Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Losing sucks; there is no way around it.
One of the great things about sports is most times there is a definitive winner and loser. Things play out on the field. It’s unlike a lot of things in life.
But losing, in any form, is the absolute worst.
It’s never fun to put in the work, compete and then lose. It’s an empty, helpless feeling.
It’s tough to imagine what the Steamboat Springs High School football team feels like. Friday’s 42-8 loss to Moffat County capped off an 0-10 season.
The season started badly, with returning starter Connor Landusky tearing up his knee the first game of the season. From there it kept rolling downhill. There were too many injuries, too little depth and too many young players forced into action.
Defensively, Steamboat struggled for most of the year, keeping the team in the game for halves. Offensively, Steamboat struggled to find any semblance of an identity all year.
The team couldn’t finish, nor could it seem to get any breaks.
But ask anyone who has played sports, and losing is as much a part of the game as winning. No one in his or her life is undefeated. Still, in a glass-half-full world, there are things to be learned from losing.
I’ll never forget laboring through a 3-17 baseball season my senior year. For the record, we opened 3-0 and ripped off 17 straight.
I don’t remember a lot about that season except for the guys I went through it with. We were the laughingstock of the school, town and our league. But we went through it together.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with former Sailors player Lane Shipley last year. Shipley is a starting defensive tackle at Dartmouth College. He joked that he had more character-building than at any point in his life.
In the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Shipley’s Dartmouth team went 2-18, one of those a 0-10 season in 2008.
Shipley understood the big picture and talked about how it certainly wasn’t fun losing, but going through it with his teammates put things in perspective.
Losing can do a lot. It can show which players really want it and which ones don’t. It can divide a locker room, or it can bring teammates together.
There isn’t much to say to a team that just finished up a 0-10 season after a run to a state championship game.
Steamboat, though, hopefully can learn from it.
To put it in perspective, I just finished reading Pat Conroy’s “My Losing Season” — a book those Steamboat players should read to try and put things in perspective. Conroy details his season as point guard for The Citadel. One line jumps out.
“Loss is a fiercer, more uncompromising teacher,” Conroy writes, “coldhearted but clear-eyed in its understanding that life is more dilemma than game, and more trial than free pass.”
Losing certainly can suck, but understand it’s also an opportunity to build toward doing something great.