Let's Hear It For The Losers!

American Idol is over! After we've recovered our senses from celebrating Jordin Sparks' triumph, let's have a moment of silence for all those thousands of people who didn't win. In fact, let's have a whole summer's worth of silence, a whole lifetime. Tough luck, folks. Get used to silence. No one cares about you any more.

Now what?

Some of the many people who haven't won America Idol have nevertheless gone on to fame and fortune (can you say "Jennifer Hudson"?). But the vast majority of those who tried out, even those who advanced to the televised rounds but got eliminated, have returned to the obscurity from which they came.

To us, the jaded and enthusiastic viewers, there is no tragedy here. Most of these performers richly deserve obscurity. They weren't very good, and the few who were good are too busy trying to capitalize on having gotten as far as they did to notice what we think.

But to the performers themselves -- especially to those who didn't get very far, despite high hopes -- this silence is probably pretty depressing. They had a chance to be stars (at least they thought they did), and now it's over.

One of the most interesting and poignant things about American Idol for me is this parade of delusional performers who feel like Christina Aguilera trapped in the body of Christy at the Copymat. Their friends always told them they had a good voice. Their 9th-grade music teacher predicted stardom by age 20. But the sad truth is, their talent is small-time. Good for the local bar. Not so good for national television.

And so, now what?

What do you do when your dream of the big time collapses? How do you walk away from the studio (where someone else is being celebrated) and return to your normal life with the knowledge that your talent is just not enough?

Before we get too snide or condescending, it's probably best to remember that in all likelihood, we, too, have suffered some similar -- if less public -- fate. Were you the last kid picked for the kickball game? Did you lose the big race that you felt destined to win (on your way to an Olympic gold medal)? Did the boy/girl of your dreams discover someone else who had that special something that you lack? If you're honest, it probably isn't very difficult to pinpoint your American Idol moment, because for every one who wins, there are thousands who lose. ("One hundred thousand down, two to go," was how the final show was publicized.) Get used to it. You're a loser, one of the hundred thousand. We're all losers. (Except Jordin Sparks.)

So when we're finished conferring fame on the winner (because everyone loves a winner), let's take a look and see how we've managed the far more common fate of losing in our own lives. What did you do? Did you quit singing in despair and disappointment? Did you vow never to play kickball again? Did you rebound with a very misguided love affair?

I want to hear about it. Really. Because in the days and weeks to come, we're all going to learn way more about the very young Ms. Sparks than we ever wanted to know. And no one is going to pay any attention to the rest of us.

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