Winners Are Grinners


” Winners Are Grinners “.

The pep talk from the coach assured us of that. It was a sentiment pumped out in a sweaty gym along with ” Winners Never Quit ” and ” No One Likes A Loser “. I was vaguely surprised at the time – the 10th Grade in a Calgary high school – that the coach did not add ” You’ll Never Get A Girl Into Bed If You Can’t Run A Four-Minute Mile Do 15 Straight Chin-up On The Horizontal Bar ” or ” Many A Mickle Maks A Muckle “. Perhaps he was not honest or Scottish enough for those…

I never made the four-minute mile, but the one I did run, then walk, was a watershed in my life – it marked the end of any interest I would ever have in sports. I was grateful to the Calgary School Board for the gym classes that were conducted inside when there were blizzards in the yard, and the RCAF 5BX exercises did me good…but for 50 years I harboured a resentment toward the coach for his sneering attitude to those of us who were not good athletes.

But not now. I have not revived any love for sports, but I have decided that the coach did me good all those years ago and have decided to rehabilitate him. Come in out of the cold Mr. Semkuley. I owe you a small debt of gratitude.

You see, Mr. Semkuley ‘s remarks might not have made a sportsman out of me but they did make me a cynic. And that cynicism has survived and flourished in the ensuing 54 years. It forms a bastion for me now when I read the memes and political slogans that foam out of the computer. It armours me against all the do-good, self-help, buy-time-share-apartment hype that the con artists push. I never read the books that tell me how to make a million dollars – not because I would not like to have a million dollars – but because I can recognise the tone and tempo of their bullshit promotion. All thanks to Mr. Semkuley.

It also helps me to remember the actualities of my life; I did not run the mile, but I did develop two professional careers. I have quit projects cold, and benefitted enormously from it – stopped bleeding money, time, temper, and…blood – and in the process found out exactly what was important in my life. I have lost any number of contests but still find enough friends to eat a dinner and raise a glass with.

I did not chin myself on the horizontal bar 15 times, but I did get a girl into bed…and chinning the bar had nothing to do with what went on in bed. Bed was better…

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