To Fail And Still Be The Best

Paul Morrone |

There are few activities as humbling as sports, and so far 2015 has seen some epic failures in the world of professional athletics. During the Super Bowl, Russell Wilson threw a last minute interception at the goal line (possibly as the result of questionable play calling), turning the ball over to the Patriots and essentially losing the game for the Seattle Seahawks. In the NBA, the NY Knicks are in the midst of having their worst year in franchise history. In professional golf, we saw Tiger Wood’s ranking slip out of the top 100 for the first time in nearly two decades. However, the most surprising of which may have been the upset in the NCAA Final Four when Wisconsin beat the previously undefeated Kentucky in pursuit of a National Championship.

It’s easy to highlight and praise success, but it’s the ability to recover from a really hard loss or failure that separates a good player from a great player. In almost any sport, even the most elite athletes lose more than they win. Ty Cobb had the best batting average of all time (.366) meaning he failed an astounding 2/3 of the time he walked up to the plate. Jack Nicklaus had a career winning percentage of 18% through all of his tour appearances (a failure rate of 82%) and is by and large considered to be the best and most dominant golfer ever to play the game. Even Michael Jordan had a career field goal percentage of 49.7%, failing more than half the time he took a shot. We always talk about how many wins, but fail to mention the losses, which historically, far outweigh successes.

For the layperson, these failures (albeit most preceded by monstrous successes), prove that humans, no matter how good at what they do, are entirely unpredictable. It provides irrefutable proof that a team of people really can’t be ‘perfect’ in the truest sense, and while they might be for a short duration of time, all good things must come to an end.  From a fans perspective, this realization may be disappointing at the time, but the volatility and excitement of not knowing what can happen keeps us on the edge of our seat.  Of course there are exceptions to this argument, as with anything in life (cue Geno Auriemma’s astounding 88% winning percentage as a coach or Floyd Mayweather’s undefeated boxing career), but in most cases this theory holds true. As an athlete and coach myself, it’s sometimes hard face that realization in light of the burning desire to win, but when you take a step back and look at the best of the best, missing that 3 foot putt for par doesn’t seem all that bad.