Saluting the Losers

A true Olympic farewell

Comments (14)

(14) Phil, March 15, 2010 2:02 PM

Placing dead last!

I’m from Venezuela, four years ago, TORINO 2006, Two Venezuelans did the Bobsledding. They both placed dead last. They were True Heroes back home. They both live and train in the states. Actually one of them was a 52 years old Professor from ISU. 20 million people back home cheer from them like they Won Gold medal.

(13) Beth Gibson, March 3, 2010 6:29 PM

Teaching one's Child

My late husband's family is very competitive. They do not even participate in activities in which they may not become the best. As might be expected, they were puzzled when they discovered that I had taught our children that anything worth doing was worth doing badly. It was worth being the worst on the team or in the class, if the activity were worth doing at all. Excellence is to be lauded, and we aren't going to convince the media or their fans to routinely laud the losers. However, as time passes, simply the fact that each of these athletes *made* his or her country's Olympic team will garner them much respect thru'out their lives. Deserved respect. However, in the heat of the moment, some athletes will be dreadfully disappointed. And that cannot be changed, regardless of whether we praise them more or not. Rollo May said that he never underwent psychotherapy because he feared that the process might destroy his angels alongside his devils. For the Olympic athletes, I believe this is most true. We cannot have these wonderful young people, gifted in mind and body and circumstance, strive for excellence with all their hearts, and them expect them not to be crushed when, in their eyes, they did not achieve excellence. It truly is the agony of defeat and only time and maturity will lessen their disappointment. Our quiet appreciation of their efforts will assist.

(12) Anonymous, March 3, 2010 3:09 AM

Right On Rabbi!

As a teacher of children, I continually remind them that perseverance is utmost and reward them accordingly. Thank you.

(11) Tovah Ahdut, March 2, 2010 11:51 PM

Everything is perspective and not taking anything too far. To see young people coming together from all over the world -- most striving to be the best that they can be rather than defeating another is not such a bad idea. Much better than meeting on a battlefield. There ARE atheletes who keep faith, G-d, family and morals at the forefront.

(10) Boli, March 2, 2010 9:20 PM

Sports is Competition-like it or not

Nice ideals and theory but it's totally impractical to reward the loser, the one who came in last? Please. How would you have sports then? Give a trophy to the Super Bowl loser? No matter what they won't get the ultimate trophy. So, the message doesn't really fit reality. Sure, we need to let everyone strive for the best and give them praise for that but you'll never, nor should you ever get rid of rewarding the best.

(9) Anonymous, March 2, 2010 7:19 PM

I'm reminded of Britain's Eddie Edwards "Eddie the Eagle," who finished dead last in both the 70 M and 90 M ski jump events in the Calgary Olympiad of 1988. Despite his showing, he became something of a folk hero, not just in the UK but internationally as well. As Frank Sinatra once sang, "Here's to the losers, bless them all." -Z

(8) Walter E Lee, March 2, 2010 6:44 PM


How will Israel fare if the IDF gets a Sliver or Bronze in another war? I'm afraid it is Gold or nothing.

(7) Hillel Kuttler, March 2, 2010 5:06 PM

keeping perspective

In a dog-eat-dog world, we are conditioned (including by sports) to believe that the No. 1 finisher is the only winner. As a sports lover, I've long felt sick at this view. Of course, I want to know who wins a game or championship, but I could simply go on-line afterward to learn the result. Admit it or not, we watch sports not only to learn the winner but to be entertained and to admire the effort of people who can do things that most of us cannot. The best perspective I've heard on "winning" in sports occurred when I intervewed the great Olympics filmmaker, Bud Greenspan, for a 2008 magazine article: Note his poignant and sincere comments (near the end) about Aquari, Moorcroft and Holum. Winning means making the effort and striving for excellence -- and doing so honorably. A lesson for us all. Wishing everyone a chag Pesach sameach.

