Max hates losing. At soccer, he blames his team-mates, then throws a tantrum after he misses the penalty shot. He gets himself killed in his video game and yells at mom that she distracted him. He can't even let go when his nice sister and her friends try to distract him with a round of Trivial Pursuits. He blows an obvious question, asks to take it again, then storms out when they won't let him.
"You gotta lighten up a bit, son," says his concerned father.
"I can't!" says Max. "When I lose, I just feel... worthless
But given Max and Lili's dazzling emotional intelligence, I knew he'd find a way to turn it around - and I wasn't disappointed. Max is playing in a tennis tournament. He's drawn against the toughest competitor, a fierce-looking kid with a horrible pushy mother. She cheers every time her bratty son scores a point, and Max's father feels he has to do the same.
This just makes Max more nervous. Things go badly, and he's on the point of storming out again. But Dad talks him into continuing. "Just do as well as you can, Max," he says. "You're playing for yourself, not for me!"
He's found the right words. Max goes back to the court, and starts playing a whole lot better. The pushy mom is now the one feeling nervous, and she disputes a line call. The umpire, not quite politely, asks Madame to keep silent. Max closes to 5-5, and a minute later it's match point. The brat comes out with a blistering serve. It's pretty hard to see which side of the line it ended up on.
"Out!" says the umpire, who now seems to be on Max's side. But Max surprises everyone, including himself, by disputing the call.
"I think it was okay," he says. "Let's take it again."
The brat serves and wins the match. But Max is really pleased with himself. He's found the strength to overcome his addiction to winning.
Nice job, Dominique de Saint Mars! Next time I'm playing internet chess and arrive in a dead equal ending with more time, I'll consider offering a draw rather than playing to win on the clock. Damn it all, it's only a game.