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If you’ve been watching any of the World Cup, or likely even if you haven’t, you’ve heard that Tim Howard, the goal keeper for the US team, had 16 saves in Tuesday’s game against Belgium – more saves in a World Cup game since the statistic starting being tracked 50 years ago. But the US lost and won’t advance in the tournament. Tuesday’s game was their last chance. “Sometimes when you give your best it doesn’t come off,” Howard is quoted as saying.

Tim Howard

I’ve always been impressed by many athletes’ ability to manage such grace right after defeat. It seems that they often aren’t even afforded an opportunity to collect themselves before members of the news media request a comment. It may be a standard response to compliment the winning team and the effort of the losing team, which Howard also did, but it can’t be easy. Furthermore, the requests comes at defining moments. Howard, in his mid-thirties, may be considered too old to play in another World Cup. What if when we found out someone else was promoted into the position we wanted, and we knew we’d likely never have a chance at it again, someone held a microphone for us to comment to the entire office. Would we be diplomatic under pressure, would we use the opportunity to air our complaints, or would we stand there speechless and decline to comment.

Regardless of our response there’s probably only one we’d feel good about later – that of the gracious athlete. Fulfillment will not only come from our successes but from our responses during the times it just doesn’t come off.