The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Championship Mentality

Posted on | May 14, 2019 | 1 Comment

My friend Jeff Quinton is a Clemson fan and, as such, I hate him. Jeff and I became friends online more than 20 years ago, when I was still living in Georgia and he was involved in South Carolina politics. Little did I know, when we connected in those dial-up modem days, that Clemson would one day beat the previously undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide on a Day That Will Live in Infamy, a shame and disgrace that is painful to recall.

How could that possibly happen? More than four months later, I still struggle to understand how the Tide could have played so badly. Unforced errors and failure to execute — Alabama did not merely lose to Clemson, they were embarrassed. In a word, it was dishonorable.

“The agony of defeat,” to employ a once-famous phrase, is something that everyone who ever played the game must learn to endure. Even the greatest athletic champions do not always win. The best hitters in baseball sometimes strike out, the All-Pro quarterback occasionally throws an interception, and Tiger Woods went 11 years without winning a major tournament. If the legends of professional sports can accept the pain of losing, and yet continue playing the game, what is the lesson for the rest of us, who never got past youth league or high-school competition? And what do the lessons of sports teach us about life?

Recall a point I made last week:

“Be excellent,” I tell my sons. In a ruthlessly competitive world, being merely good won’t cut it. You have to be excellent to win. There is no substitute for direct experience, learning through trial and error, so to become excellent you cannot be too risk-averse. You have to be willing to roll the dice and take your chances. You win some, you lose some, but you’re always learning, always improving yourself.

One of the big lies that is promoted in the name of “social justice” is that equality is the natural order of human life, which implies that we are not responsible for our own failures: Alabama was equally entitled to win the national championship, but Clemson unfairly oppressed them.

What we learn from sports is that competition produces hierarchy, and the people at the top — the champions — do not owe an apology to the losers down at the bottom of the league standings. It’s not Clemson’s fault that Alabama played a lousy game, and it’s not Alabama’s fault that Tennessee’s football program has become an SEC laughingstock.

SEC football fans engage in some of the most brutal trash-talking in the world of sports, exceeded perhaps only by British soccer hooligans. The more you love your team, the more you hate your team’s rivals, and regard the rival team’s fans as subhuman, deserving nothing but contempt. For an Alabama fan, of course, Auburn is that enemy, but Tennessee once ranked quite high on the list of the Tide’s most hated rivals. My father, who was class of 1950 at Tuscaloosa, explained that one year when the Tide was having a disappointing season, and Tennessee was coached by the legendary General Neyland, the Volunteers ran up the score against us (25-0 in Knoxville, 1931) and every ’Bama fan swore that day to avenge this insult to their honor. You might expect the memory to have faded after more than 80 years, but this ancient grudge was passed down from generation to generation, in the manner of tribal custom, so that the Third Saturday in October is an annual ritual in vengeance for ’Bama fans. The Tide has now beaten Tennessee 12 years in a row, and you might think that would be enough to quench the appetite for revenge, but it’s never enough. My dad was only 7 years old in 1931, but he never forgot the pain of listening to the radio broadcast of that Knoxville game, and he hated Tennessee the rest of his life, a hatred I inherited the same way I inherited my blue eyes.

Alabama’s recent oppression of Tennessee, as the “social justice” crowd might call it, has a specific history, but it does no good to remind Tennessee fans why we hate them so much, because you can be sure that the loser hates the winner even more than the winner hates the loser.

Whose fault is it that Tennessee’s football team sucks? Not mine. And if somehow they managed to turn their program around, so that the Volunteers could beat the Tide as regularly as they once did (e.g., winning 7 in a row, 1995-2001), no ’Bama fan could expect mercy from them. Soon, there will be no one alive who remembers that 1931 game, but there will never be any mercy on the Third Saturday in October, because even if Tennessee never won another game all season, they’d be celebrated like champions if only they could beat the Crimson Tide.

Winners must learn to handle the hatred they get from envious losers. If you succeed in life, you will discover that there are some people who will hate you for your success, who believe that your success is somehow unfair. This is a rationalization, a psychological defense mechanism with which the loser protects his wounded ego. The “social justice” mentality is simply this kind of peevish envy turned into a political worldview.

Because the “social justice” agenda is a manifestation of envy, it is incompatible with Christianity. As individuals, we should strive to be merciful and charitable in our actions, but government power and taxpayer money are not acceptable substitutes for charity. Nor is it mercy to tolerate the kind of dishonest bullying behavior we see from so many of those who claim to act in the name of “social justice.” Decent law-abiding citizens are being silenced on the Internet for daring to tell the truth, rather than to echo the deceptive narratives of the Left.

It is a terrible thing to endure the daily slander — “sexist!” “racist!” “homophobe!” — directed at those who disrupt the Left’s narratives. Yet if you think you are suffering unjustly for telling the truth, think about what President Trump has had to endure. Prior to the day in June 2015 when he came down that escalator, Donald Trump was widely admired. He was even praised by many in the liberal media, until his presidential candidacy turned out not to be a fluke, as most liberals had initially hoped. In the early months of the Republican primary campaign, the media pundits were happy to celebrate Trump’s success against his GOP rivals, thinking that this would somehow work to the advantage of the media’s chosen candidate, Hillary Clinton. Yet the fluke was not a fluke, and by the spring of 2016, Democrats began to worry that perhaps they had underestimated Trump’s campaign. This was how it came to be that a conspiracy to sabotage Trump was launched, involving Fusion GPS and, eventually, the surveillance of Trump’s campaign by the FBI and other federal agencies. As a result of that anti-Trump conspiracy, many people have been prosecuted for the crime of being associated with Trump, whose own reputation has been badly damaged by these bogus accusations of “Russian collusion” and obstruction of justice.

Whatever else you might say about Trump, he hates losing. His victory in 2016 was one of the greatest upsets in political history, and do you think that he’s planning to lose in 2020? Not just “no” — hell, no.

When I think about the “Never Trump” Republicans, who ruined their careers by betting against him, I think about all those fans of inferior football teams who despise Alabama’s mighty Crimson Tide. Something my dad always said was that ’Bama never has an easy game, because everybody wants to beat ’Bama so bad. The weakest team on Alabama’s schedule will play as hard as they can in hopes of being able to say they beat ’Bama. To play for the Crimson Tide, therefore, means that you can never take victory for granted. And I think Donald Trump must understand how that feels. Oh, how the “Never Trump” crowd would gloat if he were to lose next year! What satisfaction Bill Kristol and Nicolle Wallace and all those other losers would feel if the Democrats beat Trump! Do you think he plans to give them that satisfaction?

Not just “no” — hell, no.

The Democrats and their media allies will pull out all the stops between now and November 2020 in their effort to beat Trump, but he has that championship mentality, and anyone who bets against him is a fool.



 

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