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Good Sports, Sore Losers, and Why it Matters: RIP Rick Rypien

This post is dedicated to a fierce competitor and a lovable guy, former Canuck Rick Rypien. We’ll miss you, Ryp. We know you didn’t play for us anymore, but we will never forget your spirit. We all loved watching you take on guys who were a whole head taller than you! Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.

Five hours ago, the Stanley Cup was at my work.

No, no. I’m not kidding. I mean, the real thing was at my work.

You super-sleuths now know where I work, if you know the Cup’s schedule. I, sadly, was one of the few who did not know it was going to be there.

And of course, today is the first day of my four-week vacation.

I discovered the Cup’s presence early this afternoon when someone posted a picture on Facebook. Calling the direct line to my department, I asked a co-worker if it was gone.

“Sorry,” she said. “Only a half-hour window, I heard.”

Sigh. This is the plight of a true Canucks fan: never knowing – or not seizing – their half-hour window.

Yes, some of us are still shaking our heads and shielding our eyes from the ‘Summer with Stanley’ pictures floating around the internet. Some of us are still grieving over the whole affair.

We’re sore losers, most of the world says.

That’s nice. I love hearing that the cause of all my problems is me.

It might be true, of course. Some of our sore losers (and I hate to have to use the term ‘our’) have acted out with extremely inappropriate – if not criminal – behaviour. An eastern newspaper posted last week that, with news of Milan Lucic’s upcoming weekend with the cup, some Canuck fans vandalized Lucic’s family home. Rumours circulated that Lucic had planned a public unveiling party at Kitsilano Beach to celebrate the Bruins’ win, and that due to threats of violence against his family, he cancelled in favour of a private party.

The media exploded. How dare we be so disrespectful? How dare we not throw Lucic a party in the streets we recently destroyed following our opponents victory?

I’m not one of those who felt need to interrupt my week with threats to Lucic or his family. I certainly don’t condone what they did. It kind of makes me feel sick inside. But I can’t say I was ready to throw a public party celebrating Boston’s win either.

Does that make me a sore loser? Maybe. (FYI: If you want an intelligent analysis into the Canuck fan perception issue, check out the Canucks Army Blog here).

I felt frustrated by games growing up. I never seemed to ‘get’ them or how to ‘win’ at them. I was beaten most times I played, and I hate being not good at something. (Yes, its a psychosis). I never understood how those who won could be so cut-throat during the game, doing anything in their power to win, and then when they did win of course, I was supposed to be so okay with losing.

‘It’s just a game,’ they would say.

I never asked the question burning my mind: ‘if its just a game, how come you care so much about winning?’

Instead I’d shrug and say I just wasn’t a competitive person.

Yes, I know some of you just spit out your drink. Those of you who know me – or read this blog regularly – know that was a cute little delusion on my part. Don’t worry, one of our close friends decided to point it out to me a few years ago. So, I’m aware now. I’m competitive.

I mean, I care if I win or lose. Isn’t that what it means to be a competitor? Don’t you have to want to win to be good enough to win?

Most winning teams put all their efforts into winning. Sometimes we say that those who lose, ‘just didn’t want it bad enough.’ If that’s the case, that in order to win, you have to want it, then those who almost win are unlikely to instantly, genuinely, congratulate those who manage to beat them.

And, if this is the case, there is bound to be a world full of sore losers.

So why is there so much pressure – and expectation – from ourselves, and our society, to be ‘good sports’?

Good sports are willing to engage (that part I find easy). But they’re also willing to let go after its over (that’s … not so easy).

I used to think the judgment packed into the label of ‘sore loser’ was the winners’ way of justifying the satisfaction of gloating. Winners are rarely chided for being ‘sore winners’.

It’s not too different from real life. We’re told to be happy with those who are happy. If we’re happy ourselves, that’s not too difficult. It’s the being-sad-with-those-who-are-sad-when-you’re-really-happy-yourself-part that’s hard. Maybe this is why depression is so isolating. Most of the world doesn’t know what to do with you when you’re in pain. But the reverse is also true: those who are in pain often find it tortuous to be happy for those who are happy.

I know the right thing to do is congratulate those who celebrate. But I’m thirty now. I’m on the flip side of multiple life changes and loss. I feel ninety inside. And, I’m tired of doing what I should just because I should. I need a better reason. I need intrinsic motivation.

Today, I found some.

Former Canucks enforcer Rick Rypien died today.

I need just a moment to think about that for a second.

It stinks. Stinks, stinks, stinks. It’s been kind of a rough few years for the Canuck family.  Luc Bourdon, Taylor Pyatt’s fiance… now Ryp.

What I loved about ‘Ripper’ is his never-say-die attitude. What, you’re bigger than me? Who cares! I’ll take you on! That spirit of competition is not only fun to watch, it inspires those watching to take on the giants in their lives.

But what happens when we fail to beat the giants?

There are far more opportunities to fail in life than there are to succeed. We can’t avoid failure. We can only use it well. As John Maxwell says, the most successful people are those who learned to handle failure with the attitude of a winner.

That’s when it hit me.

We need to be good sports because we need us to be good sports. The very act of choosing to be happy for the person who got the thing we wanted changes us. The choice to shake hands and say, ‘well done,’ when we really want to run and hide, makes us better people.

There’s great power in doing the right thing when we feel like doing the wrong thing. And since doing the right thing rarely feels right at the time, we better stop letting our feelings dictate our behaviour.

See, for example, June 15th.

I was almost glad I missed seeing the Cup today. I thought it might have been too painful to see the thing we’ve just barely missed for forty years. And then I realized that perhaps it would have been good for me to see it. Maybe it would make me a better fan, to celebrate the fact that somebody gets to hoist this historical prize in the air every year.

I hope that someday, that somebody is us. But even if it’s not, well…

Congrats, Lucic. This fan’s happy for you. And, I’m sorry about the other guys. That’s not cool with us. But we’re working on the ‘being good losers’ thing. Someday, we’ll get it right. And when we do, maybe we’ll have a new skill to practice:

How to be good at winning.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I was just thinking that I could care less about threatening Lucic’s family, but I still wouldn’t be at his Cup party, when I read it in your blog. And you’re very right – “Winners are rarely chided for being ‘sore winners’”, but sometimes they should be. It is true that we need to be more sportsmanlike losers sometimes, but most people also need to learn to win with grace. You are a stronger fan than me if you’re able to say you’re happy for Lucic. I’m not quite there yet, though I will congratulate him and say that he’s entitled to the celebration he earned. But still, did he really think that a public party was necessary? Isn’t that just a little rubbing of salt into not-yet-healed wounds?

    August 15, 2011
    • Liv #

      Lana and also Jana … thanks for your well written words! I think it just may be harder to be a good winner especially for some! So if we do win one day please remind us out here to be kind and gracious and, oh yes … THANKFUL!

      August 16, 2011
      • Absolutely I think its harder to be a good winner. Absolutely. We all need a wake up call on this.

        August 16, 2011
    • The word is that Lucic never wanted a big party, and the media got it wrong. He said the day after this story aired that he’d always intended to keep it private out of respect for Canucks fans. I don’t congratulate him because I FEEL it. I do it because its good for me. And, absolutely, winners reallllly need to step up to the plate. So, I hope when its our turn to win, we’re good at it. Although, with this many years of, ahem, stuff to deal with, we may just lose it. I hope not.

      August 16, 2011

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