A.C. Snow

Second thoughts on pain of losing

A few Sundays ago, I wrote that losing gracefully reveals more character and courage than winning. A few readers took issue with that statement.

“Apparently you’ve never lost,” one reader wrote.

Oh, I’ve lost more often than I’ve won during my limited time on the athletic field, but never suffered anything as traumatic as UNC Coach Roy Williams, whose Tar Heels lost in the final second of this year’s NCAA national championship basketball game.

Asked if he was recovering from the loss, Coach Williams said he’d never get over it.

“You can ask me the day before I die,” he said. “I’m sure I won’t be recovered then either. I don’t think you ever get over it. I really don’t.”

The late Pat Conroy, one of my favorite writers, penned the most eloquent essay on losing that I’ve ever read.

“Loss hurts and bleeds and aches,” wrote Conroy. “Loss is always ready to call out your name in the night. Loss follows you home and taunts you at the breakfast table, follows you to work in the morning. You have to make accommodations and broker deals to soften the rabbit punches that loss brings to your life.”

Well said. Right? Like many, I have never lost many ball games or an election. Why? Because I rarely played ball and never put my name on the ballot. That’s not to say I don’t know about losing and the hurt it brings.

Often our losses are on the playing fields of life, as we are outmanned by illness, disaster and death. But in the process, we try not to overlook the triumphs that came our way, those great moments of ecstasy when we, in effect, “tore the goal posts down.”

Conroy concludes that the great secret of athletics – and, I suppose, life – is that we learn more from losing than we do from winning.

“Losing,” he says, “prepares you for the heartbreak, setback and tragedy you will encounter in the world more than winning ever can.”


The Tampa Bay Times, where my daughter and son-in-law are employed, just won two Pulitzer Prizes, journalism’s equivalent to the sports world’s Heisman Trophy.

The announcement reminded me of the time some years ago when a friend and fellow N&O journalist won a Pulitzer for criticism.

When I mentioned the honor in my column, a Raleigh reader wrote, “Congratulations to your friend. ... I only wish my wife had entered. She would have won, hands down.”

Between the pages

I think of the Readers’ Corner on Hillsborough Street as a massive retirement home for books, who, like people, have lived past their prime and their space on the bookshelves.

I like to read the items posted here and there that were left between the pages of the retired volumes.

“I just want to kiss you. I’m so in love with you,” one handwritten note read. “Maybe we can watch a movie. Or would you rather play poker?”

I chuckled over the contrasting choice.

Not far away was posted a thoughtful truism: “When you sell a man a book, you don’t sell him 12 ounces of paper and ink. You sell him a whole new life.”

I could not linger long. As usual, like Andrew Marvell, “... at my back I always hear Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near.”

Proof positive

The world-wide controversy over North Carolina’s “toilet bill” (HB2) rages on.

The issue reminded Wallace Finlator, son of Raleigh’s iconic liberal minister, the late Rev. Mr. W.W. Finlator, of something his effervescent father once said after a progressive ordinance was passed by Chapel Hill town officials and shortly thereafter invalidated by the General Assembly:

“In North Carolina politics, the way you know for sure you’ve done the right thing is for the General Assembly to nullify it.”