The Agony of Defeat
The stench of loss hangs heavy inside Keegan’s Pub on Thursday nights. No, I’m not talking about the bar manager’s cologne (although coincidently, the name of Marty’s cologne actually is “Loss” by Faberge). On Thursday nights, the loss I refer to is the inevitable product of fierce competition. Such is the nature of any game of major league trivia. No matter how high the quality of the participants, there will be only one winner and scores of miserable, reeking losers. But the last few weeks the aroma of failure has taken on a more pungent, more personal quality.
Of late the Fraters Libertas team has morphed into the Beautiful Losers. We did win three weeks ago, but wrapped around that lone star of victory are five staggering losses. These have occurred for a variety of reasons, including absenteeism among team members and slack enforcement of the playing rules by bar management (specifically, allowing competing teams to play with more than 4 people). I don’t want to sound paranoid or anything, but I also believe we are the unwitting victims of an insidious conspiracy by bar management to systematically identify the gaps in our trivial knowledge and emphasize those questions in competition. Sure, we’ve always enjoyed our casual, light hearted discussions with the Keegan’s after each match. But little did we know they were testing us, probing for weaknesses. A little slip by the Atomizer revealing he knows practically nothing about Peruvian hydrogeology led to six questions about Lake Titicaca the very next week. Coincidence? Unlikely.
I’ll also admit to some laurel resting on our part. We enjoyed an unprecedented series of victories earlier this year and lost our focus. Personally, I’m a notorious laurel rester. The slightest taste of success and I’m looking for a bed of small, leafy wreaths to relax on for the rest of the day. In the context of Keegan’s victories, I guess that would be lying on a bed of free Bass Ale t-shirts. And given my laundry habits, I must admit I have been doing just that for weeks.
However legitimate these reasons are, I say the string must end tonight. Because if I want to drink beer and feel like a loser, I don’t need to haul myself over to Nordeast Minneapolis to do it. I can do that at home. Tonight, we seize victory! (See, it’s just over there). And not for the glory, but for our sacred honor! And the free Bass Ale t-shirts.
My penchant for cracking wise is ruining the inspirational spirit. Therefore I’ll turn the ending over to two masters of the craft. First, Will “the Thrill” Shakespeare, excerpts from Henry V:
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Now the same sentiments expressed, in slightly more earthy terms, by George Patton:
All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble player; the fastest runner; the big league ball players; the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win - all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost, nor ever will lose a war, for the very thought of losing is hateful to an American.
There is one great thing you men will all be able to say when you go home. You may thank God for it. Thank God, that at least, thirty years from now, when you are sitting around the fireside with your grandson on your knees, and he asks you what you did in the great war, you won't have to cough and say, "I shoveled sh*t in Louisiana."
Gentlemen - to victory! (Yes, I’ve started drinking early. But I can’t imagine that will affect the quality of my play).