17
May
11

Can’t Win for Losing

Some people are naturally competitive about everything they do. I am not.

That’s not to say I want to lose, or that I don’t like to be my best. I get jealous when someone is good at something I want to be good at. I want to be a success, and I want people to think I’m successful, but my goal is merely to be accomplished. I don’t necessarily want to be better than anyone. I just want to be as good as they are.

I don’t need to win. Sometimes I don’t even like to win, because I feel bad that someone else had to lose. I just want to be evenly matched. And then if I should happen to win, its not my fault that someone else lost. It’s just down to a good hand. Luck. Fate.

And I don’t like to celebrate and carry on. I don’t like to stand under a spotlight as draw attention to myself as “the winner.” I definitely don’t like to put it in anyone’s face.

But then sometimes, when I drink a lot, I behave much differently.


I really bit it one night in a flip cup match at the bar after a kickball game. If you don’t know flip cup, it’s a relay race. Two teams of equal number line up along either side of a long table. Everyone has a cup of beer. The first team to drink all its beers in sequence, starting at one end of the table, wins. As soon as you finish your beer, before the next person drinks, you have to set your empty cup at the edge of the table and tap it from underneath to flip it 180° and land it on its top. Each subsequent round starts with the next person in line.

I had joined this after-work social sports club with some coworkers. Kickball was the only league I had a chance at doing well in and having any fun. It had been… oh… 20 years maybe since I’d played. Funny how quickly it comes back. And when you add the adventure of competitive beer drinking on top of it, it almost doesn’t even matter how well you do on the blacktop. The real games happen at the bar.

My side of the table was on fire that night. In this particular round, every person was slamming back their beers and flipping their cups on the first try, bam, bam, bam, one after the other. The other side of the table was just half a step behind us and gaining. It was electric. And then it came to me, the last one in the sequence. It was all down to me.

I screwed up my courage and tossed back the beer. I set the cup on the table’s edge. I delivered a single perfectly calibrated and expertly timed (read: lucky) tap to the bottom of the cup. And just as my opponent was swallowing his beer, my cup landed smartly on its rim.

Done. My team had won. I had won the game for my team!

A rush of warmth and pride surged through me. I threw my arms up and howled. I jumped up and, as I came down, I threw my pointed finger in the direction of my opponent and, gathering as much force as I could, and feeling pretty bold and boozy, I bellowed, “Suck it!”

It was like someone else had shouted it. I don’t know if I thought it would be funny, or ironic because it’s so different from how I normally act. Maybe I felt like I had some wiggle room, because I was surrounded by so many people I didn’t know well, who didn’t know that it was extremely uncharacteristic for me to yell “suck it” to anyone under any circumstances.

Whatever the reason, it totally blew up in my face.

My opponent kept trying to flip his cup. He got it on the second or third try. And no one else on my team seemed to be celebrating with me.

“Suuuuuuuck iiiiit!” was still echoing in my head when he looked up at me.

“Uh, dude,” he said. “The game’s not over.”

He pointed down the table to the other end, where the actual anchor of my team was repeatedly setting up her cup, tapping the bottom and landing it lamely on its side. The realization of what was happening hit me like a bucket of water.

Not only had I not won the game, but my team had not won. And worse yet, they were very likely not to win.

And my little outburst of premature exuberance was looking pretty ugly right about now.

She was on her fifth or sixth try when her opponent landed his cup upside down. The other team cheered. I looked limply at the guy across the table from me. He kind of smiled back. And I sank down to my knees.

No amount of success earlier that night could make up for how big a jackass I felt. All I wanted to do was disappear. I considered quietly slipping away while everyone rearranged themselves for another match. But one of my teammates picked me back up and got me to try another game. It occurred to me that no matter how dumb I felt, the only way to get over it was to move on to the next game. “Suck it” was in the past. And there were many more pitchers of beer in my future.

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