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If everyone loves a winner, then the Harvard football team must be making out like freshman pre-meds with skin condition. The folks around Cambridge, accustomed to Joe Restic's Crimson bringing home more than its share of victories, have raised eyebrows as well as voices about the Crimson's less than thrilling efforts of the past two weeks--a 17-0 loss to UMass and a 38-21 trouncing by Colgate.
Well, I do not like to be unloved, and I especially do not like losing to be the cause of my unpopularity. After a loss I curse at my roommates, I snap at my friends, and if I had a dog I would probably kick it. I simply have not learned to deal with defeat on the gridiron.
And that is the way it has to be. Once you begin to rationalize defeat, to tell yourself that you played well and you tried hard and after all it's only a game, then losing becomes too easy; you forget how to win.
To be a winner you must judge yourself by only one criterion--did you do what was necessary to bring home the win; did you get it done? If getting it done means taking on the other squad singlehanded or performing some superhuman feat, than that is what you must require yourself to do. Anything less isn't enough.
There is no arbitrary standard of excellence, no point at which you can become satisfied. Only the circumstances that face you can define the limits of your performance. Players with this outlook often surprise themselves by exceeding their own expectations--by playing "over their heads."
Something snapped in the Harvard squad during the halftime of the Colgate game. Down 21-7 and disheartened about failing to score from the three-yard line at the close of the half, all our heads were hanging; the winning ways of the past had ended.
We sat silent for about five minutes then someone started screaming. Others picked up the scream and soon we were all yellling and cursing at Colgate and at ourselves for letting down. We jumped up and down and slapped the walls and each other and made up our minds to refuse to lose. Well, we lost that game but we did not lose gently. And we did not make excuses for it and we were not satisfied.
The "Big Red" of Cornell beat us, 9-3, on October 9 in a heavy rain that turned the Harvard stadium field into a quagmire. We called it a fluke and we shook it off, but they beat us nevertheless--we didn't do the job. This year, Cornell, led by new coach Bob Blackman, the famous ogre from Dartmouth, will be looking to thump us once again. But this time we'll be ready.
The Crimson has lost two games out of three, but is undefeated in the Ivy League, and at this point that is all that matters. I hope the other teams in the league have written us off, for then we will have the pleasure of putting it in their face. During the halftime of the Colgate game we, who had forgotten how to win, suddenly remembered.
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