The confidence I usually carried with me as I trotted up to the line of scrimmage was gone. The guy across from me, wearing the same number on his jersey as I had on mine, was just better. It wasn’t just about being bigger or stronger, though he was, it was about skill and aggression.

It was the end of my first season playing ball for the Marine Corps; the Championship game that would put the icing on the cake of our undefeated year. It was a close game, and for the first time all season, the idea that we might lose was creeping into my head.

With more than two decades of contact sports under my belt, I’d played against plenty of stronger guys. I’d also played against more talented ones. Usually, the really talented guys tended to be a bit soft, the really strong ones tended to lean too hard on their power, and I was able to find a way to win, to work around their advantages and make mission. This was different. I couldn’t out-fight him, I couldn’t out-think him, and with each snap of the ball, I was met with another brutal reminder that this monster was my better, and I was letting my team down.

If you stay in the fight for long enough, whether it’s football, rugby, MMA, or competitive ice dancing, you’ll eventually find yourself in a no-win situation. If you’re incredibly unlucky, it may even be in a fight for your life. Not every loss comes as a result of being outclassed by your opponent – sometimes it’s just about the way the dice fall – but sometimes, sometimes you’re just not good enough.