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Review: Losers - docu-series on Netflix

Keith Higgons

Posted on March 3, 2019 11:15

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Sports is defined by winners and losers. Is life?

If we’re to believe everything we see and hear these days, all of life can be broken down to two things: winners and losers. When I pulled up the new Netflix docu-series Losers I expected to find a series about, well, people who didn’t win. While fundamentally correct, Losers is about so much more than simply sports players who didn’t win in their selected sport.

Like ESPN’s 30 for 30 series Losers tells the stories behind the sports. For me, these are always more interesting than the sport itself. But then I am, admittedly, not a sports fan.

When the first episode cracked open and revealed the story of the reluctant former heavyweight champion Michael Bentt, I was quickly hooked. His story has all the usual tropes, poor upbringing, abusive father and overcoming the odds to become champ to his journey to Hollywood. Bentt’s story even includes an interview with actor Mickey Rourke (reminding us of the horrors of plastic surgery).

Episode two tells the story of the perennial struggling British footballers Torquay United. The club that is housed on the British version of the French Riviera (their words, not mine): the club that is said to only exist today because of a dog bite (seriously). 

Episode three is about the French figure skater Surya Bonaly. Her story reveals the ugly truth that racism is very much alive and kicking in competitive figure skating. But it also shows us that sometimes it takes a rebel to shake things up and that change, even if it moves at a glacial pace, is inevitable.

As the stories of a curler, a marathon runner, a musher, a playground basketball legend and a French golfer unfold it began to dawn on me that none of these people were losers.

The title of the show is misleading and I think deliberately so. If the show had been called something more specific like Second Placers or Never Winners it’s unlikely anyone would watch it.

The show particularly excels by using animation to supplant actual footage and to explain certain elements, like points in curling or the path of the Iditarod, making sure that all these episodes come in under 40 minutes.

If you’re intellectually stunted enough to believe or view the world through that “winner or loser” lens, this may not be the series for you. Losers reminds us, in the best possible way, that we’re all human and that not everyone can be Messi, LeBron James or Tara Lipinski.

The last episode of this eight episode season tells the story of French golfer Jean van de Velde, who sums up his absolutely tragic experience (his own doing, by his own admission) this way “Winning is the goal.”

He's right, winning is the goal, be it in sports, politics or in life BUT winning should never be the sole purpose you do something.

Losers is a docu-series allegory to remind us that life is not black and white.

It’s grey.

And it’s complicated.

Keith Higgons

Posted on March 3, 2019 11:15

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