06 April 2009

Manufactured Scarcity and the Lesson of Losing

You have to love the NCAA playoffs. Start with 3 million high school players. Take only 35,000 into college programs. Let only 24,000 play more than a minute or two. Then put 64 teams into a tournament to determine who is the national champion. Eliminate 50% of the contenders in each round. Let one team remain. [Okay. I totally made up the numbers up to the point of 64 teams. This is a blog, not a newspaper. I don't have a research staff.]

My favorite bit is what happens to each team as they exit, the lesson in the primacy of losing. It does not matter how many games a team has won up to this point, the one game that they remember, the one game that defines their season, is the loss.

I wonder if it is true that as societies become more affluent and less subject to actual scarcity (all of these student athletes have enough to eat, to learn, to wear, are healthy, etc.), if manufactured scarcity does not become more important. Because if you think about it, that is what a tournament does - manufacture scarcity.

In order to build character, we need goals that teach us how to handle losing. I say it only tongue in cheek that I love how 63 teams entering the tournament are guaranteed to be "losers." If this makes all but the final team feel a little more apathy, a little more understanding of people who really have lost, then the fact that the tournament produces so many more losers than winners actually serves a purpose.

At least losers have played. That's something.

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