He’s right! Those who accept losing often continue to lose. Raise your hand: Did you lose today? Yesterday? 5 minutes ago? All of us who have tried and failed to be good spouses, parents, employees, offspring, students, football players, etc. know full well. We lose. We do. We all have lost and will continue to lose somewhere. And our attitude about it doesn’t change the fact. Cam Newton couldn’t have said it better. People who become fully aware of their depravity and shortcomings and admit it out loud (and began to accept that they are broken people in a broken world) are good, humble losers–but they’re still losers! Amen.

Those were Cam’s words on Tuesday, when he was asked to point blank defend his “bad loser” attitude after his team lost the Super Bowl. It hadn’t been Cam’s night on Sunday. Not only did he fumble away the first touchdown of the game for the Broncos, he later fumbled in the 4th quarter, down by only 6, and didn’t jump on a ball that he could have recovered. The NFL MVP came up way short on the biggest stage. After the game, in his interview, he wasn’t going to accept the blame, or give credit. That’s what losers would do. However, the media showed him no mercy, because they were talking to, well, the loser.

It isn’t honorable, but it is surely human. At that moment, after a crushing defeat, Cam did not want to face the music. The script (the reporters’ questions) was already written. If only the questions could have been re-written for Cam in the manner that fit his mood. “Cam, did you do your best out there?” Yes. “Cam, do you feel like your teammates gave their best effort?” Of course. “Cam, does losing suck?” You think?

This is the power of the Law, the “ministry unto death,” and the reminder we all face in our Ash Wednesday services today. Much like the questions that Cam faced, the printed liturgy for our Ash Wednesday service today has already been written: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Today isn’t the day when we get credit for our “best effort” or our “college try”. We are not going to hear about “charging hell with a squirt gun” victories or defeats that have ended in glorious martyrdom. Actually, we will want to respond to the liturgy with a strong urge to take our hoodie’s off of our heads and rip them to shreds in anguish.

In this previous Mockingbird Ash Wednesday reflection, C.S. Lewis reminds us that we can’t change the script:

One of the advantages of having a written and printed service, is that it enables you to see when people’s feelings and thoughts have changed. When people begin to find the words of our service difficult to join in, that is of course a sign that we do not feel about those things exactly as our ancestors. Many people have, as their immediate reaction to that situation the simple remedy — “Well, change the words” — which would be very sensible if you knew that we are right and our ancestors were wrong. It is always at least worth while to find out who it is that is wrong.

— from “Miserable Offenders — An Interpretation of Prayer Book Language”
by C.S. Lewis

Here’s to all the losers: