As I am typing this entry, I am watching the induction of Michael Jordan into the Basketball Hall of Fame. MJ is the greatest basketball player ever and also one of its biggest winners. MJ was a fierce competitor and cared about winning so much. He didn't mind his individual stats much, he always wanted his team to win. I was thinking about winning and losing yesterday and how much I hated to lose. Then I thought to myself, I think I forget my wins and that my losses are more memorable. Is this common? Are our losses more memorable than our wins? We have seen countless highlights of MJ, draining buzzer-beaters, the flu game, the Dream Team, the Shot, etc. MJ didn't lose much in his career but does he vividly remember when he failed?
Michael Jordan never used to win when he first joined the NBA in 1985. When he won his first title in 1991, he had endured years of losing. When he un-retired in 1995, he played and then lost again. This is a quote from a recent ESPN article concerning MJ's competitive nature. "Everyone heard of our famous card games," said former Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong. "Why did they last forever? Because Michael never loses. Whatever he's doing, he's going to win because he's going to keep on playing."
For the last few years, I've been playing a lot of soccer/football. When I play, there's only one thing on my mind. To win. Or do whatever it takes to win. It could be claimed that I'm not a great footballer, and all bad footballers play defence. Last time I checked, unless you were Brazil, defence wins championships in soccer too. Everyone wants to score goals anyway, so why not allow them to do that and pay attention to not conceeding goals? That's dedication to a cause.
When I lose a game, it sticks around for awhile. You want to win the next one so you keep on thinking about the last loss. It doesn't matter if the loss wasn't your fault, you just don't want it to happen again. When you lose, you begin to take little glories. "I scored a goal". "I saved many goals". "We scored the last goal". But at the back of everyone's mind, the result is there. It may be pick-up, it may be a friendly, but it's a loss.
In high school, I seemed to win everything. I never lost a debate in which I represented Presec. The one-time I didn't represent Presec, we lost. No, I didn't curse our team due to my absence on it. I don't even remember why I was left off the team. Rumour has it that 'authorities' called for me to be axed off the team because I may have jeopardized our chances. Losing that inter-regional debate in Koforidua hurt so much, even though I wasn't on the team. We cried foul. I also competed for Presec in some 'What Do You Know' quizzes and won both times. I still remember my failure to make the school's Brillant National Science & Maths quiz. It had been my goal when I enrolled in Presec after the disappointment in how my Kiddie Quiz participation with USTJSS ended. Now that was a memorable loss.
Since high school, I've struggled to win much. We'd always fall short in our intramural game competitions. I didn't partake in any academic competitions at MIT, which is a story for another day. When I came to Stanford, I participated in some Trivia Afriques and only won after my third run. Whew! I felt I had lifted a monkey off my back. And then we finally won a soccer tournament (SASA world cup)!. Double whew! It got to a point when I thought I was 'bad luck'. The few Kotobabi Soccer Stars games I missed, we won. Call it superstition, but I'll rather we won even if I wasn't a contributor.
Back to MJ. We all know him as a winner. I'll argue that if you win most of your life, especially on the big stage, you remember your losses better. Losing is uncommon to you so they become more memorable. If you are not winning all the time, your wins become more memorable. Think about relationships with women. If you have your way with picking up women, getting phone numbers, etc, you will remember quite vividly the times you failed. If you don't have that much luck, charm, whatchumacallit, then you'll probably remember the times you were successful. I remember all the great times I had with women (and people in general) but I can't seem to forget the regrets.
I am off to watch some more Michael Jordan moments while I prepare to go play soccer again. You should watch some too. MJ is phenomenal. Many basketball players all over the world wear #23 in his honour. 23's fame has transcended other sports. When David Beckham realised #7 was taken by Raul when he arrived at Real Madrid, he chose #23. When I bought my first Manchester United jersey, I chose the number #23 as well. What was I going to choose? #10? I am no Abedi Pele. My favorite number is #3 but I am not a left-back. I am unhappy with the way numbers don't mean much when it comes to football positions these days but when I could choose a number, I had to choose a winning one. And that is #23. Given the impressions losses make on my psyche, I had to go with a number like that.