The Lovable Losers in Life

Since the dawn of time, society has embraced our winners and champions. Trophies, diamond encrusted rings, parades, and meetings with the president are the rewards for achieving championship status. The New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Celtics, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tiger Woods, and Michael Phelps have been dominant in their respective sports and are emblematic of the phrase: To the victor goes the spoils. We all love a winner.  It makes us feel good to be associated with a winning franchise. When the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl two seasons ago, I walked around on cloud nine for weeks as if I actually had a spot of the roster. To this day, I tell stories at parties how I dumped the Gatorade bucket on coach Coughlin. And I admit that I’m still a little pissed that they haven’t yet sent me my ring.

Lions.FansBut every yin has its yang and for every exalted winner, on the flipside there is the perennial loser – the sad sack team or athlete who never tastes the bubbly Champagne, but instead gags on the rancid decay of the agony of defeat. What’s truly interesting about our society is it seems that everybody has a soft spot in their heart detroit_lions2for the lovable loser. While the winners are getting endorsement contracts for millions and millions of dollars, far exceeding the pay they receive for playing their sport, the losers stay mired in anonymity, hoping that their agents can bag that $500 bonus for appearing at the local Chevy dealer’s weekend barbecue bonanza.

What spurned this topic for today was a wonderful event that took place only yesterday. The entire sports world stood up and cheered for the NFL’s depressed and downtrodden as the lowly Detroit Lions – the team that lost every game last season – defeated the Washington Redskins and removed a monkey off their backs ten times the size of the Mighty Joe Young. It was the second longest losing streak in NFL history as the Tampa Bay Bucs hold that dubious distinction of dropping 26 consecutive stinkers. Ford Field erupted as Lions players and fans alike acted as if they had truly won the Super Bowl, and for just one day, it’s kind of like they really did.

2006-07-03-wingsDetroit had not won a game since December 23, 2007 –  that’s 19 straight games going down the Astro-turf dumper. And as fate would have it for the NFL’s doormat, the game was not a sellout, therefore was not televised for the home crowd faithful – a group of loyal and dedicated fans who have sat through decade after decade of the worst of times. The Motor City has its Red Wings, the team with the second most Stanley Cups in NHL history. They also have the Tigers and the Pistons, teams that have won world championships and brought great pride to the home of Henry Ford. But the Lions are another story. They are indeed the loveable losers, but for some reason, some wonderfully unexplainable reason, the fans of this motley crew continue to root, hope, and cheer for victory – and yesterday, the good people Michigan were handsomely rewarded.

stengelCasey Stengel was hired out of retirement to manage the 1962 New York Metropolitans, a new franchise in Major League Baseball. The Dodgers and Giants had left for the Golden State and the “Metsies” as Stengel called them, became New York’s “other” ball club. And did that other team rot like stink on a f@#king monkey. The inaugural Mets achieved the fourth worst record in baseball ball history by losing 120 out of a possible 160 games that season. The team was known for its ineptitude and for some reason, fans and the media embraced this cavalcade of error riddled misfits. Yeah they were awful, an abomination that was sure to be a disgrace for decades to come. NOT. Just seven years later, the New York Mets upset the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles in five games to capture the World Series title and earn the nickname: The Amazin’s.

BCROSSHow about ex-major leaguer, the “not-so-great, Bob Uecker? Johnny Carson called him Mr. Baseball, (making 64 guest appearances on the Tonight Show) a nickname making fun of his lack of talent and less than glamorous career. He played for four major league clubs, hitting for a whopping lifetime average of .200. Yes, Bob Uecker sucked a whole lot, but fans embraced the man who was known for sitting in the cheap seats. “You know, I was once named Minor League Player of the Year…unfortunately, I had been in the majors for two years at the time.” To this day fans across baseball love the Uke, as he’s appeared in movies, TV, and is now the broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers.

It was Vince Lombardi who said, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser” which is almost like Yogi Berra’s, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it ” – but not quite. The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. That’s 101 years for the mathematically challenged. The Chicago Black Hawks have the longest losing streak in hockey, as 1961 was their last Stanley Cup. Much pain for the windy city. Some athletes have had pro careers of 15 to 20 years and never came close to winning a title of any kind.

BUCKPHU006000~Mookie-Wilson-s-Grounder-Past-Bill-Buckner-1986-World-Series-Game-6-PostersBeing a loser in the world of sports may not be a happy thing, but as the old saying goes, it’s not what happens in life, it’s what you do – vike102664.l_Fullhow you react – that makes the difference…
Bill Buckner’s entire excellent baseball career is summed up by one lousy, stinking, Mookie Wilson ground ball dribbler. In 1951, Bobby Thompson hit the “shot heard round the world” when the Giants won the pennant, the Giants won the pennant, the Giants won the pennant… and pitcher Ralph Branca was forever remembered as the man who tossed mlb_a_williams_195the ill-fated pitch. Wild Thing Mitch Williams served up the infamous “grand slam” by Joe Carter, as the Toronto Blue Jays took the World Series on a Game 6 walk-off Dinger. California Angels pitcher, Donnie Moore shot and killed himself three years after giving up Dave Henderson’s tying home run in Game 5 of the 1986 American League Championship Series, when the Angels were one strike away from their first World Series title. Jim Marshall, the All-Pro defensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings picked up a fumble and ran the entire length of the field – in the wrong direction – for what he thought was a sure touchdown. His fabulous all-star career is defined by the nickname “Wrong-Way Marshall.” In game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals, New Yor Knicks ultra-reliable point guard and three-point specialist, John Starks had one of the most horrendous games of anyone’s career, shooting 2-for-18 from the field, including 0-for-11 in the fourth quarter, as the Houston Rockets went on to win the game and the NBA title. Human nature is so peculiar as each of the above players named were terrific and successful athletes – yet one moment of adversity put a monster-sized blemish on their entire professional careers. Damn… that’s just not fair.

So today we hail the loveable losers in sports and of life. May the Detroit Lions remind us all that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel and a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Okay, Lions fans, party’s over – next week you face the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

And may say that the fans of this blog are all winners!

Rock on ‘til next week,
Tommy Z.
JR Cigars Blog With the Zman

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