Show me a good loser...
Phil Heath's loss of his Mr. Olympia title about a month or so ago brought that saying to mind in fairly pointed fashion, because his reactions after his loss make it very clear that he still has no idea why he failed to win his eighth title:
Okay, let's get one thing out of the way immediately (yet again):
Bodybuilding is not a sport.
For something to be a "sport", there has to be an absolutely objective, measurable, clear standard of performance. There has to be a transparent score that has no dependency whatsoever on someone's subjective opinion about anything.
Football - whether the manly brutal full-contact American kind, or the soporific fake-diving flopabout fake-acting girly stupid [2,000-word rant about football deleted for sake of brevity] rest-of-the-world kind - is a sport. Either you score, or you don't.
Tennis is a sport. Either you win more important points and get a higher score in terms of games and sets than your opponent, or you don't. Either you win, or you lose.
Fighting is a sport - though I will of course immediately add the caveat that judges' decisions in fights are highly subjective. Either you win, by outright knockout or TKO or submission or your opponent giving up or in the worst case by judges' decision, or you don't.
Indeed, one could argue that, based on the standard of objective and measurable performance, chess, chequers, and the ancient Chinese game of go are all sports in their competitive form. While there is room for debate on this subject, since such board games do not require much (visible) physical exertion, the fact is that there is (usually) a clear winner and a clear loser based entirely on objective results, not on subjective decisions by outsiders.
Bodybuilding IS NOT a sport. It is a form of performance art. And kind of a weird one at that.
You win or lose based on highly subjective judgments by a panel of judges. I don't really follow bodybuilding much, but from what little I know of the subject, Phil Heath's physique at last year's Mr. Olympia apparently displayed a lot of "bloating" in the gut, which is something of a common problem among bodybuilders these days.
Yet he still won against guys who had far superior physiques, at least as far as their guts went.
It is true that bodybuilders train very, very hard to get to the top. Bodybuilders tend to be incredibly selfish and self-centred - and that isn't actually their fault. As Branch Warren pointed out in the superb documentary, Generation Iron, even if you are not that sort of person to begin with, you become that person because you have to.
You absolutely have to be utterly obsessive over your workout routines, schedules, diet, training, and other aspects of your life. You have to be utterly focused and dedicated to your craft. Your personal life inevitably suffers as a result; if you take bodybuilding seriously, everything else pretty much takes a back seat, at least for a while.
And it is because of this obsessive quest for physical perfection, combined with the extremely subjective nature of the judging criteria for bodybuilding, that you get guys like Phil Heath, who just cannot accept that they lost for any reason whatsoever.
If you watch that clip all the way through, and then look at the comments section for the same video, you will see that a lot of people who were fans of the man now think that he's a complete douchenozzle. And that is with good reason.
Yes, a good loser is still a loser. But losses have to be taken and absorbed. It is how we grow and mature as people.
Only children refuse to accept their losses and pretend that they still won. To a very large extent, Phil Heath's petulant and angry tirades about how he felt he should have won, and how he felt he was winning for much of the show, reflect a very childish temperament.
Ultimately the question of whether he won or lost is based on the judges' scorecards. One can take issue with those scores in one respect or another. But in the end, a loss is a loss, and even the greatest champions lose from time to time.
In sports - real sports - champions who do lose, such as Roger Federer in that truly epic Wimbledon final ten years ago against Rafael Nadal, have to absorb a terrible blow to their egos and psyches. True champions take those losses and return stronger and better than ever - which is exactly what happened with Federer, who came back, won his 13th Grand Slam single's title, then went on the next year to win the French Open and regain his Wimbledon title and World No. 1 ranking, and thereby become the winningest Grand Slam champion of all time.
The point is that losses can make or break a man. How a man confronts and accepts those losses determines whether he will bounce back from the pain and misery of losing.
And in this respect, Phil Heath is, so far at least, failing to accept his loss and grow from it. Instead, he is blaming everyone but himself, even though it is clear from the discussions in the bodybuilding community and other places that he was warned several times last year about the size and lack of aesthetic appeal of his gut - and he did nothing at all to address the problem.
The lesson for the rest of us is clear as well: if you lose, yes, it hurts and it sucks and it's miserable. But, absorb the loss. Accept it, right then and there. Deal with the problem. Adopt the Dominator Mindset and let yourself heal from the injury to your ego and pride. Humble yourself and learn the lessons of your failure.
And then come back better and stronger than ever, break your opponents, and stand triumphant before all once more.