Potter fan-lit, 50 Shades Of Grey. Hell, even my political party of choice doesn’t win.
So yes, even though losing hurts – I’m in good company. And with all this practise I’m getting slightly better at it. These setbacks are just building up to a big ole comeback. Tomorrow’s underdog advantage is worth more than today’s win.
Rocky always loses in the first few rounds…
And anyway, I don’t need a gold foil wrapped chocolate coin to tell me how good I am.
I’m a driver, I’m a winner; things are gonna change, I can feel it.