Simon Barnes recently wrote a brilliant column in The Times, explaining how, in the sporting world, losing is actually more important than winning.
It’s far more common to experience defeat, whether as a player or a fan, than to taste the glory of victory, and it is these experiences that truly shape us.
This struck a chord with me. As a fan of Derby County there is certainly more defeat than victory in my portfolio of sporting memories, but I think this theory extends beyond the boundaries of sport.
How else can I explain the fact that, despite enjoying a childhood that almost defines the term ‘spoilt rotten’, there is still a considerable section of my memories labelled, rather petulantly, as ‘stuff I didn’t get’?
It’s a sad truth that, however much parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles can buy, wrap and hand over to you, there is much, much more that they can’t, and it seems to be human nature to brood over this.
Just like a fisherman will always regret the one that got away, there is a part of any child that will stare at a huge pile of Christmas presents and wonder why that one item, whether it’s a doll or a train or an electronic toy, is missing.
The missing item will then attain an almost mythic status, becoming the epitome of toys and the single most important thing in that child’s world, for a short while at least.
Only one thing can shatter this cherished myth – actually getting the toy. It will then instantly be replaced by something else the child didn’t get.
My biggest regret was never getting the Lone Ranger action figure from the 1970s, but had I actually got one I am sure I would have quickly realised that he was no better than my Action Man, and that it was Tin Can Alley I really wanted.
I’m not trying to say that buying toys for children is pointless. I think I’d have to go into protective custody if I started claiming that. I do, however, think it is inevitable that at some point on Christmas morning, a little flicker
of disappointment will pass over a child’s face as they notice something is missing.
There’s simply no way to avoid it, because even the child in question has only just, at that very moment, realised they wanted it more than anything else.