It is only when we risk defeat that we can rise to our highest levels of victory.
We can learn a lot about this lesson from professional football, whose new season starts this week. As in life, football players must follow rules, out-perform opponents and deal with deadlines (like the clock) to attain goals.
I have written previously about my favorite team, the Oakland Raiders. I have covered three of their games:
The 1975 AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh.
The 1977 AFC Championship at Denver.
A 1978 Regular Season Game at San Diego.
They lost the first two games, both of which they should have won. They won the last one but should have lost it. The games inspired me, angered me and perplexed me.
I felt inspired by the Raiders, who trailed by nine points with a minute-and-a-half to go and with Pittsburgh in control of the ball in Raider territory. They played smart and played hard and wound up, to the amazement of the fans and sportscasters, just fifteen points short of victory as time ran out on them.
I felt angered that the referees would fail to huddle to discuss an obvious fumble by Denver Bronco Rob Lytle and an obvious recovery by the Raiders. The head referee let the Broncos keep the ball, a decision that made a huge difference in the Broncos' 20-17 win.
And I could not believe that the officials would rule that three Raiders who all rolled the football forward to complete a touchdown did so unintentionally. The play, known as the "Holy Roller," resulted in a Raider touchdown and 21-20 win on the final play of the game.
We choose to care or not care about matters we have little control over. It could be football, or whether another person will return our love or the state of national affairs. But if we numb ourselves to the risk of losing, we never understand what it is like to feel the elation of victory.
And that would be the biggest loss of all.