W

e knew after the first game Roy’s team played that the season would be a long one.

“Maybe you shouldn’t go to the next game,” I told Scott after listening to his demoralizing play-by-play from Roy’s team’s first loss. “We can split it up—I’ll go to some of Roy’s and you can come to some of Peaches’.”

Things never quite worked out that way, though, and Scott was in the stands for most of Roy’s basketball games. They were—with one hard-fought exception—defeats. Six children in all might show up on a Saturday from Roy’s team to play another with twice as many players. That was the least of it, really. Inexperience and outright fear threw elbows at behavioral problems and childhood obesity for playing time when Roy’s team took to the court.

But as the losses began to stack up as predicted, something happened. By the next game (another defeat), Scott was talking about the highlights from the game. He was watching in the bleachers, panning for gold, looking for the moments when Roy helped make something positive happen. He had begun to observe the play with an entirely different set of expectations for what made for a ‘successful’ game.

“It’s not so bad,” Scott said, just a week later.

And Roy, who had always been a dependable defensive player, began to obsessively practice taking shots in our driveway. If any one of us stood still for longer than two minutes in his presence he would ask if we might be interested in shooting around with him, every afternoon. This could be tedious. At the same time, when Roy’s team lost its first tournament game yesterday (it was single elimination; they were out), Roy was responsible for six of his team’s eight total points. In case you were wondering, the other team had 30, but after a string of almost unbroken losses, you really kind of become numb to the margin by which you’ve lost from game to game.

We don’t like to lose. Sure, it stings on a personal level, but I’m talking about something at work in our larger culture. Losing is humbling and, let’s face it: humility can feel itchy and uncomfortable and not just to the people wearing it. We all know what a winner leaves the field with, but what does the loser take home?

Just this: the opportunity to see everything differently and adjust their perspective and priorities and practices accordingly. So you can’t put that on a mantle but you’d be surprised at how shiny it can be when you look at it just right.