On Ender's Game
Winning and Losing in Ender’s Game
By Hilari Bell
Many years ago, during the Summer Olympic Games, Nike ran a series of ads that made me crazy. I forget most of the narrative, but the tagline was, “There’s only one winner,” followed by a clear implication that everybody else was just dust on the winner’s Nikes. I hated those ads. Everyone who goes to the Olympics is a brilliant athlete to start with. The distance between first and second place, sometimes even first and fourth or fifth or sixth place, is a fraction of a second, a breath, a single missed step. Everyone at the Olympics is a winner, and the difference between them is usually almost nothing. The Nike ads’ statement that only the person who happened to finish first mattered, and everyone else was worthless, made me furious.
I imagined a whole series of counter ads, which told the splendid, heroic stories of the people who didn’t win–who sometimes didn’t even place. Of the distance runner with the injured leg who hobbled into the stadium long after the race was over and the crowd had gone–who knew he hadn’t a hope of winning, but he’d come there to run, even if only his coach and the janitors sweeping up the trash were there to see him limp across the finish line. Of the Iditarod racer who saw an empty dogsled running by, and lost his place to go looking for his fallen competitor–the woman had a concussion, and might have frozen to death if he hadn’t found her.