You’re probably familiar with the old Wide World of Sports tagline, “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.”
Well, there’s a different adage I want to write about today. I call it “The agony of victory, the thrill of defeat.”
When you work with/near a sales organization, the end of the fiscal quarter is always a hectic time. You feel like everyone around you is on an emotional roller coaster, and they’re not necessarily going in the same direction. Highs and lows abound.
Last week was the end of Q2 for my company, and as has been the case for the other 20 quarters since I’ve worked there, there was some nailbiting going on. Okay, truth be told, I bite my nails even when it’s not the end of the quarter… stupid nervous habit that I’ve had since childhood. But I digress.
Sometimes the team does well, but not every individual member of the team is able to perform up to the standard that’s set for the team. It’s particularly hard to watch people who bust their ass all day, every day, not able to get that elusive win that’ll push them over the hump. It’s painful to watch, others celebrating around them.
Let me bring it to some sports analogies, my specialty.
The Agony of Victory
I was thinking back over recent sports events, trying to come up with an example of a team being victorious on the biggest stage, IN SPITE OF an individual’s performance.
Team sports are rife with these examples of an individual being blamed for a loss, choking in the clutch, something going horribly awry when a win seemed all but assured. Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series being the example most near (but not dear) to my heart, as a Red Sox fan. Jose Mesa for the 1997 Cleveland Indians. Ernest Byner with The Fumble in the 1988 AFC Championship. Nick Anderson in Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals. And so on and so forth.
But I had more difficulty coming up with an example of an individual being the goat in a playoff/championship where the team actually WON.
The one that did come to mind, though, was Byung-Hyun Kim, then of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. To recap briefly, Kim was the closer for the Diamondbacks, and with a 2-1 series lead, he gave up a home run to Tino Martinez in the bottom of the 9th inning to blow the save. To add insult to injury, he then proceeded to give up the game-winning home run to Derek Jeter in the bottom of the 10th inning. Even worse, he was sent out there in Game 5, and blew the save AGAIN, another tying home run given up to Scott Brosius in the bottom of the 9th inning.
Needless to say, the Diamondbacks’ manager didn’t use Byung-Hyun Kim in Game 6 or Game 7. The Diamondbacks pulled off the upset to win the World Series in spite of Kim. The agony of victory indeed.
The Thrill of Defeat
The reverse can also be true, where a team or individual is unable to clinch the victory, but since a valiant effort was put forth, the legend can be even greater.
The most iconic example of this is fictitious – Rocky Balboa. If you’ll recall, in the first Rocky movie, Rocky did NOT win the title match against Apollo Creed. But Rocky went the distance, surviving 15 rounds with the champ in the boxing ring, and winning America’s heart even in losing the decision.
This formula is repeated over and over in sports films, the lovable underdog losers getting so close to victory but ultimately coming up juuuuuuuuust short, usually in slow motion, and always with an appreciative crowd giving them a heartfelt ovation afterwards.
How about in real life, though? We don’t have to go back very far for an example – April 5th, 2010 to be exact, when the Butler Bulldogs were THIS CLOSE to pulling off one of the greatest Cinderella stories in history. Gordon Hayward launched a shot from half-court as time ran out, which just missed going in. Had that shot gone through the cylinder, Butler would have captured their first NCAA Men’s Basketball championship, upsetting the Duke Blue Devils. Instead, Duke wins as the favorite, and Butler will probably be largely forgotten.
But, hey, at least Gordon Hayward made a name for himself, enough to get himself drafted #9 overall in the 2010 NBA Draft.