Gentleman’s Agreement

You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don't win, at least you can be satisfied that you've tried. If you don't accept failure as a possibility, you don't set high goals, you don't branch out, you don't try - you don't take the risk.
Rosalynn Carter
We live in a society of extremes. On one end, people tend to live staked down in their comfort zone were personal safety and risk are reduced to a minimum and whatever risky actions they take are done under the blankets of online anonymity. On the other end we find people doing dumb stunts and ridiculous acts in a desperate attempt to achieve Viral Fame and Reality TV notoriety. This leaves us with either people unwilling to stand up and be noticed or people desperate to be noticed for all the wrong reasons without any understanding of the repercussions of their actions. In either case, fear and voluntary ignorance become the law of the land as neither is the result of actual bravery and risk taking and neither takes responsibility nor accountability for the repercussions of their actions or inaction.

This saddens me greatly as this mentality is slowly killing the “Gentleman’s Sport.” But what IS the Gentleman’s Sport, you ask? Gambling.

Before you condemn my choice of athletic endeavor, hear me out. I grew up in a place where gambling was, and still is, pretty much legal for all accounts. You would think that between the casinos, the horse tracks, the pool halls, and the sporting events of all kinds; a culture of respect and honor would be hard to find. It was quite the contrary. All betting was done under the idea that a gentleman’s agreement meant he would keep his word and would honor whatever was agreed upon during the bet. It was expected of him to win humbly and lose graciously.

As the grandson of a bar/restaurant owner, I got front row seats to this environment as I saw plenty of these transactions happen as a boy. I asked my grandfather why anyone would pay if they lost a bet. After being sternly stared at for about a minute, he explained to me what it meant to be honorable in the simplest way…

This is a gentleman’s sport. A gentleman accepts his fate, good or bad, when he shakes another gentleman’s hand. He has to be fully aware of the risks involved before he can even consider reaping any rewards. By shaking on it, he admits he is willing to live with the repercussions of his decision, like a Gentleman. There will always be a winner and a loser, but how we behave in either situation is what sets us apart.

That’s when I understood a simple reality of life. We can’t live as if we can’t fail, take risks without understanding what we are risking if things go wrong. If we do this, we won’t be able to deal with the repercussions of our actions. Risk isn’t about ignoring what can go wrong, but understanding the possibility of it going wrong to the point that you are no longer afraid of it. You then become fully aware of your actions and decisions, of what you can win or lose with each breath you take. At that point you can win without being arrogant and you can lose graciously.