Thrill and Agony

040130-N-9693M-020 U.S. Naval Academy, Annapol...

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I have just read what I consider the best-ever essay on sports and would like to recommend it to my small cadre of readers and fellow bloggers.  It is not only good writing about what it means to win or lose, but it’s even more perceptive about what it means to be human.

Read “On Losing” and behold our tribal nature revealed, and in positive terms yet.  Agonize this, Vince Lombardi!

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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3 Responses to Thrill and Agony

  1. Thanks for the link Jim!!!


  2. ansonburlingame says:


    A great way for me to start my reengagment after a three week hiatus from these pages. Refreshing to say the least. But….

    I hope General Patreaus does not “coach” that way, nor do I want a President running the country with such sentiments. Commitment and hard work are of course essential to any enterprise (except for the rare and “naturally” talented). Even when one loses a particular “game” such effort for sure “builds character” for the future.

    I reflect back on my high school basketball career. I learned a lot about life at the time but we had a lousy team. I will say that when I learned through a lot of hard work to make a reasonable contribution to a losing effort, it laid some ground work for the later trials of Plebe Year at USNA. One NEVER wins as a Plebe, as you well know. You just survive for the next round, day after long day for what seemed at the time an eternity.

    But if my whole professional career had been like plebe year and the “team” in which I participated (The US Navy) was consistently a “losing” effort, well…….?

    Now take the linked column and apply some “Rickover logic” to what the author has to say.

    Rickover once asked a classmate of mine in one of his legendary interviews the following question:

    “If you were a CO would you prefer to have a junior officer that was brilliant but dishonest or one that was dumb but honest in your wardroom?”

    My classmate responded “I would take the brilliant guy, but keep an eye on the SOB”. He was accepted into the nuclear program but was not able to take any leave or liberty from USNA for the last six months of his time there!! Rickover indeed “kept and eye on the SOB” with such an answer.

    I wonder how all the pundits herein would respond to Rickover’s question?



    • Jim Wheeler says:

      You state the obvious, DQ. War is not basketball, nor are many other things. Air Line maintenance needs to be near zero defects and it appears to have evolved that way, at least for now. Hospital medical errors have not, IMO because Doctors’ egos are in the way, but it is changing slowly.

      No, the moral I see in Keith’s beautiful little essay is that the MOST important thing in life is not the goal but how you handle the journey. Human beings are not perfect (as Herr Rickover well knew), but, as you say, that doesn’t have to conflict with high standards.



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