Even the greatest teams, such as the ’53 Dodgers, fail to win championships more of than they win them. In their best years, the greatest hitters—Rogers Hornsby, Ted Williams—failed to hit safely 60 percent of the time. “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the cliche has it, but my guess,” Joseph Epstein has observed, “is that for those who have undergone both, the memory of defeat in sports is stronger and sharper.”
This is true, and for good reason. Life too, as Kahn suggested, is primarily about losing: losing parents and other loved ones, friends, jobs, health, memory—life itself. Such losses are painful, but like losses in sports, they teach the valuable lesson of human limitation and shed light on the meaning of life and the paradoxical words of Christ (St. Matthew 16:25): “For whoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Baseball and Memory, 73).