Winners and losers: two very different pictures

Winners and losers: two very different pictures | Marie Low

Your mum's a bad loser, I told my daughter recently. And you come from a long line of them.

The Scrabble game had come out on a family holiday, and I felt my anxiety levels rising.

The sight of the Monopoly box can have me near meltdown.

We didn't play many board games when I was growing up. It was safer to stick with solitary pursuits - jigsaw puzzles, Patience, anything that didn't pit us against each other.

My beachside caravanning memories include card games with a grandmother who also didn't like to lose. Games were a serious business.

And so it would appear on the world stage.

We have just been presented with two examples - the gobsmacking grace of tennis champ Ash Barty, and the arms-folded, bottom-lip-dropping performance of the English team in the World Cup.

Ash Barty made me cry.

That's no mean feat. I'm a pretty crusty old middle-aged - well alright, three-quarter-aged - woman and sport is not my thing. I had never, ever watched a Wimbledon match - that's what they're called right? - before.

But she got me with three things.

The first was the drop to the ground when she won.

It appeared she was almost embarrassed to show her overwhelming happiness at the achievement of a life-long dream, humbled to have made the grade after years and years of work on the court.

This most public moment was also her most private joy.

Number two was when she reached her boyfriend Gary Kissick. It was like she had made the top of Everest.

She burrowed her head into his chest and let herself have the moment. It was a real and authentic moment in what can be an unreal and inauthentic era.

Number three was the next day when, along with everyone else in the Antipodes, I saw the image of a very young Ash Barty holding a trophy. I don't know what it was, but it brought me undone.

The chubby cheeks, the proud smile, the likeness to moments we have all shared with our own children. What a journey she has had. And no tennis racquets were harmed in the making of this legend.

On the other hand, I look now at an image of English players sulking after losing the Euros. These are the heroes of thousands - probably millions - of children.

They seem to have forgotten that the game is played by two teams. Two teams who want to win. Two teams who have trained and given up time with their families, travelled, suffered disappointments, been injured and got back up again.

Two teams who are representing their countries and their sport worldwide. And it is a game that is played by fairly stringent rules. You win or you lose.

If you lose, you don't flip the chess board in the air and shout about how you didn't really want it anyway, and if your mother hadn't come in with the snacks at the wrong time, you wouldn't have lost your concentration.

If you lose, you don't throw your bat on the ground and stamp off. You don't yell your frustration at the umpire and make firewood of your racquet.

If you win or if you lose, you take your example from Ash Barty and Karolina Pliskova and salute the battle, the determination and the talent that has placed you against your opponent. You shake hands and you own it.

Pretty rich, I know, coming from someone who is too scared to play Snap.

But at least my family knows, if you aren't prepared to lose, you don't get out the Monopoly.

Marie Low is a freelance journalist based in Gunnedah, New South Wales.

This story Winners and losers: two very different pictures | Marie Low first appeared on The Canberra Times.