Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How Satisfying are These Moral Victories?

During college, I thought that a "moral" victory was the same thing as a "Pyrrhic" victory. For instance, after scoring an amazing goal in FIFA on the XBox even though I was losing 5-2, I'd yell, "PYRRHIC!" In other words, I knew I wasn't going to win, but the outstanding goal made the loss tolerable. By calling it a Pyrrhic victory, I thought I was just using the more educated term for moral victory.

In fact, a Pyrrhic victory is the opposite of a moral victory. A moral victory is when an individual, team, army, or other group loses a confrontation but achieves some other gain. A Pyrrhic victory, meanwhile, is a win that comes with with such a devastating cost that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately lead to defeat. In a Pyrrhic victory, the heavy toll cancels out any sense of achievement or profit.

For the most part, I think both moral and Pyrrhic victories are B.S. Vince Lombardi wasn't far off when he said, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." Still, I think there are some exceptions, so I'm going to run a two-part blog on these two types of victory. Today, I'll tackle my five favorite moral victories of all-time. Later in the week, I'll deal with Pyrrhic victories, which I think I now sort of understand.

Top 5 Moral Victories

1. Adam Sandler's buddy getting the kid in Big Daddy
Big Daddy was probably the last of Adam Sandler's movies that thoroughly entertained me. (Were his movies that much better, or was my sense of humor way more juvenile? Probably both, right?) Even after Sandler got all sorts of skells and even his father to testify on his behalf, he still wasn't granted custody of Frankenstein. Luckily for him, it was time for a moral victory. Jon Stewart stepped forward and admitted that the kid was his love child from a drunken night in Canada. Boom! Sandler had done it again. The moral victory ended happily ever after, with Sandler even getting in a parting shot on his ex-girlfriend.

2. Battle of Bunker Hill

Redcoats have to be the best camouflage uniforms ever invented.

The colonists lost the battle, but not before killing over 1,000 British soldiers. Bunker Hill showed the Brits that we were ready to rumble, militia-style. It was only a matter of time before Mel Gibson showed up on the scene.

3. Rocky losing to Apollo Creed
Part of the greatness of the original Rocky movie came from the fact that he didn't win. He merely showed that a scrappy underdog could go toe-to-toe with the heavyweight champion of the world. Rocky's moral victory was capped off by Apollo's great line, "Ain't gonna be no rematch." Of course, Rocky responded, "Don't want one," a line that proved to be patently false.

4. Notre Dame losing to USC in the "Bush Push" game
I remember leaving Notre Dame to go on fall break the day after ND's 34-31 loss to USC in 2005. I was a freshman and my buddies and I were thrilled for the next three years of the Charlie Weis era. We just figured the loss to the Trojans was a moral victory, a prelude to great times ahead. It wasn't so. The Irish went 3-9 my senior year, and Manatee Weis was sent to his underwater pasture after five years on campus.

Charlie Weis eating his sorrows away after his unceremonious firing.
5. Battle of Thermopylae
Most of us are familiar with this battle through the movie 300. According to the Website "Fact Behind Fiction," the number of invading Persians is disputed by historians, but there were between 200,000 and 2.5 million of them. The Spartan King Leonidas and 7,000 fellow Greeks began the battle against the invaders and were able to hold them off for three days. By the end of the battle, there were just 300 Greeks left and they finally succumbed to the Persian King Xerxes I. However, the Persians never successfully conquered Greece.

Leonidas did not live to experience the moral victory, but today there is a bronze statue at the site of the battle called the Leonidas Monument. A sign under the statue reads, "Come and get them!" This is a reference to the phrase the Spartans yelled when the Persians told them to lay down their weapons. Moral victory up the wazoo.

Please check back later in the week for my top 5 Pyrrhic victories of all-time.

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