I’ll preface this with a couple things:
- I usually HATE betting.
- I’m uber-competitive.
- I love the Irish.
- I wrote this in September 2017 and never published it.
On Saturday, my favorite college football team, Notre Dame Irish (#biased #alum), took on the UGA Bulldogs. I’m from Atlanta, so this was a big game for my family and me. Both my parents came in town for the game and we had a ton of family friends in South Bend, IN, as well. It was my first home game this season and it was amazing. There is a magic to Notre Dame on game day that is unmatched to anything else I’ve experienced.
So back to point #1 up there… I have a friend who LOVES betting. On anything. He is one of the most painfully rational people I know and yet, the kid loves to bet. So naturally, I find myself in a discussion on Saturday afternoon while tailgating about whether ND or UGA will win. As an ND fan, I have to pull for the Irish but I ended up doing something I never do: putting my money where my mouth is. Blame is on the umpteenth beer, but I found myself agreeing that I’d owe him $50 if the Irish didn’t win by 5+. There are few things I’ll stake a claim on, but the Irish has always been one of them. The unbridled passion I have for my school awakened the competitive spirit inside me and a bet was born.
If anyone knows the end of this story, the Irish lost by 1. There’s not much to tell, except that we led for a large part of the first half and I was feeling reallllllly good about my off the cuff bet. Instead, we let it all go by the end of the game, and we handed the Dawgs a victory. It was heartbreaking. First of all, because I love the Irish and wanted to see a victory. Secondly, because now I’m poorer… although I have vast plans of finagling my way out of it….
Why do I bring this up? As the game marched on, my friend kept sharing that he was highly conflicted that if he rooted for UGA, he was simultaneously wishing that I would have a less fun day with my friends. Which led of course to an existential debate by me about how I didn’t need to win to have fun. Though I found myself reflecting on my own points as I fell asleep last night and I couldn’t decide if I was being the ultimate contrarian or if I meant it…
Do I really believe that this bet made the loss any worse? Logically speaking, it did, I suppose, but yet, as I watched my team place, I was having more fun because I had skin in the game. I was cheering harder for the Irish because I wanted to show my friend that I meant it when I said the Irish were my team. Not to mention, even when we loss, I still had endless memories of all the people I spent time with yesterday, drinking beers, cheers-ing to football season… so really, win or lose, the day was perfect.
What’s my point? This all left me with a lot of questions: Why am I competitive? Why is winning something that we all fixate on? In the cheesiest way, yesterday’s bet was an illustration to me that winning isn’t everything. I realize I made a point of this to my friend to be a contrarian, yes. My life was no better or worse because I lost… him fighting for the other team couldn’t take away from my joy. So in reflection, this ripples into every other part of my life.
Maybe this is the point: the definition of winning surely isn’t black and white. Not that I don’t have to remind myself this allllll the time, because it’s hard to remember! But I’ve challenged myself to we stop acting as though winning is black and white, because . How on earth can winning be objective when there are countless elements and opinions on what makes something good versus bad. What value does winning for winning’s sake give us?
Where does this leave you? I challenge you to spend this week reflecting on how many times you want to define yourself or your success by a black and white definition of winning. Let’s remind ourselves that a shiny gold medal does nothing to illustrate the blood, sweat, and tears that taught whoever came in second place a lot, too. Sure, we are players in a world where there is usually a clear winner and a clear definition of victory. But that doesn’t mean that we have to subscribe to the way this is supposed to make us feel. We have to define for ourselves what winning is and how we can win in more ways than just “won” (pun intended 🙂 ).