The tragedy of being the SECOND best

”Feeling second best is probably the worst feeling in the world.” The Filipina American author Melissa de la Cruz wrote ”I’m tired of being your best friend. I’m tired of being second best. I won’t settle for that anymore. It’s all or nothing, Schuyler. You have to decide. Him or me.”

I can’t help it, I should go back to soccer, discussing the final of the soccer world cup in 1954, when Germany (that time West Germany won 3:2 against Hungary. While the West German football team’s World Cup win was a real turning point in post-war German history. The aftermath in Hungary is a particular illustration of the effect of a sport event in a poor country for politics.

Children bestseller writer (and attorney; it might be an excellent combination) Rachel Renée Russell in an article in Dork Diaries ”When you feel like you’re always second best” kick around the feelings of middle school girls:”I feel like I’m always second best. I’m always the backup friend, the third wheel. When my teachers tell us to get into pairs, I’m always the one left out. All my friends partner up, and I’m left standing there awkwardly. I’m sick of being everyone’s second choice. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be good enough. Please help me!” RRR is ready with a possible answer ”So, what if instead of waiting, you picked someone yourself? What if instead of looking dejected, you plastered a big old grin on your face, walked right up to someone before she could choose someone else, and said, “Want to pair up?!?”” Not only middle school girls have this problem: ”Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose” as the arguably the most influential Formula One driver Ayrton Senna (1960-1994).

Abel Kiviat was the 1,500m silver medalist in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. He supposed to win when Arnold Jackson ”came from nowhere” to beat him by a mere one tenth of a second. About 70 ((!!) years later, at age 91, Kiviat admitted in an interview: ”I wake up sometimes and say: ‘What the heck happened to me?’ It’s like a nightmare.”

The classic studies in psychology on Olympic medalists clearly state that silver medalists tend to be miserable because they’re comparing themselves to the gold medalists; bronze medalists, on the other hand, are comparing their outcome to those who came in fourth and beyond, and so they tend to be more pleased with themselves than the silver medalists — even though the silver-winners technically beat them. The men’s epee individual competition in the Olympic in Rio de Janiero in 2016 is analyzed. I will tell details of the story in the book itself.

3 thoughts on “The tragedy of being the SECOND best”

  1. I can find it neither in Latin nor in English, I can only cite Karinthy: Inkább vagyok Uticában első, mint Rómában második.


  2. I am afraid, this is a very narrow view on being a runner-up. Undeniably, there are tragic cases of being or feeling second, but that might be only a small fraction of the total. I think that being second might provide the richest possibilities in emotions, motivations, perspectives. The tragic heroes of dramas or movies are, as always, the exceptions. You could, of course, also mention Paul Keres who missed a chance at a world championship match on five occasions. Even in his obituary he turned to be second: “the greatest loss suffered by chess since the death of Alekhine”. Yet, his statue in his hometown, Narva, was not made of silver but bronze. Nebich.


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