The life of a loser: what fuels our fascination with the defeated? | Andy Bull

They say that you find the best stories in the loser’s dressing room but discovering what defeat does to a champion is not easy topic to tackle

There are all different sorts of pauses, and in this business the worst is the one that starts every loser’s press conference, which sometimes drags on so long you worry it’ll never end. A winner’s press conference will fly by, but the ones held by the other guy feel sort of awkward. They usually start with some inoffensive and open-ended bromide, “how are you feeling?” or “you must be disappointed?”, a painkilling platitude before we start to probe a little deeper in the wound. Or everyone will latch on to some ready explanation for what went wrong, the referee’s decision, or someone else’s poor sportsmanship, grateful for an opening that avoids the blunt confrontation of someone’s public failure.

They say that you find the best stories in the loser’s dressing room. No one is sure which grand old man of US journalism came up with that. Maybe it was Bill Heinz, maybe it was Jimmy Breslin, maybe it was Gay Talese. Sixty years later, Talese’s profile of heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson is still one of the most excruciatingly honest accounts of what defeat does to a champion athlete.

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