A recent description of outgoing disgraced President Donald Trump as a “sore loser” reminded me of when I myself was last a sore loser. Thankfully I was 11, not 74. And it wasn’t a presidential election I lost and a Republic I then tried to overthrow, it was just a Big Brothers/Big Sisters fun softball game at a park in Hollywood.
The team that I and my volunteer Big Brother Lloyd Miller were on had run up a huge lead — something seemingly insurmountable like double digits — that we then somehow managed to blow in the last inning and lose. When their winning run crossed the plate and the game was over I was furious. I mean like ugly-crying furious. I didn’t congratulate any of my opponents, I didn’t shake any of their hands. I ran from my position at first base into the outfield almost out-of-control bawling and screaming to the point where when Lloyd caught up with me he didn’t yell and he didn’t scream. He just tersely told me to go finish my tantrum over by his truck in the parking lot, which I was more than happy to do because I couldn’t stand that everyone else was laughing and enjoying themselves and couldn’t have cared less about the outcome of the game.
When he finally came over we got inside and he drove me home. He was quiet for the first mile or so. Then he told me he apologized to everyone on my behalf. Then he told me he absolutely hated having to do that. Then he asked me why I’d gotten so upset. I told him because we lost. He asked if that was the first time I’d ever lost at something, and of course it wasn’t. Then he matter of fact told me that he hated losing too, and asked me if I’d ever seen Steve Garvey or Jack Youngblood or any of my sports heroes behave similarly when they lose, which of course I hadn’t. He said they probably hated losing more than me because it was their job to win, but that they behaved the way they did because they were Men, which if I was going be one I’d better learn and quick how to be mature and not only handle my emotions and reject such bad behavior but also be polite in treating my opponents and the sport I play with respect and decency whether I win or lose.
He finished by saying how ashamed and embarrassed he was by my disgraceful behavior and that because of it we were going to take a couple weeks break from getting together, during which time he wanted me to think long about if I wanted to be a good sport and a better person or continue to be a bad sport and a lesser person, and to give him a call ONLY if or when I made the RIGHT decision.
I called him a few days later. We remained Big and Little Brother for another six years.
PS. I have never gone past that field still there at Cahuenga and Santa Monica Boulevard without feeling both shame and pride, the latter because of my Big Brother Lloyd, thanks to whom I left a petulant child behind in the outfield that night and took my first steps towards being a man.