(6) Asher, March 2, 2010 4:18 PM

Everybody is a winner

Reb Yaakov, One of my children went after being in a few yeshiva and then diagnosed with a learning disability and ended up in his early years in the local Public School = PS199. At that time there was a Principal by the name of Leonard Zeplin who did not know the word loser or anything that was close to that meaning. Every kid under his tutelage were all winners just by being a student in his building. It did not matter gender,age,color or religionthe kids loved coming to his school because he cared about every student. My son had at that time great teachers.Just to name a few off the top of my head were Mrs Terry Pomerantz, Mrs Sara Barberand Sandy Bell and they took my son under their wings and pushed a little, played a little and certainly taught alot as he excelled to the point that the Board of education Special Education Dept ended up giving him an award at City Hall for his excelling in class. That was his childhood and I will never forget that the lesson learnt was that we are all just humans created to do and be our very best that we can. My son later was main streamed but I will also never forget when the principal Mr Zeplin, said " I know your son outgrew the special ed program based on his age group, but maybe you can keep him here anyway in the regular program" which at that time would have been dificult since as an orthodox kid there would have been many obstacles, suprisingly though when other kids went to a Mcdonalds Restaurant as a class trip, he of course could not go but his teachers got him food from Kosher Delight. He moved on to a regular yeshiva and Boruch Hashem is a great young man, married and very happy. The message was clear then and should be clear now. There is nothing wrong with competition but anyone who wants to be in the race and ends up being in the race are still winners, just for being there. Reb Yaakov~~ as always a great article and I will always enjoy reading and listening to your wonderful words.

(5) Anonymous, March 2, 2010 2:43 AM

Excellence =/= winning

I respectfully disagree with one aspect of the argument. It's largely irrelevant if someone is the "best", the point is that everyone involved be "excellent" at whatever is being judged. What should be encouraged is not to come in first, but to perform admirably, hopefully in such a way that any the margin of victory for any clear winner is negligible. For a non-athletic example, the goal should not be to become the richest person alive, even if it's by one dollar, but to become a billionaire (after all, the more money you have, the more you can donate as tzedaka).

(4) Chavi, March 2, 2010 1:14 AM

be YOUR best, Not THE best

Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, has bestowed upon each of his creations a unique set of talents. They don't entitle one to any special credit or recognition; rather, they are a responsibility to use Hashem's gifts to do His will. But we are entitled to credit for the efforts we expend to use those gifts in the way He wants us to. A person who strives to actualize his G-d-given potential in every situation is deserving of respect. Achievements in all areas should be acknowledged. A child needs to hear "I see that you worked very hard. I am proud of you, Hashem is proud of you, and you can be proud of yourself. Parents and teachers need to communicate that a person's value lies in what he does with his gifts, not just for having them. But we must not artificially level the playing field because no one is going to do that for our children in real life. People are not created equal and life does not treat us all equally. Bosses do not treat employees equally. Promotions and raises are based upon merit. I believe there should be a valedictorian at graduation, who deserves acknowledgment of his efforts in the same way that the star of a play or soloist in a choir gets his applause, without invoking jealousy and hard feelings in the majority of children who did not merit to fill those roles. It is the obligation of the teachers to teach that valuable lesson to their students, instead of taking the easy way out by having no valedictorian. We only need to compete against ourselves, so that we can keep bettering ourselves.

(3) , March 1, 2010 1:32 PM

Such a powerful reminder...thank you, Rabbi! It's all about effort, not the place.

(2) Peter Kraynik, March 1, 2010 1:22 AM

Well said Rabbi ! We are all children of G-D ! That makes everyone special ! We are each unique ! Only G-D can make "something" from nothing ! From the "mind" of G-D to dust; and back to dust !

(1) Rosen, February 28, 2010 1:44 PM

Olympics and idolatry

I'm not such a big fan of the Olympics, particularly, as Rabbi Soloman mentioned, too much emphasis is placed on winning the gold, silver, or bronze - perhaps a sign of idolatry. As Judaism teaches, things aren't about all or nothing, it is about effort and stride. So, as for the Olympics in general, they essentially are winners for getting in or trying to do so, much like in the Superbowl, where both teams are essentially winners for making it that far in that season (even the teams that make it to the playoffs are or can be winners as well for the effort and stride). All in all, placing too much emphasis on winning (I believe) is idolatry.


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