But what about all the rejected article proposals?

History, we’re told, is written by the victors. 

Of the victors, too. 

And newspaper articles follow the trend. 

But what about the losers?

That was, in essence, one of my rejected pitches. After surveying the early morning Communion line, a “theology of losing” just felt right.

Hear me out.

Who is the losing-est coach in Tulane basketball history (minimum of 25 games coached)?

For your useless information file: Mike Dunleavy Sr., fired in 2019 after a 24-69 Green Wave record, sporting a 26% winning percentage and a twenty-one-game losing streak at his dismissal. 

Yet there he was, faithfully in church every Sunday morning. Which got me thinking about a “theology of losing.”

The Catholic Church, at first glance, follows the winners-only formula. Soaring steeples and floor-to-ceiling stained glass can leave you with a certain impression. 

But most saints, of course, were martyrs. Much of the work of the largest charitable organization on the planet is done with the marginalized. Lent is forty days, every liturgy has a penitential rite, the Confessional still doles out scores of Hail Marys and Our Fathers.

And all that is without getting into that Jesus fellow, he who went the way of the powerless, friendless, capitally punished.

Losing—and, by extension, redemption—is wired more deeply than any electric votive candle.

Or so I pitched with my Mike Dunleavy story.

I don’t think the editor ever considered pursuing it—and not merely because the combination of “Tulane” and “sports” fails both marketing test groups and Catholic social media algorithms.

More because that’s a hard conversation to start. So after the first thirteen losses, did the next eight feel any better?

My idea was rejected, but it’s still turned into something of a cornerstone. For me, the “theology of losing” is here to stay. Just ask the crowd at Tulane-and-Broad.

This year I’m participating in Loyola’s Criminal Defense Clinic. Under the guidance of a real-deal practitioner, students get to represent clients. We speak to the judge, go to the jail, and file the motions.

Oh, and we lose. A lot. We would kill for a Tulane scorecard. I mean, not literally; that’s kinda why we’re down in court to begin with.

TV shows get us thinking about verdicts as the ultimate win-loss measure, but criminal defense representation is full of assessments along the way. And the grades often don’t look too good.

But it’s not about the failure mark, the denial, the loss. It’s not even completely about the verdict at the end. It’s about the standing in the breach, doing the work—and praying for a good record for an appeal.

It’s about showing up again, for another motion, another game, another early Sunday Mass.

Mike Dunleavy and all the rest of us, coaching the art of living through the heaps of losing.

The “theology of losing.” Someone should write an article on that.

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In fairness to Tulane, it currently trots out the best football team in the state. Until the Saints or the Tigers get a better quality win than at Kansas State, we all need to be hullabalooing. Go Wave!

And go, Mike Dunleavy! No matter the Tulane blemish, he had an enviable basketball career. The professional coaching stops were memorable, but did you know he was a player first? Just look at these 1981 Finals highlights, willing the Rockets to a 2-2 series with the Celtics. It may have been followed by consecutive defeats, but the theology of losing can celebrate the victories, too.