A Gentleman’s Sport

Win like a man. Lose like a man. You know what's worse than a loser? Someone who won't admit he played it wrong.
Kevin Spacey (21)
I have mentioned my grandfather several times within this blog as an influential mentor and my first guide to the lifestyle of the old school gentleman. I have also mentioned how gambling was something done openly as it was legal and part of his business. There were plenty of times when he would take me with him as he conducted his business, as he wanted me to see how a gentleman conducted himself within society. 

Other than the usual places you's expect to go when running a restaurant/bar, he would take me to some rather "colorful" places. The first place we would frequent was the horse track, as he rented a space for a legal betting shop within his building. The second was the local cock fighting arena as one of his hobbies was breeding fighting cocks.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that my mother probably had no idea the places where my grandfather was taking me. Then again, what can you really expect from the owner of a bar looking over his grandson. No wonder why the first lesson he taught me was that gentlemen have tight lips.

Whenever my grandfather mentioned the cock fighting arena, he would speak of it as “the gentleman’s sport.” He would make me dress up, as he wore his finest guayabera, every time we headed off to the Arena.  As a kid you learn that dressing up meant you had to be in your best behavior.

Before you make a judgment call on cock fighting, let me make it clear, this isn’t a story about that. As I have grown older, my opinion on this cultural aspect of my youth has changed, but I’m not here to moralize about those topics.

There I saw my grandfather win and lose, always with a smile and with dignity, never changing his demeanor. No matter the chaos happening around us, he would never lose his cool. Once, he let me call the bet. As I got excited because I won, he simply placed his hand on my shoulder and in a low voice told me to control myself.

“Remember that every time you win, someone else lost. Don’t make them feel any worse.”

Later on that day, I asked him to let me place another bet as I was feeling rather lucky already. That time I lost, and reacted just as would be expected from a young boy. Again, he placed his hand on my shoulder and laid some more wisdom on me.

“When you play, you always risk losing. Don’t let your loss tarnish another person’s win.”

In his eyes, gambling was a “gentleman’s sport,” and in a way he was right. A couple words and a handshake is all it takes to make an agreement more binding than any piece of paper, as your word becomes your bond. You accept accountability for your actions and decisions. You learned to keep your cool under pressure. Winning or losing with dignity becomes how you showed respect to the other person involved in the wager. And isn’t that an integral part of being a Gentleman? How else would you call a man who’s able to keep his word and control his emotions, one who’s accountable for his actions and conscious of others fortune?

Just make sure that if you have to bet, bet on yourself no matter the odds.