And The Winner Isn’t

It’s Oscar time again. And I can’t help feeling the statue is well-named.

After all, who but a Grouch could manage to use the occasion every year to concentrate on the losers?

“Leonard DiCaprio, passed over for his portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover …”

“… the first time a Pixar film has not been nominated for Best Animated Feature … “

“Albert Brooks, in a tweet to the Academy, said: ‘You don’t like me. You really don’t like me.’ …”

And this year’s not that unusual.

Oh, sure, once the ceremony arrives, 73 percent of all the Academy Awards coverage will focus on some cute winner’s moment, like Roberto Benigni leaping chairs or Adrian Brody lip-locking Halle Barry. (The other 27 percent will basically say “She was wearing THAT?”) But even then, some snubs will become legendary on the scale of Hatfield-McCoy:

It all started, son, when yer Uncle Oscar went up to that Annie Hall tramp instead of that nice young Star Wars feller. (Spit) Now git lost and git Grandpa some more moonshine.”

Glory lasts a moment. Especially compared to the disbelief of seeing Alan Rickman passed over again.

It’s a strange thing, this fascination with the losers’ circle. And yet it’s oddly comforting, too.

The more I think about it, the more it seems to reaffirm our humanity.

Most of us don’t get to know what it’s like to be President of the United States, or to go to the Super Bowl, or to raise a trophy while Hollywood applauds in envy and appreciation. Granted, we have our triumphs – many of them far more meaningful over the long term – but rarely on a scale that would get that level of public adulation.

But we all know what it’s like to fall short. To not quite make it. To be almost good enough for something – but only almost.

And when we see it in another, however great or small, it’s hard to suppress a moment of sympathy.

The football fans among us know this already. What got more attention this last week? That the New England Patriots would be going to another Super Bowl? Or that their opponents had been one step shy of a winning touchdown, one kick shy of a tying field goal?

So close. So far. So familiar.

It’s different when it’s someone you dislike, of course. The Germans specifically invented the word schadenfreude for the not-so-guilty glee when an Oakland Raider or a Jersey Shore cast member stumbles. Free target, have at it.

But most people seem to have more Charlie Brown than Darth Vader in them. Enough to create that empathy. And maybe even a little hope: If they can do so much and still stumble, maybe it’s not so bad when we do the same.

And if they can hope for a second chance, maybe we can, too.

So here’s to the Rickmans and the Sam Rockwells and all the others who could be great without yet reaching the peak. Maybe you’re even a little happier for it, in having something still to strive for. I hope so.

Because let’s face it. You guys were robbed.

One Reply to “And The Winner Isn’t”

  1. You may or may not know this, and I’ve been meaning to tell you, but I only have so much free time for fun stuff like this, ya know. And this here column of yours really spoke to my heart here a while back when I read it on-line before it was published in the paper. It helped me through some sad moments and happied me up. I don’t know how you’re able to do that—speak to hearts. Maybe that’s just what good writers like you are able to do—speak to hearts, wherever those hearts may or may not be.
    Katherin Engelhard

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