Edson: Athletes NEVER Forget Their Toughest Losses

I’ve sometimes been accused – and rightfully so – of being a Pollyanna.

That is, I tend to be overly optimistic or always see the glass as half full as opposed to half empty.

I guess that’s the way I was raised.

But I also played enough sports over the years to know that no matter how much time passes, athletes never forget their toughest losses.

It’s human nature.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve seen individual athletes and local teams experience some excruciating losses.

Well-meaning parents, family or friends have remarked: “You will forget about this loss in a few weeks, but you will remember your great season forever.”

How I wish that was true. But it isn’t.

Here’s why: When you are older and something traumatic happens to you, the passage of time has taught you to put things in perspective. So something like a dismal performance on a crucial day or an upset loss can seem minor to an older person. (Let’s define older as the 30-and-over crowd).

But when you are a teenager and you don’t have that perspective, the most important things in your life can center around your grades, your “social status” and your athletic performance. Everything else seems trivial.

And for a teenager, everything else IS trivial, despite what your parents tell you.

The reason you never forget losses during your teenage years is because it is so important to you. I know from playing sports in the late 1960s and early 1970s, our teams had plenty of reasons to celebrate.

But I barely remember details from those wins. I remember every detail from team losses that strung or individual performances I had that stunk.

Here is what young athletes do many times – they go back in their mind and wonder what they could have done to change the outcome. Like it or not, there is a tiny amount of guilt that can stick with you for years.

We all like to laugh it off when we get older – and that helps. But we never really get over those losses. I think I’ve talked to a couple dozen former athletes ranging in age from 25 to 75 and they all agree. Losing, we know, is part of sports. But knowing we could have had a hand in making that a win, is sometimes we don’t get over.

And guess what? That’s normal.

My sports memories are filled with good times and great friends. That’s what I choose to remember, especially when the passage of time helps you put things in a better perspective.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.