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Defeat is a way of life for Shawn Faust. Since 2003, he's been on the losing side hundreds of times and is likely to lose every game he plays this year. To make matters worse, every loss he's logged as a member of the Washington Generals has been consecutive and against the same opponent -- The Harlem Globetrotters.
The games between the two teams are largely believed to be staged events, with the Generals playing the role of a helpless basketball squad victimized by the Globetrotters' practical jokes and superior athleticism. But Faust, 29, a point guard for the Generals and one of their coaches, says the outcome of the contests aren't predetermined.
"We try to win. We play hard. Every time we have the ball, we try to win," Faust says. "Being a competitive guy, nobody likes to lose."
If Faust doesn't like losing, he must certainly be used to it by now. Sports psychologist John F. Murray, who counsels professional athletes, says that players normally go through a grieving process after a defeat. So after hundreds of humiliating losses to guys in pinstriped shorts, should the Generals should be on suicide watch during halftime?
"Maybe it could affect you in other aspects of your life," Murray says by phone from Palm Beach, Fla. "I think if you're a somewhat intelligent individual who can interpret this ... as your role, you can have some fun throwing the ball around. It's like being an actor."
Faust says he enjoys his life as a General. Unmarried and without children, he's free to travel the world, and does so, playing about 200 games a year. He's had offers to play in leagues overseas, but that would require him to adjust to another country's language and culture. As a world-traveling basketball player, he's able to visit other countries and return home on a regular basis.
"It's a priceless opportunity," he says.
The Colorado Springs, Colo., native is complimentary of his co-workers, the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters. On the road, though, he says the teams don't mingle much. But if Faust, who played college ball at the University of West Florida, can't beat them, would he consider joining them?
"Not really. I kind of like to be the person people love to hate," he says, offering an unlikely scenario. "One day we will get that victory and everyone will jump on our bandwagon."
Faust claims the Generals were only two points behind the Globetrotters at a recent game in Tupelo, Miss., when time ran out. He also cites a two-point loss suffered in France a couple of years back.
Maybe winning isn't everything. If these games are staged, as some believe, and if the Generals actually intend to lose the game, couldn't their inevitable defeat be seen as a successful achievement of a goal?
"If you're trying to lose, and you lose, what great accomplishment is that?" Murray says. "Anybody can fail. Just don't try. I don't see how anybody could see that as success."
The culture of losing is one the team, which allegedly hasn't won since 1971, appears to embrace. The spirit of competition seems absent from marketing materials for the team, which proudly displays their pitiful record on their Web site and on a team logo that portrays a General about to be dunked on by a Globetrotter.
Getting dunked on might be the least of your worries when you're playing against the world-famous Globetrotters. The team's juvenile-yet-still-hilarious antics include yanking down the shorts of the opposing team while they stand at the foul line. If Faust is weary of such antics or the whistled version of "Sweet Georgia Brown," he conceals it well.
"That's what they do," he says. "They're basketball players, but they're entertainers as well."
Teams that play each other frequently are often able to discern each other's weaknesses and shortcomings and exploit them. That hasn't worked for the Generals and Faust says he's not sure why they keep losing.
"They've got good players, good athletes," he says. "I've been trying to figure out that for the longest."
Murray, who counseled tennis pro Vincent Spadea out of his long losing streak, describes the Generals' role -- the perennial Globetrotters foil -- as an unnatural sports phenomena.
"There's some interesting psychology there," he says. "It would be fun to talk to those guys and see what it's like to lose day after day."
Faust will likely keep playing and waiting for a win that may never come.
"That one victory would be worth all the losses you have to take," he says. "It would be so great to get that win. Man, it would be great to say you're part of it."The Harlem Globetrotters play the Washington Generals at the Richmond Coliseum at 3 p.m. on March 23. Tickets are $18-$92. Smart money's on the guys in red, white and blue. 780-4970.