Does anyone actually believe that? I do… most of the time. When my acting teacher once said in class how actors and athletes were similar, I thought to myself “Watcha talkin’ about, Matt?” I mean, I DO love a good sports film, but seriously? He proceeded to say that actors love watching athletes who battle, and against all odds, emerge victorious. So true. Nothing makes me blubber like a baby more than when the team no one believed in… the team everyone said was a bunch of losers… the team everyone mocked and said was on the road to nowheresville triumphs over all obstacles. It’s no different for me with real-life sporting events. When I recently watched the Minnesota Vikings’ Stefan Diggs score a touchdown in the last ten seconds of the playoff game against the Saints, I wept like a little school girl. For days after, I watched those final moments over and over on YouTube, and I cried every single time. Didn’t see it? Feel free to watch it here and tell me if you don’t get a tad emotional: https://youtu.be/NwqAeMlsYmU My teacher was right. Actors relate to the struggle. Just like athletes, actors want to be heroes. We want to come out victorious, despite all the rejections and obstacles we face on a daily basis. And if Stefan Diggs can do that in TEN SECONDS, it means there’s hope for the rest of us too. But what about that quote? Does it NOT matter if you win or lose?
I think back to the ABC Wide World of Sports slogan said so beautifully by Jim McKay: “The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat.” Certainly the Vikings ultimate loss to the Eagles in their final playoff game reminds me of agony… a painful, slow, torturing agony. But the agony of defeat wasn’t because they lost the game. It was that they never even PLAYED the game, in my humble opinion. Another famous quote “You gotta be in it, to win it” comes to mind. The Vikings weren’t in it at all. They left their warrior aka “vikings” spirit in the locker room. It didn’t matter that they lost the game when the clock ran out of time. They had already lost by not giving it everything they got. I say this with all due respect to the Vikings. I love the team and I get that we ALL have our off days. I know I’ve had auditions where I felt my performance was sub-par. The ones where the casting person says “Thanks for stopping by,” as if we just had a cup of tea, instead of engaging in a battle where my ego was left shattered in pieces in the audition room. So it’s not a question of whether you’re off on a given day. It’s KNOWING you’re off, and choosing what you do with that knowledge. As my wise teacher says, “When you’re OFF, don’t beat yourself up for it. Just get back ON.” Amen. (The Vikings will have to wait until next season to get back ON.)
Speaking of winning versus losing, what about this year’s Super Bowl? What a game! My dad used to say he hated the Super Bowl because it was the most boring game of the year. One game determined EVERYTHING and he felt that the players were too cautious because they didn’t want to do anything that would possibly cost their team the victory. Not this year. I have never been on the edge of my seat for a Super Bowl as much as this one. It could have gone either way… both teams were playing their hearts out and both were certainly “in it to win it”. They fought hard, and kept fighting hard until the very end, when the Eagles ultimately came out on top. But what about that? The Eagles technically won, but as far as I’m concerned, they were both winners. (And that’s hard for me to say given that my parents are both from the Bronx and I don’t give props to Boston teams easily.) As long as you’re playing as hard as you can, to the best of your abilities, you’re winning on some level. As disappointing as it is when I don’t get that role I really wanted, as long as I know I did my best and there was nothing else I could’ve done, I feel powerful and comforted.
On the other hand, I’m not advocating eliminating the notion of winning or losing. I laughed when a friend told me they give out trophies to all kids during competitions – win or lose. I get it to a degree, because it supports the notion of “it’s how you play the game”. But they’re forgetting the first part “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose,” which clearly recognizes a winner versus a loser and the need to embrace whichever side you end up on. There IS a winner and a loser, and acknowledging that and learning from it, is what makes us go out and try harder next time. Perhaps on a given day you may not “win” that role you so desperately wanted or be the victor in the championship game, but fighting is cumulative. The more you put up a good fight, the more the odds increase that you will win the next time. “The strongest people aren’t always the people who win, but the people who don’t give up when they lose.” Props to Ashley Hodgeson for those brilliant words of wisdom. Keep fighting everyone… win or lose!