Learning to Lose

Learning to Lose

Don’t you hate losing? I used to tell my students to check the score of the Penn State game before coming to school on Monday. Just so they’d know if they shouldn’t mention it.

I’ve always felt like it was personal when Penn State lost a game. Like somehow my best wasn’t good enough on Saturday. I didn’t want it enough. I made too many mistakes in my pre-game ritual and jinxed us. Sigh.

It feels like having a fight with a family member. Sometimes it’s best not to discuss it until it all blows over. But, God forbid somebody else offers criticism or wants to give their two cents, and suddenly the fierce loyalty emerges. I can be upset with my family but don’t you dare cross them.

My husband, ever the sports commentator, likes to offer suggestions to the TV when things are not going well. I tell him his honorary Nittany Lion status does not extend that far. I’d prefer if he would just shake his head, sigh a lot, and occasionally let out a frustrated “Come on guys!” My dad paces. He decides he doesn’t want to watch and leaves the room (TV still on). Then I catch him peaking from the doorway. Next thing you know he’s back in his chair. If it’s really bad he goes outside, but if you listen closely he’s got the radio on out there. My mom just goes shopping and calls to check the score before she comes home.

Losing a game is heartbreaking. With all the recent losses in our Penn State life, losing a game on Saturday stings that much more. We put our heart out there on the field and it wasn’t enough this time. Sigh.

2005 penn state vs. michiganWe’ve had our share of heartbreaking losses. We’d prefer to pretend the 2005 loss to Michigan in the last second didn’t happen. Those of us in the stadium for the 1999 homecoming loss to Minnesota will never forget the sound of 100,000 people in stunned silence. The tried and true PSU fans among us will remember the end of a thirty-one game win streak to Colorado in 1970, the loss to Alabama in the 1979 Sugar Bowl, the loss to Notre Dame in the snow in 1989.

It doesn’t even have to be a bad loss anymore. Now they all hurt. Our heart is big and it’s a bit bruised. We want every game to prove that they haven’t gotten the best of us. We want to go blazing through the season, destroying every opponent in our path.

Lessons learned from losing are often greater than winning. You can fine us, sanction us, slander us, but we will not be beaten down. We refuse to let others define us. We’ve learned from the one who lost 136 times: Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.

We still know who we are. WE ARE PENN STATE.