Netflix's sport doccie 'Losers' shows losing is not always a bad thing

'Losers' is a gem of a series about those athletes who never quite made it and the lessons we can learn from their experiences

10 March 2019 - 00:00

Sports documentaries tend to follow predictable narrative patterns - tales of underdogs overcoming insurmountable odds to achieve upsets, stories of the dedication and focus it takes to be a champion, the spectacular fall from grace of heroes who flew too close to the sun.
Nowhere is the black and white view of a world divided between winning and losing more clearly hammered home than in sports.
Creator Mickey Duzyj's eight-part docuseries Losers is thus a refreshing alternative to the narrative focus and moral lessons of most sports documentaries as its focus is not on the tragedy of loss in the arena but rather what we can learn from those who have lost.
Combining the traditional approach of interviews with his subjects, their friends, commentators and colleagues along with archive footage - Duzyj also adds a quaint and appealing animated element to his stories that gives the series an empathetic and endearing quality.
The series covers a range of sports and events from across the globe and so we have not only the stories of a failed US heavyweight and a lazy, talent-wasting Brooklyn street basketball player but also the tales of a Canadian curler, an Italian endurance runner and a cursed soccer team from the British seaside town of Torquay.
Some of these stories will be more familiar than others - boxing aficionados are well acquainted with the rise and spectacular fall of heavyweight contender Michael Bentt and his subsequent re-emergence as trainer to Hollywood celebs; golf watchers still speak about the dismal failure of Frenchman Jean van de Velde to secure a certain British Open win on the 72nd hole.
WATCH | The trailer for the sport documentary Losers

You may not know, unless you're a devoted follower of the gruelling Alaskan dog-mushing race the Iditarod, about eternal 2nd-placer Aliy Zirkle, and if you're not up on your figure skating you may well have forgotten the frustrating career of French competitor Surya Bonaly, and let's not even start on curling bad-boy Pat Ryan.
All of the stories though are riveting, engrossing, touching and painted with a human touch that helps to reinforce the idea that the placatory adage about how it's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game, is a significant one for the many competitors who put their heart and soul into their sporting life but don't necessarily ever know the glory of winning.
It's testament to their dedication that most of the subjects of the series continue to participate in their sporting arenas in various capacities because they love the games.
As one reviewer of the series points out, it may just be a coincidence that it's 25 years ago that Beck sang: "I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?" Twenty-five years later and it seems to be noble and right to think that instead of tossing those who didn't succeed onto the scrapheap of history, it's time to celebrate losers, listen to them and learn from their experiences, which teach us not only lessons about sport, but bigger and richer ones about life.
‚ÄĘ 'Losers' is available to stream on Netflix...

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