Sorry for the gap in posting, but I got busy. And to be more specific, over the course of the long Memorial Day weekend, I was busy losing.
Saturday was a version of my regular game. Somehow I shot two under my handicap and still lost three ways to two different guys. Then, on Sunday, I had my two-man match in the single elimination tournament I discussed earlier, and yes, we lost that as well. And, oh yeah, the weather was miserable, this sort of December in May stuff that plagued us for weeks.
Losing may be the flip side of winning, but that makes the two outcomes sound like mirror images: same components, just reversed. But there are significant differences. As discussed in the post “The Other Guy,” there is a good deal of relativity wrapped up in winning. You won, maybe because the other guy played horribly. Losing, on the other hand, has a more absolute feel to it. You lost. You’re the loser. Yeah, sure there were other golfers playing at the very same time you were, and they may have played worse than you, but you know what, you weren’t playing them, were you? Nope, in your little corner of the world you are the guy who came up short.
To a certain extent, winning and losing offset each other: for every winner a loser and vice versa. It’s a vast zero sum game. Certainly our weekend games have that flavor to them. Over time the money just sloshes back and forth, from one wallet to the other, as games go into slumps or putting strokes falter. A playing partner/opponent will find something that “works” and there is a stretch of good rounds, followed by either an erosion of that “thing that was working” or simply a reversion to the mean.
But in tournament play, or on the grander scale of professional sports, there is, in the final analysis, a sizeable imbalance between losing and winning. In the end there is only one ultimate winner in the NBA or NFL; everyone else is just some form of loser. Although the outcomes of all the individual games balance out, there is a whole lot more losing than there is winning when it comes to finding a champion. As Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out, there is nothing lamer in the world than being silver medalist. In essence, you are being recognized for being the best loser of them all.
I think this explains why lots of golfers shy away from competitive tournaments, even at the friendly level of intra-club competition. They much prefer the regular game where each outcome lacks finality because it just a prelude to another match, part of a chain of Saturday mornings that stretches back in time and hopefully far into the future.