Manchester United’s Perfect Feedback Loop


Soccer, it turns out, is not the only sport with something of an aversion to celebrating second place. “There is the N.H.L.,” wrote David Sullivan. “No second-place trophies or medals, and a similar tradition/superstition that any team award less than the Stanley Cup itself is to be spurned.

“The league now awards the Presidents’ Trophy to the team with the best regular season record, but there are documented cases of players looking down, looking away, acting awkward, refusing to acknowledge or touch the trophy they won, and skating away as quickly as possible.”

There are, at least, trophies handed out for winning divisional titles, something that was pointed out to me while “researching” — it looks a lot like asking the most recent American I have corresponded with — last week’s column. You can win, in a way, multiple times in most of North America’s major leagues, so even the teams that lose finals can reflect on the fact that they are winners.

But there can be no question whatsoever about the most poignant and uplifting email of the week, and possibly ever. I don’t want to edit it too much, even for length, because it deserves your full attention.

“I’m 22, and won two silver and one bronze medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games,” wrote Jaryd Clifford. “My silvers came in the 5000m (on the hottest running day of my life — “feels like 43 degrees and 85 percent humidity”) and the marathon (I spewed my guts up for the last 12 kilometers*).

[*NOTE: I have left this phrase in to prove that Jaryd is Australian. It may be the most Australian phrase imaginable.]

“I was defending world champion in the 5000m and world-record holder in the marathon. I learned that disappointment can coexist with pride, particularly when you know you gave it everything. I’m disappointed I couldn’t win that gold medal, but I’m proud that I never gave up and that I gave it everything I had.