Losing Is Worse Than Death
Someone said to me 'To you football is a matter of life or death!' and I said 'Listen, it's more important than that'.
The characters consider losing a match to be dishonorable to the point where they'd rather die than lose. Often a byproduct of Honor Before Reason
, or the explanation a Spirited Competitor
uses because games are Serious Business
Despite appearences this trope is not
simply Second Place Is for Losers
taken Up to Eleven
- SPIFL refers to cases when, for instance, the one who comes in second feels crummier than the one who finished third because the second-place guy was so close to finishing first. LIWTD applies where anything other than first is unacceptable (admittedly, if it's a head-to-head matchup with only one non-winner, the only way to not win is to finish second).
- SPIFL occurs after the contest in question is run, while LIWTD usually shows up before it (whether before the end of the contest or even before it starts).
- Consequently, SPIFL tends to stand on its own in the story ("I finished second - this sucks"); LIWTD tends to spur further actions ("I can't finish second, so I will do this extreme action to avoid it").
- SPIFL covers cases where, objectively, the worst thing that happens to someone who finishes second is that he doesn't win. LITWD, on the other hand, allows cases where losing entails a bad consequence beyond the match itself (e.g., dying by an opponent's sword for someone who believes it is Better to Die than Be Killed).
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- In one Nike commercial, a high school that enjoys "a rich tradition in the sporting arena" had a pretty bad run last year. Thus, some changes were made to the faculty - hiring current pros to coach the teams and teach actual classes. "You know sucks more than training? Losing. You know what sucks more than losing?" "...Nothing?" "Nothing."
Anime and Manga
- Pulp Fiction: Butch Coolidge ends up getting a hit taken out on him for refusing to take a fall in a rigged boxing match. Although this may have had less to do with pride, and more to do with him having taken the money he was paid to lose on purpose, and betting it on himself to win for a retirement-worthy payoff.
- In Snatch, Mickey the Traveller boxer will not take a dive, even when very explicitly and very credibly threatened with death. Subverted in two different ways. First, it's not honor, he's working his own angle. And second, Bricktop's retribution for the first non-dive turns out to be more brutal than he bargained for.
- Varsity Blues: Sam Moxon makes his son think that winning a football game takes precedence over the relationship with his troubled son.
- Every Game Master of a tabletop gaming group probably has at least one story of a battle his players refused to retreat from no matter how many chances he gave them before the Total Party Kill.
- During World War II, the Japanese army often played this deadly straight, with units regularly fighting to the literal last man rather than surrender, and committing suicide if capture was inevitable.