It’s Not Just The Taking Part That Counts

JONNY SINGER struggles with his college allegiance to discover that competition signifies something more than simply winning and losing.

Rowing Sidney Sussex

No one likes losing. Even those people who claim not to be competitive must die a little inside if they come last in a sporting event. It’s natural to want to win, and to be disappointed in defeat. But sporting contests, for the most part will have losers.

So when, after this year’s Lent Bumps, we published a round up and in it mentioned which clubs had performed badly, I didn’t expect any great backlash. Most people who finish last are aware of that fact. It shouldn’t come as a surprise after seeing boats row past you for five days, that you aren’t actually the fastest crew on the river. Apparently not.

Since Bumps I have been accosted by several members of a crew that earned spoons (some of them brandishing their spoons during the conversation as if to further emphasise their point).

“You were so mean about us” they complained. “At no point did you say how hard we were trying, or encourage us. Where’s your college spirit?”

I resisted the response of “Maybe if you’d been a bit less shit I’d have been nicer”. I very much like most of the people who accosted me, and burning bridges is unnecessary.  Instead I considered the question.

Obviously, as a reporter you want to be as neutral as possible, and it can sometimes be tempting to go too far the other way. I sent in shout-outs to CamFM to try and get behind my college’s boats (for we are, unfortunately, talking about my own college), but during  the races, and analysis, I tried to be impartial. So was I really unfair on my college’s  boats?

I began to doubt myself so I had a look back at what I’d said about the rowing powerhouse of Sidney Sussex:

Day 1: disappointing, falling in two of their four and narrowly missing a successful bump in M2

Day 2: no mention

Day 3: with all four crews down on their starting position

Day 4: no boats with a positive move this week.

Day 5: will want to forget this week

It doesn’t make good reading. Especially if you are in one of those boats. But none of those comments, on reflection, were out of place. On the evening of Day 5 plenty of the boaties demonstrated just how much they did want to forget this week at the boat club dinner.

There are, of course, some positives. The M1 boat looked excellent on day one, and had they had a tiny bit more luck, or a foot more pace, they would probably have ended up with a positive score for the week. The other boats were beaten, for the most part, by far more experienced crews and the week will have done them good.

But when a club ends up on -12, it’s hard to focus on those positives. I know all about denial (I’m an Arsenal fan who truly believes that for the past 6 years, despite no trophies we have been the best team in the world!) but sometime you have to accept defeat.

Like the English cricket team against Ireland, the Arsenal team who lost to Birmingham or even the Redboys who were beaten by Jesus, the strongest teams accept defeat as part of competition. The only way to respond is by trying harder, looking to bounce back. Other competitions will come.

So instead of complaining about the reporting, crews that didn’t do well need to have a look at themselves. A number is not subjective. Get the numbers looking better and the praise and encouragement will come. But expecting preferential treatment, especially when things don’t go well, just makes you look like bad losers.