Three months ago, my alma mater met up with some school from the SEC, and lost its very first game of the 2006-2007 football season. This was pretty impressive, really, considering that we’d played 12 games already, and had even beaten That School Up North, our main rival.
Four days ago, my alma mater met up with that same SEC school, and lost its very first game of the 2006-2007 basketball championship series. This was also pretty impressive, considering how many games we’d won — again, we even beat That School Up North (3 times!), and are ranked ahead of our entire athletic conference for the end of the season. We repeated last year’s new conference record (the womens’ basketball team did very well this year, giving us 3/3) and everything.
Yet, for some strange reason, the bookstores on campus (and stores for miles around — all the way to my little town, located in an adjoining county) are selling anything with the words “2007 National Championship Game” on it for 50% (or more) off. Most of them are even selling “2006/2007 Big Ten Champions” shirts and mugs and banners (and hats, and posters, and commemorative programs, and water bottles, and branded facial tissue dispensers, and…) at a deep discount. One of the ladies who works in my department de-OSUified her entire cubicle by 7am on Tuesday morning (a considerable feat, involving a sudden explosion of photos from a grandchild’s recent birthday party.)
I’ve had similar experiences in my own life — I was admitted to one of the schools I applied to for undergrad, years ago, but not into their (very exclusive) Honors program. I received a 5.0 on the Foreign Service Oral Exam (5.25 is the passing score) in 2005. And, I missed being first in line for Star Wars by only 131.75 hours — pretty much the amount of time I set aside to visit a church member’s house and go to Sunday services with him and his family each week, during the line event. Even after seeing how much #1 and #2 in line suffered, I still felt that I’d erred in judgment, and managed to convince myself that showers and pillows and a roof were totally overrated.
All of my reactions to these events, and the response of Central Ohio to recent point-balance shortfalls on the part of our athletic squads, share a single trait: disproportionate disappointment, relative to what was actually achieved. Though I was never struck by despair and unending gloom by my own failures, they were quite frustrating. I didn’t go to the school I was accepted into, I decided to try law school instead of going for the Foreign Service a second time, and I kept the title of my personal blog “Eleventh in Line” (my line position from my other major Star Wars line experience.) And honestly, it’s more than a little silly to call these things “failures”: I was admitted to a fine school, I did better than almost any other candidate did on the FSOE, and there were over 180 people behind me in the Star Wars line (that’s just the ones who were counting hours with us.) Coming up in second place (or first runner-up, or whatever) should feel a lot more like victory than defeat, really. I know that, and I try to keep it in mind when near-misses pop up in my life. In fact, I’m practicing right now, looking at our team stats for the January football game… sigh.
On the other hand, if they tell me I’ve missed getting into the Celestial kingdom by virtue of only a handful of minor sins, I’m going to be really annoyed.