It seems to me that one of the hardest lessons to learn in the competitive piping game – or life, for that matter – is around winning – and losing. “Win with humility and lose with grace”, goes the old saying. Like just about every other piece of well-kent advice of the proverbial sort, well, it’s all easier said than done. Think of the Golden Rule or “ethic of reciprocity”: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If that simple tenet of human rights was easy-peasy to make happen we’d all be living in a Utopian Shangri-La.
The hyper-competitive team-centred environment that forms the basis of the the pipe band movement is one where a person’s humility, and grace, is frequently – and often – tested. Bad winners – those who flaunt a victory (or worse) and bad losers – those who shamelessly act out a loss as if it was a personal affront – are not uncommon. A newsflash, I know.
I’d have to think I’ve been both. I’ve been at this game a good while and would be prevaricating in the worst way if I said otherwise. I’d like to think those crap moments in my career were closer to my inexperienced early days. Probably not all, though. C’est la vie. Welcome to the human condition.
And what prompted this Sunday confessional cum sermon? I’ve been cleaning out the office [see last blog entry] and found a shiny little gem: A genuine 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band “Canada’s Wonderband” button! The talk of the town in Chicago in July 1983.
It was early days for the Frasers and we were full of piss and vinegar – among other stuff. A couple of people in the band had this great idea to whip up “promo” buttons to hand out to [what we naturally assumed would be] the adoring crowds of the big Chicago pipe band contest.
So that’s what we did. We sort of CharlieSheened ourselves – and learned, I think, a lesson in humility.
If any pipe band, or anyone, has their sights on a victory, the first thing you should do, if you don’t want to win, is hand out buttons and flyers saying you’re the best – or Canada’s “Wonderband”.
The Chicago contest was one of only two the band lost in 1983. Blame the buttons? Maybe not. But they sure didn’t help.
Looking back I cringe at these buttony things. But, you know what, they sort of represented a passionate iconoclastic ethos.
And so I say, bad idea, good intention.
Everything aside, I do know that the words “win with humility and lose with grace” is a clichéd line for good reason.
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