State high school basketball tournament reminds us: Losing isn’t fun

Guess which kids in this picture just lost an important basketball game.

It was a scene repeated all day Saturday at Target Center, at the conclusion of each class tournament game for a state high school basketball title.

After each championship game, the all-tournament team was announced. Then each member of the losing team received its second-place medal, and then the second place trophy.

Nobody smiled on the losing team. Well, practically nobody. The exception was the inspiring Hopkins team manager, Grant Petersen, who smiled and pumped his fist.

True, the players worked hard all season at schools known for their basketball prowess, where expectations are high, where losing — even at the end of the road — isn’t met with a smile, no matter how grateful you are to be there in the first place while representing your school. But you do represent your school.

The games were outstanding and the kids on all the teams expended a tremendous effort, rarely seen on the basketball court at Target Center anymore. It was a great tournament.

So when a few Hopkins kids covered their faces with their jerseys when it was over, when they accepted the second-place trophy and regarded it like the bag of litter at the end of lunch at a fast-food joint, it was understandable. It’s just the way humans are. They’ll get over the loss, but a smile is an unrealistic expectation to have of any young person in the immediate aftermath of the struggle.

Reacting to the loss didn’t make them bad sportsmen. Not like many people said this did:

Getty Images

The local sports broadcasters didn’t tweet anything about the pouting — or sulking, if that’s what it can be called. There’s no discussion about it, really. So why didn’t they — we — extend that same understanding to women athletes recently?

  • Jack

    Okay – I’ll bite and start this one off. The problem is that we have put so much effort into telling everyone that they are the best. People these days don’t know how to lose graciously.

    Life isn’t just about winning – sometimes the biggest lessons are learned through losses – on the playing field or in the business world. It’s what you make of the losses that count.

    • Define “graciously.” all of the kids I saw accept lesser (by the definition of winning) awards in the immediate aftermath of a loss were respectful. They just weren’t happy. The kids in the all-tournament picture were smiling, except for the ones who just lost. The ones who lost but had a little time (a few hours) ARE smiling.

      It seems to me we demand some sort of INSTANT perspective in the heat of battle. That doesn’t strike me as a particularly reasonable expectation.

    • BReynolds33

      I’ll counter with a question. Ever seen a picture of those manly men losing World Series / Stanley Cup / Super Bowls back in the day “graciously” accepting second place?

      • Nobody ever called Freddie Patek unsportsmanlike. (Also: They don’t make dugouts like this anymore)

        • kcmarshall

          I lived and died with the KC Royals in the late 70’s and Freddy Patek was my favorite player. Thanks for the picture, Bob!
          I still lay claim to special* hatred for the Yankees because they always broke our hearts in the AL Championship. I have to assume this picture is from one of those times.

          *Special because everyone should hate the Yankees a little…

          • Gary F

            Freddy Patek, Amos Otis, George Brett, John Mayberry, Hal McRae, UL Washington…..

  • Gary F

    All the kids in the front row seem to be happy and they weren’t even in the championship game.

    • Yes, but they all lost their games and, as I recall, looked pretty dejected right after the game. But they had the benefit of what the judgmental types refuse to give second-place finishers: A little time to get over it.

  • Lizsd90

    I understand disappointment, however if you look the word “sportsmanship” up in the dictionary you will see that it states: being a cheerful loser. Hopkins High School Basketball team did not show that on Saturday night. It is such an honor to get to the state championship whether its first or second place. For the players to take off their second place medals and as you said “…when they accepted the second-place trophy and regarded it like the bag of litter at the end of lunch at a fast-food joint…” I don’t think that is a good enough excuse for that behavior. I know there are other teams in the state of Minnesota, that would of been blessed to take 1st or 2nd in a championship game. There is a difference between being upset and showing lack of sportsmanship. You had mention that we shouldn’t expect instant responses and that is correct, but we should expect gratitude and respect for a very honorable and great achievement title.

    • I don’t mean to insinuate that Hopkins was disrespectful. They appeared to walk away with the trophy under durress, true, but they all shook hands with the person handing out their medals. And their sadness wasn’t limited to Hopkins. I saw it the same way with almost every team that lost in the tournament. Not disrespect; it was just hard for the kids to see the bigger picture in a very short time frame — seconds really from such disappointment.

      I do wish the Olympic women had been extended, however, the same standard that the high school boys are being extended.

      • grampy

        The disrespect came when they chose not to have the medal placed over their heads (some including a student trainer). Why was that?

        • All the ones I saw had it placed around their necks. But it was late Saturday and I might be recalling it wrong.

          • Cheryl

            They had the medals placed around their necks ( by the MSHSL officials) and then took them off (one manager did not even let them put the medal on her). A handful of players also refused to stand inline while their team and the winning team received their medals. Both do these are showing a lack of sportsmanship. Smiling is not expected after a loss, but respect should be.

  • Emma

    Guess who just lost their scholarships? Of course they’re not smiling.

  • RRRagan

    There is no justification or excuse for removing the 2nd place medal from their necks as soon as they walked away from the presenter or refusing to stand with their team mates throughout the presentations. Other second place team players even walked out to shake hands with and congratulate a winning player as the winner received their 1st place awards; that is sportsmanship and losing graciously. What the Hopkins players did was pure sulking. I also find it hard to believe that Novak Jr. did not notice that his players responded this way, as he claims. He was standing right there as his players received their medals.