MAD DOG: How to Be a Good Loser

Face it, no one wants to be a loser. Rare is the person who, when asked to list their life's goals, puts down: "Get married, get a good job, have wonderful children, then screw it all up and spend the rest of my days being miserable." At least not since Prozac became the One-A-Day pill of choice.

Unfortunately though, someone has to lose. In the grand scheme of the universe, and contrary to what Ed McMahon and Dick Clark would like you to believe, we can't all be winners. For every winner there must be a loser. It's like yin and yang, positive and negative, action and reaction, Bush and Gore. Sorry, the last one's a bad example -- by the time all was said and done they did a good job of proving they're both losers.

We like winners. We give them awards, stay up late to watch them on The Tonight Show, then wake up early to see them ride down the street as the grand marshal of a parade, proving that winning has nothing to do with self-respect. Richard Hatch became an instant celebrity when he won on Survivor. Hillary Rodham Clinton turned into a big winner after her husband became president, she became senator, and book publishers lost their minds, starting a bidding war for her memoirs which topped out at over $7 million. In case you're wondering, that's about $23,333.33 per page, $80 per word, and more interns than you can shake a, well, a stick at.

But the truth is, we're more fascinated by losers. We cheer for the underdog, pull for the downtrodden, and love watching "America's Biggest Chowderheads Doing Incredibly Stupid Things That Should Embarrass Them No End When It Appears on TV But Doesn't." We even go so far as to bet on losers to win, though that may be more a matter of greed since the odds are so much better. Plus if the dark horse actually does win then suddenly there are two losers who for once turned out to be winners.

So it's not surprising that there's a popular website called Failure Magazine (www.failuremag.com) which is devoted to losers like the Susan B. Anthony dollar, New Coke, and anyone who bought a lifetime membership to the Louis Anderson 24-Hr Fitness Center. There's also Bride Again, a magazine devoted to losers. I mean, people getting married for the second time. It will probably be very successful since the publisher was smart enough not to use their first choice of a name: Used Merchandise. The magazine covers such useful topics as whether it's okay to invite the exes, if it's cool to say "I'll give it a good shot" for your vows, and whether you can save on photographer's fees by reusing your first wedding pictures, cutting and pasting the new groom's head onto the old groom's body.

Winning gracefully is easy. Losing gracefully isn't. After all, nobody likes a sore loser. It's much better to smile than to pout, throw a temper tantrum or, if you're a full-blooded American, go to court. You didn't see Susan Lucci do any of these things the 1,278 times she was nominated for an Emmy and didn't win, now did you? This doesn't mean she didn't do it, but we didn't see it, and as Cher's plastic surgeon likes to point out, it's appearances that count.

Since at one time or another we all have to lose, here are a few simple guidelines which hopefully will make you a better loser:

- Always smile and congratulate the winner, telling him or her how happy you are for them. Watch the Academy Awards if you want to see how the pros do it. Hopefully you can be more sincere and there won't be a TV audience of lip readers who recognize that the word you just muttered begins with 'f', ends in 'uck', and is shorter than firetruck.

- Memorize as many appropriate platitudes as possible, like "May the best man win", "Winning isn't everything", and "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game." Try to avoid saying things like "Cheaters never prosper", "The good die young," or any word that begins with 'f', ends in 'uck', and is shorter than firetruck.

- Remember that while a loser trips on the sidewalk, breaks his leg, and hobbles around in a cast, a winner does the exact same thing. Sure the winner ends up with a few million bucks in the bank because he sued the city for not maintaining the sidewalk, the store it's in front of for not sweeping the dust off, and God for creating the dust in the first place, but don't forget that money is the root of all evil. Then when you quit crying, call your lawyer. The statute of limitations may not have expired.

- Remind yourself that no one loses all the time. Even Kevin Costner made some good movies early on in his career.

- Know when to give up. Don't be like the presidential candidates, Pauley Shore, and Kellogg Co., which sued Exxon saying their "Tiger in a tank" infringes on Tony the Tiger, this despite the fact that both have been around for thirty years. Remember, Kenny Rogers once sang, "You have to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." Of course he didn't take his own advice and hasn't had a hit song in years. See what I mean?

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His novel, "Skywriting at Night" is available from Xlibris Corporation. Email: md@maddogproductions.com

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