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Winning is losing and losing is winning: a philosophical mind bamboozle

By James Fitzpatrick


Richmond just lost for the first time in forever and I don’t know how to feel. If you’re a time traveller and you missed 2017 this sentence will already have you bamboozled but fear not sanity deviants, there’s more bamboozlement to come.


Call it stubbornness, call it loose grip on reality, call it a desperate excuse for failure but I’m about to lay down a flawless philosophy on why, despite what the score line might have read, Richmond won on Sunday and West Coast lost.


Willing to commence the bamboozle? Read on…

The foundations for this theory come from philosopher Dan Cohen, a man who has studied the ‘art of argument’ for decades. More recently, Cohen has concluded that the traditional approach to an argument – approaching it like war, with a victor and loser – is flawed. He argues (lol) that the real ‘winner’ of a debate is the one who has their worldview expanded – after all, knowledge is power. The loser of an argument is more likely to be the one learning something new – the winner is sustaining what they already know to be true. The more arguments you lose, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you know.


Following Richmond’s ‘loss’ on Sunday, Konrad Marshall (author of famed ‘Yelllow and Black: a season with Richmond’), highlighted how a similar theory could be applied in sport. Marshall pointed to an excerpt from his book where Hardwick reminds his players that after four critical loses, the team bounced back and beat those same opponents (or overcome a venue hoodoo) later in the season.


West Coast have played their hand (and a strong one at that) but Richmond are now aware of what it will take to beat them. They know how West Coast will approach the game.


Does this mean West Coast should have thrown the game on Sunday so as not to give Richmond this new knowledge? Of course not. West Coast sent a frightening message to the rest of the competition, proved that they’re real contenders for this year’s premiership, and will take enormous confidence from knocking the Tigers from their perch. What Cohen’s philosophy suggests, if applied to this scenario, is that there may have been more than one ‘winner’ from Sunday’s match.


What’s the conclusion? While ‘losing’ sides don’t gain four points, they’re often not walking away empty handed and should be richer for the experience. Whether or not they have the talent to apply this new found knowledge is a whole other story.


Alternative conclusion: I’m a salty tigers fan no longer used to losing after one year of success so I’ve come up with a dubious excuse for why a loss is a good thing. If losing is so good then why is Carlton still so shit?


Ok, maybe the theory isn’t perfect but remember: if I’m starting to lose this argument then that means I’m winning it.




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