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The Losing Lens of Sports

By Dan Bauer, Contributor, 01/23/24, 1:00PM CST


Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in Lockroom Logic are solely those of Dan Bauer and do not reflect the opinions of Wisconsin Prep Hockey or its partners. Dan presents his opinions based upon his lifetime of teaching and coaching experience and we present them unedited.

When we sign up to be an athlete, we envision all the great things that will be in store for us.  At some point that will include playing for our favorite professional team and hoisting the championship hardware.  In the backyard, or the driveway we will rehearse the play of the final minutes that crowns us as the hero.

No kid dreams about missing the last shot, the game-winning kick or giving up the game winning goal.

The hard reality is we will face a mountain of athletic failure and if we are lucky a molehill of success. It is the required structure of the success continuum. There is no linear progression, but an electrocardiogram of peaks and valleys.

The dynamics of team sports provides numerous game changing moments from the start of the game to the final minutes. The closer to the end, the more magnified these moments become. And when the game ends, the mistakes made by the winners will be forgiven and forgotten, but those made by the losers will be magnified and the weight of an entire fanbase will be loaded on the shoulder of the determined scapegoat.

The Packers peanut gallery of faux GM’s and coaches quickly identified the culprits of their season ending loss. Kicker Anders Carlson finished first followed closely by defensive coordinator Joe Barry and safety Darnell Savage. Plane tickets for all three have been purchased. 

Had the Packers stopped the 49ers final drive and won the game the conversation would be much different today. Nearly all the same mistakes would have been made, but the conversation would be about Brock Purdy’s 59% completion rate, the 49ers horrible special teams that allowed a 73-yard kickoff return and a blocked field goal, Shanahan’s awful clock management at the end of the first half and their 32-game 4th quarter comeback drought. 

The potential game changing plays remain the same, but only the losing mistakes fall under the heat of the hindsight spotlight. The scoreboard is the outcome we have been conditioned to use as the standard that disregards the process. John Wooden would be so disappointed in this lean evaluation.

There are pillars of team sports that only fools and impassioned fans ignore. And at the top of the list is that we win and lose as a team. That it is never one play or one person that is solely responsible for a loss. Every parent, player and fan are blatantly aware of this fact. It isn’t an opinion; it is a hard and fast steel girder in the team structure blueprint.

If you have ever watched your own child experience the agony of defeat in a crucial game, you understand the pain and agony that comes with it. And if they have wrongly identified themselves as the player most responsible the suffering is magnified. I don’t believe a good coach at any level would single out one player to unload that payload of guilt. 

Fans and parents, who absolutely know better, allow their emotions to reach a psychotic level and turn into witch-hunting fanatics. Without regard for their victims, they irresponsibly single out players and unleash an unearned wrath of responsibility upon them. It may be awkward looks and behind the back whispers at the youth level or incomprehensible death threats to professional athletes.

Whatever the level of sport, that player is somebody’s kid, parent, spouse or sibling. If you think it will never be your child, you will likely be wrong, because no player will escape the failure that athletics guarantees. Parents are required to invest in their child’s athletic journey, but if you feel you have invested more than they have, that is a red flag you should not ignore.

And as a fan, you will never come close to investing even a teacup of the time, effort and sacrifice of a professional athlete. If you can’t appreciate and respect their enormous commitment, stop watching. You can be a fanatic, overpay for tickets, paint your face and rub your rabbit’s foot, but this championship chase is never a life and death proposition. If your emotions escalate to that unhealthy and obtuse level, you seriously need some psychological assistance. And if you think the pain you feel after a season ending loss is more painful to you than the athletes, you are wrong again.

I have yet to listen to a post-game championship celebration where a single player was being lauded as having done it on their own. Not even Tom Brady’s six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots believed that. It takes a well-oiled, do your job, unified team to reach that final game and win.

It also takes a well-oiled, do your job, unified team to reach that final game and lose.

To the victors belong the spoils.  But through the loser’s lens there is a clear focus of unmitigated resolve to come back even stronger. And that is the real value of losing.

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Dan Bauer is a free-lance writer, retired teacher & hockey coach in Wausau, WI. You can contact him at

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