BERT―Eddie, you’re a born loser.
EDDIE―What’s that supposed to mean?
BERT―First time in ten years I ever saw Minnesota Fats hooked, really hooked. But you let him off.
EDDIE―I told you. I got drunk.
BERT―Sure, you got drunk. That’s the best excuse in the world for losing. No trouble losing when you got a good excuse. And winning! That can be heavy on your back too. Like a monkey. You drop that load too when you got an excuse. All you gotta do is learn to feel sorry for yourself. It’s one of the best indoor sports: feeling sorry for yourself — a sport enjoyed by all, especially the born losers.

The Hustler by Robert Rossen, United-States, 1961, around 1 hrs 13 mins. Full script, IMDb.

Two great speeches in this film. The one above is about losing and self-pity. And the one below, delivered by Paul Newman (as “Fast Eddie”), is about feeling great and winning (also from the script).

EDDIE–Sarah, do you think I’m a loser?

SARAH–A loser?

EDDIE–Yeah. I met this guy — Gordon, Bert Gordon. He said I was. Born loser.

SARAH–Would he know?

EDDIE–He knows. A lot.

SARAH–Why did he tell you?

EDDIE–I don’t know. I’m not sure. He said there are people who want to lose, who are always looking for an excuse to lose.

SARAH–What does he do, this Bert Gordon?

EDDIE–He’s a gambler.

SARAH–Is he a winner?

EDDIE–Well, he owns things.

SARAH–Is that what makes a winner?

EDDIE–Well, what else does?

SARAH–Does it bother you? What he said?

EDDIE–Yeah. (after a pause) Yeah. It bothers me a lot. (pause) ’Cause, you see, twice, Sarah — once at Ames with Minnesota Fats and then again at Arthur’s … (sits up)… in that cheap, crummy poolroom … Now, why’d I do it, Sarah? Why’d I do it? I coulda beat that guy, I coulda beat him cold. He never woulda known. But I just had to show ’em, I just had to show those creeps and those punks what the game is like when it’s great, when it’s really great. You know, like anything can be great — anything can be great … I don’t care, bricklaying can be great. If a guy knows. If he knows what he’s doing and why, and if he can make it come off. I mean, when I’m goin’ — when I’m really goin’ — I feel like…(beat) … like a jockey must feel. He’s sittin’ on his horse, he’s got all that speed and that power underneath him, he’s comin’ into the stretch, the pressure’s on him — and he knows — just feels — when to let it go, and how much. ’Cause he’s got everything workin’ for him — timing, touch. It’s a great feeling, boy, it’s a real great feeling when you’re right, and you know you’re right. It’s like all of a sudden I got oil in my arm. Pool cue’s part of me. You know, it’s a — pool cue’s got nerves in it. It’s a piece of wood — it’s got nerves in it. You feel the roll of those balls. You don’t have to look. You just know. Ya make shots that nobody’s ever made before. And you play that game the way nobody’s ever played it before.

SARAH–You’re not a loser, Eddie. You’re a winner. Some men never get to feel that way about anything. I love you, Eddie.


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