We just watched the Netflix series “Losers” (which we learned about through Nick Bertozzi’s (@NickBertozzi) involvement on storyboards) and it was both short and great. If you enjoy good storytelling and don’t mind some sports in the mix you’ll like it.
It’s also not about losers, and I’m sure the creators gave it a misleading title on purpose. The show is more about moving forward after failure—sometimes repeated failure. None of the people featured are winners in the sense of gold-medals or “We’re Number One!” chants. Their stories are more interesting than that. It’s hard to pick favorites, but if you only want to sample a few, try “Judgement,” “Stone Cold,” and “Aliy.”
The reason I’m writing about this is not because I want to start a new career as TV reviewer, but because the show brought to mind my two favorite sporting events I’ve watched, neither of which ended as wins, exactly:
Tigers v. Angels
August 26, 2015
Justin Verlander, after a season that began on the disabled list and proceeded through to some minor league play and a so-so W-L record, started a kind of nothing late season game (the Tigers were a bad 59-66 at that point, the Angels a barely average 64-61) that night, and we were relaxing at the ballpark because night baseball in Detroit is relaxing. But as the game progressed and he kept pitching and kept striking out batters it got exciting. Kat—still pretty new to all this—was confused by all the cheering, since on the face of it the game was getting kind of boring by the time of the 7th inning stretch. Since I’ve been watching since I was a kid and was a particularly superstitious kid at that (in Little League, when things were going well for my team, I ate the exact same Cobb salad…with turkey instead of bacon…before every evening game) I hadn’t pointed out to her that Verlander hadn’t given up any hits and only two walks until she asked.
The Tigers won easily, Verlander completed the game, easily, but it wasn’t a no-hitter in the end. Watching him as he threw one bad pitch that caused him to miss out on this by, literally, an inch, was simultaneously not fun and the very definition of seeing professionalism in action. It was a great night for fans, and we cheered until he came out for an encore.
Well, okay, it’s not like he threw more pitches, but the usually stoic Verlander seemed touched by how much we appreciated the show he’d put on. A win.
Kipchoge v. 2:00:00
May 6, 2016
Publicity stunt? Maybe. Two-plus advertisement for Nike? Probably. But…
We were watching a movie at home on Friday night when I said I was going to stay up a little longer to watch the start of a race (a time trial, really) that would begin at 11:45 local time. Kat thought I was nuts, but after months of training and preparation and secret shoe development, three runners were going to take a shot at running 26.2 miles in under two hours. It wouldn’t be an official world record because of the insertion of fresh pacers every 1.5+ miles (and a pace car throughout) but it would still be an amazing feat if someone managed it.
I’d been following this effort casually, largely via Ed Caesar’s (@edcaesar) great articles about the run-up in Wired, so I wanted to see what this would look like. You know, the first 15 minutes or so.
So we watched. And the ballet of the pacers and the beauty of Eliud Kipchoge’s running kept both of us up for the whole thing. Yeah, we watched the three people run in a short and not-at-all-scenic loop for more than two hours.
And when we weren’t watching Kipchoge look gorgeous every step of the way, we watched some advertorials and listened to some pseudo-science and groaned through some hyperbolic commentary.
(When the announcers said he was only X seconds behind pace now, “so if he can run the next few miles 20 seconds faster he’ll still do it!” I had to laugh. It’s as if they were talking about your average jogger who, approaching the end of their first 5K, starts sprinting to look good for a photo their spouse will post on Instagram. I mean, he was already running a 4:30-something mile…to pick up the pace by even a second or two would be virtually impossible. And that thing where it looked like he was smiling there near the end, the only change in expression he’d showed through most of the run? I don’t think he was happy to be falling behind pace. As he said afterward, “Three laps to go, I felt a little tired in my legs.” You’d grimace too.)
Anyway, you can probably tell by the title above that the two hour barrier didn’t get broken that night. But it was still worth staying up well past our bedtime, and the National Geographic documentary is well worth an hour—only an hour!—of your time. And Eliud Kipchoge is about as far from a loser as I can imagine.