Blogs and Commentary

posted 05.26.2011 at 4.55 p.m. by Paul Ohanian

Does Losing Hurt Worse?

We’ve reached that time of year.

With championship games being contested on both the high school and college levels, the emotions run harder and deeper for male and female players alike. Which may not be a bad thing.

The reason that these season-ending losses, whether they come in the early rounds of the playoffs or in the championship game, hurt so much is because the players competing care so much. If losses didn’t hurt, and championships didn’t feel so good, why bother putting in all the blood and sweat. Skip the heartbreak and spare the tears.

But players do bust their humps to win, and do care about their teammates, and do want to feel that emotional high of achievement. So they leave themselves open to the hurt that could come from falling short of the goal.

I was reminded of all this once again last weekend at the NCAA Women’s Division II and III Championships, hosted by Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y. Among the eight teams that were there, only two – eventual champs Adelphi and Gettysburg – were spared the pain of losing their final game.

The six others had to deal with the heartbreak that comes from hearing the final horn and knowing that the dream you have been chasing for months will not happen. There were tears. Plenty of them.

In some cases, players will be comforted in knowing that they can try again next year. But in the case of seniors, the pain of loss is heightened by knowing there won’t be another chance. Their high school or college career has come to a close.

It’s usually when I find myself in this environment that I’m reminded of the saying "losing hurts worse than winning feels good." Many don’t agree with that statement. They claim that the thrill of victory easily matches, or surpasses, the agony of defeat. And they may be right.

All I know is that seeing the pain of athletes who have given their all and fallen short, seeing them in the midst of this raw, emotional upheaval, as they try to cope with the hurt and disappointment, always makes me feel bad too. I feel that their loss has also become my loss.

And yet, when watching the victors celebrating, I rarely feel that unbridled joy that they are enjoying. I may be happy for them, but it's not the same.

So, maybe losing does hurt worse.