The Fellows: Maggie Thach

On Losing

I’ve always been drawn to losers. I’m not talking about guys who live in their parents’ basement and play video games all day, but the athletes who end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. I’m talking about Brazil being crushed 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals in its own country. I’m talking about Adam Morrison after the monumental upset by UCLA in the 2006 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen. And worst of all, I’m talking about my beloved Utah Jazz losing 87-86 in a decisive Game 6 against the Chicago Bulls in 1998.

No doubt the teams on the winning side of these games experienced the most euphoric emotions that humans can feel. Vindication. Relief. Complete and absolute happiness. But losing elicits equally intense emotions. Regret. Envy. Agony. Losing reveals so much about a person’s true character.

Perhaps I love losers so much because I can relate. During my first three years of high school, I was on a basketball team that won zero games. Opponents routinely beat us by 20 or more points. One night during my freshman season, we lost 88-18. The other team wasn’t even that good; we were just so bad. Most of those points were on layups from steals.

My parents didn’t like that I played basketball. Immigrants from Vietnam, they believed the only way for me to succeed was through school, not sports. “Have you ever seen a Vietnamese player in the WNBA?” my mom would always ask me. Time devoted to shooting hoops in the driveway and going to practice were lost opportunities to study harder. And as I sat there on that bench watching the score climb to the century mark, I wondered if my parents were right. Why was I holding onto something that I was obviously so bad at?

The next day at school, news spread about our 70-point loss. The guys who played basketball in my class asked how we could be so bad. “Aren’t you guys supposed to, like, run an offense or something?” one classmate asked me. The only response I had to, “You guys suck,” was, “I know.” But I didn’t quit that year. I never did. I played throughout high school. Even though many more losses followed, I never didn’t want to play. I didn’t know then why I stuck it out, but I think I know now. I held on to basketball because it was the first thing that defined me besides being my immigrant parents’ oldest child. As a kid, I felt my parents’ expectations weighing on me. They fled their country for a chance at a better future for their children. For me. This fact was a burden sometimes. What if my future wasn’t worth their sacrifice? Basketball gave me my first identity, and I embraced that, even if it meant that I was a loser.

Losing is just one aspect of sports that intrigues me. I’m here at Dat Winning because I want to explore and express all the complexities that exist within the sports world. In sports, there’s always something brewing beneath the surface. If you look close enough, you’ll always find a conflict. Man vs. Man. Man vs. Society. Man vs. Fate. Man vs. Nature. Man vs. Self.

Everybody wants to win. It’s an inherent human desire to want to be a winner. But losing and experiencing loss? That’s what makes us human.

MAGGIE THACH | @magsthach

Sports. Writing. I’ve never been a natural at either, but I love them both. I’m happy to be joining these two loves at Dat Winning. I received my MFA in creative nonfiction in 2013 and I play in an over-30 women’s basketball league. We are currently 9-3.

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