Monday, July 18, 2011

Sports Builds Character

The beauty of sports is sometimes a little hard to see when your team comes up short.

But Sunday brought two "oh-so-close" moments that serve as a reminder of how fine the line is between victory and defeat.

First, the U.S. women's soccer team learned exactly how it felt to lose one after its stirring quarterfinal win over Brazil. The World Cup final saw Japan beat the U.S. for the first time ever. Japan had been 0--22-3 against the American women, and its World Cup win was remarkably similar to the U.S.-Brazil victory. Late goals in regulation and overtime followed by a shootout win--the kind of win that is inevitably described as proof that the winning team is plucky, mentally tough, and wouldn't say die.

But does that mean the losing side was wimpy, weak, and full of quitters?

Of course not. But it does hurt to lose. Just ask Tyler Farrar, the American cyclist who won a stage of the Tour de France earlier this month and had a shot at another win on Sunday. But Farrar's last-second burst just failed to catch the sport's most dominating sprinter, Mark Cavendish. Afterward, Farrar was disconsolate, seeming near tears as he discussed the win that got away.

For both Farrar and the U.S. women, there will always be personal questions about whether they did enough, whether they "gave the game away", whether it would turn out the same way if they got a second chance.

But the beauty of sport is that it doesn't matter. We can talk or write about it ad nauseum but nothing changes the reality of the final score.

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