“I thought that we played a courageous game. I thought that we had many opportunities on goal. I think we showed a lot of heart. We came back from a goal down; I’m very proud of this team. I also think we played a bunch of cowards. But, you know, the best team did not win today; I strongly, firmly believe that. I think you saw America’s heart. You saw us give everything that we had today. Unfortunately the better team didn’t win.”
—-U.S. women’s soccer team goalie Hope Solo,after the Swedish team eliminated the United States from the Olympic women’s soccer tournament in a penalty shootout Friday.
I remember the first time I ever heard a representative of a losing team use the old “the best team didn’t win today” line.
It was 1967, the best summer of my life, when I spent my last carefree teenage school break following the greatest pennant race in baseball history. My team, the Boston Red Sox, were the surprise underdog in an amazing, see-saw four team race that had its outcome in doubt until the bitter end. The Sox, led by MVP and Triple Crown winner Carl Yasrtzemski, entered the final series at home against the first place Minnesota trailing by a single game. It was a two game series. If the Red Sox won both, they would be American League Champions after nearly 20 years of losing.
They did win both. I was at one of the games, among the most hopeful, raucous, joyous baseball crowd I have ever had the honor to be part of. Both games were hard fought, with surprising twists and turns like the whole season. Still, the Sox won. I was so proud of that gutsy young team, which I had rooted for through every nail-biting inning—the team was nicknamed “The Cardiac Kids”—of their 162 games, and never more happy going to bed after enduring a crucial, nerve-wracking contest.
The next day, I read in the sports pages a post-game statement by Twins pitcher Jim Kaat, who had started the game I attended. He said, “We’ve got to give Boston credit,but I think the best team and the best fans will be watching the Series on television.”
I thought it was an astonishingly graceless and obnoxious quote by a losing athlete, the epitome of bad sportsmanship, and stupid to boot. If the Twins were so damn great, why were they ending the season tied (with the Tigers) for second place? By definition, the team that ends a season with the best record is the best team, and the team that loses the decisive game has proven that it is not the better team.
Solo’s statement was worse. Continue reading