Bad losers. The people who care so much it makes them incomprehensibly angry. Famed for getting so frustrated during a game of Frustration that I hit somebody round the head with the board (the irony is not lost on me), I have to admit I am among them. If so much of a whiff of failure reaches my greedy nostrils, and we’re talking in any arena, from sporting events down to school debates, a knot begins to tighten in the pit of my stomach, and I feel myself taking gulps of fresh air to quash the fire of my wrath.
All this would be fine if I generally excelled. Indeed, you may struggle to find a craftier board games opponent in the Berkshire/Buckinghamshire area (although it’s not difficult when playing Cluedo with Grandma, who merrily announces to the group ‘What do I do if I’ve got Professor Plum?’) But sports, career progression, even conversation– that’s a different story. All too often at university I’d leave a heated argument in a royal huff, deleting my friends’ phone numbers and crossing their birthdays out the diary, only to discover we’d been having a ‘debate’. Personally don’t hold with them – conversation that feels like a constant battle to one-up the other (and where I am usually the uppee rather than the upper) does nothing for my self-worth.
Sports are a similar story, although it’s hard to be a bad loser when you are so clearly lacking in the requisite skills for the job that to win would be nothing short of a miracle. I still vividly remember an ill-fated year 11 PE lesson, where our teacher had the catastrophic lack of foresight to let us choose our own teams for a bench ball match. The result was a fairly sinister stand off between the cool kids and the misfits (no prizes for guessing which side I was on) – we were in for a thrashing, and I still twitch thinking about it now.
In light of the above, maybe my hatred of losing is not so random, but rather (to use the language of my PGCE provider), linked to a series of ‘critical incidents’ that determine the way things unfold. Unfortunately I’m now in too deep to return to normality. I’ve become so convicted of my own victory that, even when I buy a lottery ticket, so certain am I that it’s in the bag that it’s become too painful to play. Wandering round town, ticket safely in purse, my face wears a smug smile of ‘none of these people know I’m about to become a millionaire’. The disappointment of coming to terms with the fact that none of them needed to know when the numbers are drawn has become too great a burden to bear.
Carrying with me an acute awareness of the agony of losing, I have endeavoured to instil a culture of graceful losing in my class. At some point I fear I must have linked doing so with some kind of monetary reward, since now whenever someone does well the rest of the class break into applause, shouting ‘well done!’ at the top of their voices whilst simultaneously making eye contact with me – see what a fantastic loser I am? A balance is to be struck, but do I have the emotional intelligence to do the striking?
If I have time I’ll let you know how I get on next week, but don’t hold your breath – I’ve bought a lottery ticket you see.