Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Should Bowlers Hate to Lose in Order to Win?

Yesterday, I was watching live streaming on Bowl.com of match play of the USBC Queens Championship. Former PBA star and current Ebonite ball rep Del Ballard Jr was sitting in as a commentator on the action, and at one point he made a remark that was my bowling quote of the day: "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser." I asked you readers if you agree with this.

Several people promptly commented.

TSnide wrote:
"It's a silly adage, and Del was neither the first nor the last to repeat it. It is generally used to defend poor sportsmanship, but sometimes just when someone is unhappy about having lost and questioned why they take it so much to heart. Used in either context, it has no basis in reality. Not knowing in what context Del used it, I would certainly withhold judgment."

Jef wrote:

"Those are good points in the comment above, and without context it's hard to judge Ballard's use of the statement.

Judging on the statement itself though, literally, it's true, and therefore a pointless statement. Obviously, a good loser is a loser. But if I'm a loser, wouldn't I rather be a good loser than a bad loser? I say yes.

I respect the competitive nature of the comment, but have never agreed with it in the past and won't now."

TSnide responded by writing:

"Well said. A reciprocal version of the statement might be something like, "Show me a bad loser, and I'll show you a loser who's also a jerk."

Or something like that. I'd rather be a good loser, but I can't say I always have been, especially in my younger years!"

Finally, Kerry summed it up very nicely when he wrote:

"There's a huge difference between having a loser's attitude (ie the expectation and acceptance of losing before the fact) and being a good loser."

I kind of touched upon this issue in a previous post. I agree with all the commenters, but I'm also not sure Del Ballard Jr wouldn't either. I'm not certain exactly what he was saying, but I took him to mean that if you want to be a champion at bowling's elite level, you better care enough about winning that you really, really hate to lose. This doesn't mean that you act like a jerk if you do lose, but you also don't get all smiley faced and effusively gracious with the guy who just beat you and just casually brush it off as another day at the office. It bothers you. And it should bother you. And when you have your next practice session, you take your unpleasantly vivid memory of your defeat and use it to force yourself to work harder to improve your game so that you'll perform better the next time money's on the line. And each time you step back up on the approach in the heat of competition, you use your hatred of losing to strengthen your resolve to bear down, execute, and win. You don't bowl with indifference. Not if you don't want to be a loser on the lanes.

How do you understand Ballard Jr's quote, and how do you think one should feel and act when he loses a bowling match?


  1. Without the context of the comment, I can't pretend to understand the intent of Mr. Ballard's statement. I'm not even sure that context would clarify that issue and would much prefer to have him provide the clarification.

    As to the rest, I stand by my comments that you allude to in the "previous post" that you had on this issue.

    I think that any sportsman can be both highly competitive and be a gracious winner and loser, as the situation would dictate. Both are mindsets, but they are separate and distinct. A winning mindset carries you through to the end of the competition. The good sportsman mindset takes over, once the competition has been decided.


  2. To further expand on my views:

    It's nice to be known as a gracious loser, but it's not a prize you want to come to be known for over winning.

    I would speculate that most people say it in that context. No one enters the Miss America pageant to win Miss Congeniality.

    Perhaps a better way to say it in a way we can all agree to would be, "I don't want to be known as a good loser; I'd rather be winning."

    Without having seen the broadcast, I would bet Del meant it that way, speaking on behalf of the Queens competitors.

  3. There are several sports cliches like this. One that I remember is "Winning isn't everything, it's the ONLY thing."

    To me, that's simply not based in reality. Very few people are blessed with such superior talent that they completely dominate a sport for years. Even so, even the very best will lose from time to time.

    I don't believe that any competitor wouldn't "rather be winning". Reality dictates that you can't and won't always win. So, take it to the logical conclusion. Do you want to be known as a poor loser or a good loser, when you inevitably lose? Do you want to see poor losers or good losers when you are watching competitions?

    Who are the most revered champions of any sport? I can't think of any that aren't also good losers. IME, champions are experts at controlling their emotions. OTOH, the habitual losers are those that can't control their emotions.


  4. Kerry and TSnide, I agree with both of you and couldn't say it any better than you've said it.