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Australia's Next Top Model -- winners, losers, and awkward moments

People often talk about how to be a good loser. You shake hands, you politely congratulate the winner, you don't throw the monopoly board.

Losing is what we do. Sometimes, of course, it takes real effort. Who would have thought, a year ago, that Harry Reid would be polling essentially even with Sharron Angle? Sometimes you have to shoot yourself in the foot, then cut that foot off to spite your other foot. Hey -- whatever it takes to lose those extra pounds before the wedding!

But how to be a good winner?

Winning is hard. Winning the lottery ruins your life. Winning a Nobel Peace prize angers your critics. Winning the MacArthur Genius Grant startles your cat.

Sure, history is written by the winners, but who reads history these days?

And how do you manage to do both?

Australian TV viewers got a good lesson in winning and losing on the finale of Australia's Next Top Model, when host Sarah Murdoch accidentally crowned the wrong model Next Top. The video is gruesomely awkward -- for everyone except Kelsey Martinovich, who won --then, within a few minutes, lost.

The answer to how to win and lose in a moment's notice is that you don't, ostentatiously, do either. You accept victory graciously. You swallow defeat the same way and spend the rest of your time consoling a frantic Sarah Murdoch.

Kelsey deserves all the praise she's been getting, but she had an easier part to play than Amanda Ware. Good winners go more easily unnoticed; bad losers and worse winners attract all the attention. Sometimes it's hard to tell. Some people say Al Gore was a bad loser, conceding and then retracting. But others argue he was just the world's least successful winner.

Still, it is easier to be a good loser than to be a good winner. Look at Appomattox. All Robert E. Lee had to do was waltz in there with his sword and dignity in hand. Ulysses S. Grant had to perform a complicated dance of awkwardly reminiscing about the Mexican War, refusing the sword, being polite, being elected President of the United States, and drinking and smoking himself to death.

In the end, both Kelsey and Amanda won. They're sharing a magazine cover, and both of their careers have been jump-started. But for a moment, it was a combustion of awkwardness, a reminder of how thin the line really is -- all beautiful people look alike to me, which is in some ways the point -- and how easily defeat can be snatched from the jaws of victory.

Was it real? Was it staged? Does it matter? This moment wasn't reality. It was reality television. As people often point out, the line between winners and losers on these shows is so thin. Sure, Justin Guarini has largely vanished in the maw of history, but who remembers Taylor Hicks? And I hear that Adam Lambert guy is doing quite well for himself. Kelsey no doubt will, too.

By Alexandra Petri  | October 1, 2010; 3:51 PM ET
Categories:  Petri, Reality? Television, That's awkward  | Tags:  Australia's Next Top Model, losers  
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