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Losing Gracefully In Politics, With Sports In Mind


So, we all know losing is part of sports, and it's part of politics too. We asked Mike Danforth and Ian Chillag, our friends from the NPR podcast How to Do Everything to explore some options for Mitt Romney on this recent campaign loss.

MIKE DANFORTH, BYLINE: If you want advice on how to deal with a loss, you got to someone with experience.

IAN CHILLAG, BYLINE: Coach Marv Levy, want to remind us of your Buffalo Bills?

MARV LEVY: Well, I coached for 47 years on every level, and if there are any good football fans tuned in, they know that our Buffalo Bills teams in the early '90s went to the Super Bowl four consecutive times. But we didn't win any of them.

DANFORTH: That's four straight Super Bowls, four straight losses. Any advice for Governor Romney?

LEVY: Yes. For a short period of time, you do mourn but you don't continue to lie there in the fetal position, and I know he won't do that either.

CHILLAG: Now, football coaches aren't the only ones that mourn. Presidential candidates do it too.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Usually, it's like a funeral. They all say that. It's like a death in the family.

DANFORTH: That's presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

BESCHLOSS: When Walter Mondale in 1984, both Mondale and McGovern told me the story. Mondale asked McGovern, George, when it stops hurting? And McGovern said I'll let you know when it does.

DANFORTH: Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota won his share of elections, but he lost some too, including a governor's race to Jesse Ventura and a Senate race to Al Franken, in what was one of the closest votes ever.

NORM COLEMAN: When I lost to Jesse Ventura, I went to work the next day. On Election Night, all of the sudden, you wake up and you're not the winner. And from my perspective, if you've done everything that you thought you could do, it's only an election and life is going to go on and life does go on.

CHILLAG: So, with the scrutiny of being a candidate behind them with cameras and reporters gone, some losing candidates take the chance to cut loose.

DANFORTH: Here's Michael Beschloss again.

BESCHLOSS: For instance, Al Gore, a couple of months after he lost the presidency in 2000, grew a beard - not terribly exciting, but for Al Gore, that was radical.

CHILLAG: Senator Coleman did not grow a beard.

COLEMAN: What I like to do is go out and have a cigar in public and not worry about what somebody thinks. I'm going to smoke that cigar. I don't care whether you like smokers or not. You know something, I like that cigar. I'm going to light it up and I'm going to enjoy it.

CHILLAG: So, whatever vice Governor Romney chooses to indulge in in public, everybody says that the key is to move on. Coach Levy, how did you guys handle a loss?

LEVY: What I did after the first one - we lost that first Super Bowl game, and on the flight back, a four-line poem went through my mind. And when we went back to that team meeting, I posted it on the bulletin board outside and it went: Fight on, my men, Sir Andrew said. A little I'm hurt but not yet slain. I'll just lie down and bleed a while and then I'll rise and fight again.

DANFORTH: For NPR News, I'm Mike Danforth.

CHILLAG: And I'm Ian Chillag.

MARTIN: Ian and Mike host the podcast How to Do Everything.


MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.