Imagine not getting that promotion you had worked four years to get, and having the person who got it, run around your office yelling and screaming that she got it, with the help of a large number of people you work with thumping her on the back, yelling in support and celebration of her victory over you.
That’s what it feels like when your team loses and you’re in a public place with supporters of the winners present in large numbers.
That was me on Sunday when the dutch (“my” team) lost against the Spanish one/nill in the World Cup finals. There were hundreds of people at the pub I was at and about 30% of us were in the orange color of the dutch team, with perhaps 50% of the rest in the colors of the Spanish.
The Spanish scored in the final moments of extra-time and the place erupted in jubilation as every orange colored supporter fell into silence and dejection.
Then the game was over and we – the losers – were left in our own private thoughts as our “office colleagues” who got the promotion began dancing in our cubicles, on our desks, throwing streamers and doing conga lines around and through our office.
No dignity for the downtrodden.
Being the magnanimous player that I am, I quickly resolved to move on and congratulate the winners who I conceded were the better team. After all, there would be other finals and we would eventually win.
As I was leaving the pub an hour later, I stopped to talk with a friend when a group of Spanish supporters walked by on their way out of the pub. I spontaneously chose to be gracious in defeat and I offerred my congratulations to them.
One young woman looked at my orange shirt and responded, “Oh Holland. Loseeers!”
Followed by laughter of several members of the group, and then she continued, “Holland go home! Holland go home!”
I said to my friend, “Now there’s a classy woman!” And we both laughed.
That behavior is par for the course I think; it’s what you can expect from the supporters of any winning side at major sporting events; but it doesn’t have to be that way does it?
What does it take to be gracious in victory?
Nothing, especially given that in matters like the World cup or anywhere you put a lot at stake – like your life – you will lose many times before you win.