How to Lose a Game

How to Lose a Game

by Angela Tchou ’10

I’m sitting by myself at the Dean Dome in a creaking nosebleed seat. I test it compulsively, leaning back, appraising each groan of the metal joints for volume and length. A group of students walk down the aisle toward me. Surely they’ve been watching me, and god I must look like such a fool, alone, rocking back and forth like I am mentally disturbed.

A boy sits next to me; he wears a puffy gray parka and has a generic name, like Stephen or David. He asks me about my major, what dorm I live in, what year I am in school. I answer his questions one by one, and when I am done, I pretend to concentrate on the scoreboard. Ten minutes until tipoff.

“If we beat Duke tonight, we’re going to Players! I know the bouncer; he’ll get you in!”

Players is a dance club in Chapel Hill. From what I have heard, it is the ring of hell designated for underagers to work out their sexual frustrations.

“No, that’s OK,” I tell Stephen-or-David. “This is my first Duke game, and I think it will be enough excitement for my night.” He ignores my protests, and really, it will be no trouble to get me in. Our boys are going to bash Duke, then we’ll drink and dance until dawn. It will be so much fun.

It doesn’t sound like fun to me. This whole thing never sounded fun to me. Last week, a friend of a friend gave me a lone ticket to this game for my birthday. I had just transferred from a small college in Pennsylvania, so the words “Duke University” did not yet trigger visceral rage within me.

The crowd at the game, however, seems to have come with the same motivation of a parent whose child is competing in a piano recital, or more appropriately, a death match.

By this time, the game has started. Stephen-or-David keeps yelling to me about going to Players after the winning game, and it sounds like the tolling of a bell. Each time he makes this assertion, I plead with the basketball team in my head, “Please lose.”

In retrospect, I may have made too much of the attention; Stephen-or-David probably just wanted to be my friend and not my post-game date. He probably just wanted me to feel included. And god, did I want to be included, but instead, I convinced myself I was being singled out for this insecurity and then punished for it by way of nightclubbing.

By the second half, Carolina begins to struggle and I find myself smiling at each royal blue interception. My plead becomes an internal chant. Please lose. Nine minutes left. Please lose. Five minutes left. Please lose. Please, please lose.

And with five seconds left, I want to say that something dramatic happened; that a holy wind swept ball into hoop for the game-winning shot. But I don’t remember. I only remember the elation I feel when we have lost. Thank god I don’t have to go to Players. Thank god I will not have to spend my night with Stephen-David. Thank god I can just go home and go to bed.

Years later, when I have grown into my Carolina blue, I will feel such guilt over my behavior at this first Duke-UNC game. It was my fault we lost that year, I will tell my friends. And they will show empathy toward me by sharing similar stories. How the team lost that game because Sarah wore the wrong color or how we’ll certainly win the tournament if we grill out.

My mother is fond of pointing out how ridiculous these superstitions are. But are they truly that foolish? Is it really so silly that an entire community can believe in a basketball team or a college so much and so purely that we’ll place the mistakes of that institution on our own shoulders? Is it really so thick-headed for all of us to care so deeply for a common cause?

I, for one, will keep my superstitions.

And I will never cheer for the wrong team again.


Angela Tchou ’10 of Johnson City, Tenn., majored in multimedia journalism. After graduating she plans to move to Washington, D.C., look for a job and start work on a master’s in fiction writing at Johns Hopkins.