I don’t like to lose. I don’t know anyone who does.
I especially don’t like to lose to braggarts. There’s one sure way to shut up a braggart and that’s to beat one. Maybe that’s why I’ve always liked the story of David and Goliath. It’s hard to brag when you lose your head.
While I don’t like to lose, I also don’t like being around sore losers. Yet sooner or later, we all lose. We have to learn to deal with defeat and move on.
Winning can be intoxicating. The more one wins, the more that person feels invincible, powerful, unbeatable, proud, entitled and untouchable, which is another way people lose their heads.
The Scripture says it very clearly, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
It seems fitting that Cam Newton, quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, adopted the Superman “S” to identify his persona.
In case you lived outside the NFL world, in just five years Newton has rushed for more touchdowns than any other quarterback in history.
This year, he threw for 35 touchdowns, 3,837 yards, ran for 10 touchdowns and led his team to an impressive 15 wins against one loss during the regular season.
Newton is huge. At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, he runs over linebackers and defensive backs. He launches his body into the end zone like a missile.
His play was electrifying, reflected in his being chosen as this year’s MVP. Not only does his MVP status grant him the ability to market himself and make millions away from the field, but it also gives him a platform he can use to positively influence others, which he failed at greatly following the Super Bowl loss and in interviews days after.
While it takes a certain amount of M.C. Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This” swagger to thrive in the NFL, Newton could also learn something from a high school senior in Middlesex, New Jersey, about coming in second.
Michael Sparks came in second to Rich Fortels in the 100-meter backstroke by almost three seconds in a high school conference championship.
That’s an eternity in the swimming world. It wasn’t even close. Fortels’ time broke a 14-year-old record.
However, the record will not stand because he was disqualified for having on a swim cap with an unauthorized logo, a cap he’d worn in a previous competition, but apparently it wasn’t noticed.
Sparks was last year’s winner of the 100-meter competition and while the record books will show him as the 2016 winner as well, he will have nothing to show for it because he gave his first place medal away to the person he believed won it fair and square: Rich Fortels.
Sparks acknowledged that Fortels deserved the medal because he trained harder than he did and he was the better athlete.
While the rule about the swimming cap is included in the rulebook under “apparel,” Fortels was swimming as an independent in his first year of racing in the United States.
It’s not a rule he would have known, and Sparks said wearing the cap gave him no advantage.
Being “Superman” or “Superwoman” does not always mean you are the one that had the fastest time or the highest score.
Sometimes it takes a super person to just step up and acknowledge that someone else on a given day was better.
Sports (games) should teach and prepare us for life because in life we will not always be the best. We will not always be the first chosen.
Sure, at high levels these games are connected to pocketbooks, record books, egos and careers.
Even so, the game – the sporting event – still reveals as much about one’s character as it does about one’s physical ability.
In his defense of walking out of the press conference after the Super Bowl, Newton said, “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”
I’d like to offer Sparks and Fortels as evidence of good losers. Fortels was stripped of a win and a record because of a rule most people would call “stupid.” Yet it’s in the books.
The way each handled this event reveals they can be as good at losing as they are at winning. That takes character.
If Newton will learn that, it will gain him as many fans as he earned handing out footballs to children after he scored touchdowns during his incredible season.
Michael Helms is pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Georgia.