Another Day, Another Meaningless Win

“This is going to be close.”  

  Marcel Kittel.

Winning TrophyIt’s July and the Tour de France is in full swing. The race is an incredible demonstration of athleticism. In 21 stages over three weeks, riders cover 2,200 miles. That includes riding up mountains that most of us would have trouble climbing on foot. Now, after two weeks, only 23 seconds separates the top three cyclists. You’d be right if you thought that was close, but the margin of victory in Stage 7 was even closer.

Stage 7 wasn’t difficult by TdF standards. Relatively flat and 132 miles long, it was specifically mapped for speed. With the top sprinters in the world competing for a win, everyone expected an exciting finish No one anticipated what happened. As the final few meters flashed by, Edvald Boasson Hagen was leading and the apparent victor. Then, with an incredible burst of speed, Marcel Kittel pulled alongside in a literal photo finish. Commentators were initially confused. Some thought the win went to Boasson Hagen, others to Kittel. The finish-line camera was consulted and despite capturing 10,000 images per second, a victor still wasn’t clear. It took more analysis before the judges declared Marcel Kittel the winning rider by a margin of .0003 seconds and less than a quarter inch.

What’s a Tie?

There was a time when the stage would have been called a tie and after 5 hours in the saddle, both riders would have shared the acclaim. That’s because no eye-witness could have detected a difference. Technology, however, brought us a technical win. In the future, we can assume things will be shaved even closer. But at what point does a technical win become a meaningless win? I think we’re at that point because most of us experience it every day.

Way back in 1950, UCLA Bruins football coach Henry “Red” Sanders told a group of PE teachers, “I’ll be honest. Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!” It’s one of those catchy aphorisms that proves culturally irresistible. So, irresistible, in fact, that it’s permeated our collective psyche. Sure, we all know professional sports is a business. Top ranked athletes are paid to win not just show up. But what about the fans? The home team’s loss to a rival registers everything from gloom to death by cardiac arrest. For the faithful, winning is the only thing. It wouldn’t be so bad if the influence ended there, but it doesn’t. Do you know anyone who must always have the last word? Or who “tells it like it is”? What about the person who relentlessly argues for their own point of view while beating down all differing opinions. How about married couples who’ll argue late into the night unwilling to concede a point because they’re each “right”? In these and many similar cases, compromise or concession is a sign of weakness. A tie is inconceivable. Winning is the only thing.

A Meaningless Win?

In life, a technical win is never a long-term solution. Scoring a .0003 second win over your spouse doesn’t make the marriage better. Winning at work by a quarter of an inch won’t get you ahead. It’s time to accept that you win some, you lose some and sometimes you tie. Accept each with dignity, courtesy, and respect and you’ll always come out the winner.   —Ebert

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