WORCESTER — Perhaps the first thing a young athlete-to-be discovers when he or she steps onto a field, a court, a starting line or even a mat is that athletic glory has a flip side.
For every trophy, for every medal, for every headline or every cereal-box dream of victory, cheering crowds and high-fives, there is a vanquished foe with his eyes staring at the pavement, being consoled by parents, icing down his knee or dragging her knapsack on the ground on a long walk home.
In fact, the only people that truly guarantee that we celebrate winners are the losers they have defeated.
In the long run there are far more losers on the field of competition than there are winners.
But being one of the majority doesn't make finishing second or worse feel any better.
When they shuffled off the football field at Methacton High School Saturday afternoon, the Norristown football team didn't have to be reminded what they experienced 11 times this now-completed season.
Their 21-0 loss at the hands of the host Warriors ensured the Eagles of an 0-11 season, and its two-season losing streak of 18 games feels like a cinder block tied to the bottom of the drawers of a person trying to extricate himself from a long, deep, slimy well.
It's not that losing football games is a novelty in this neck of the woods.
Methacton's football team suffered through a 25-game losing streak between 2004 and 2007.
Plymouth Whitemarsh went winless through 16 straight between 2007 and 2009.
Upper Merion just snapped a 25-game skid last season.
But that's of little consolation to the Eagles players, coaches and fans.
"We worked hard,' said a disconsolate E.J. Smith, Norristown's head coach, recounting the lost season that moments before had come to a merciful end. "You have to be consistent to be successful, and consistency is what we've lacked all year.'
Consistency was, undoubtedly, a factor in Norristown's season-long misery, but far from the only factor.
Over the course of the past two-and-a-half months, the Eagles players, coaches and fans have heard it all — lack of heart, lack of desire, lack of resiliency.
They've heard the best football team in the school is walking through its hallways, having chosen not to play.
They've heard there is no school spirit, no school pride and that no one in the school cares whether they win, lose or run through the streets with no clothing.
And it hurts.
"It's been more frustrating than you could ever believe,' said Eagles senior lineman/linebacker James Gilette, who Smith called, "our best football player.'
"It's been rough,' Gilette continued. "I just wanted us to win one game.'
Gilette said that at the start of the season, spirits were high and expectations were higher.
"We expected to be successful,' he said. "We had our opportunities, we just didn't make the most of them.
"Everything that could have gone wrong this season, went wrong.'
As is always the case with the downtrodden, the future is said to be bright.
"Every program goes through this at one time or another,' Smith said. "It's a phase you go through, and that's all this is, a phase.
"We had a lot of underclassmen who played at the varsity level this year, and we're going to be a good football team again.
"Don't worry about Norristown football. Norristown football is going to be fine.'
Here's hoping Smith's optimism is warranted.
But today, the program is smarting, and for the next nine months all the players, coaches and fans will hear about is a losing streak.
And as always, being one of the majority won't mean spit.