Nice guys finish last

posted Jul 24, 2017, 8:13 AM by Viktor Zólyomi
The words `nice guys finish last' are associated with villainy, or at the very least unsportsmanlike behavior, and used as justification for one's unsavory actions. Hardly anyone would expect that this phrase originates in an act of selflessness.

The town of Greenwell is famous for sports since the second half of the 19th century, and while most think of baseball or bullfighting when it comes to the self styled Green City, other sports are also popular to this day, such as the annual Greenwell Marathon. The run snakes around town spanning many popular areas and draws a considerable live audience.

The very first Greenwell Marathon was held in 1871. The favorite to win the race was a runner named Michael Banks, a veteran who had won numerous races in Con City in the years prior. Half way through the race he enjoyed a nearly two-minute lead on the runner-up. While he earned a good deal of applause for his performance, several members of the live audience in fact booed him. They called him names such as `showoff' and `bully,' and yelled disparaging comments at him such as `boring!' and `you're not giving anyone a fair chance, you prick!'

It was when he heard someone yell `you're not a nice person!' that he reportedly started to slow down, and before too long the runner-up took him over. Then he proceeded to slow even more and fell back to third place, then to fourth, and so on. Some worried that the exertion of the marathon was taking a toll on him and he would faint at any moment, but he finished the race in last place, exactly one second after the runner in front of him.

`I simply realized I had an unfair advantage over these enthusiastic amateur runners,' he stated when he was interviewed after the race. `I have experienced the taste of victory many times, so I know exactly how good it tastes. I wanted to be nice, you know. Nice to my fellow contestants. Let them enjoy success. So I fell back to be the nice guy.'

The phrase `nice guys finish last' was the headline of the news article which chronicled the outcome of the marathon the next day. The phrase eventually became a part of popular culture, while Michael Banks went down in history as the first ever runner in Con County to hold both first and last places on his professional record. He was also the sole focus of Greenwell news outlets for several weeks following the now infamous marathon, in part due to the unprecedented nature of his act of generosity, and in part due to the public outrage among the fans. Numerous members of the audience had placed bets on him winning the match, and they felt cheated by Banks literally handing over the first place to another contestant. They accused him of being in cahoots with betting agencies who, as it turned out, had made a considerable profit on Banks' more than unexpected loss.

Michael Banks denied having any connection to betting rings and the police found no evidence of foul play on his part, so the case was dropped very quickly. The enraged fans turned their ire to the people who had `heckled' their runner throughout the race, convinced that Michael Banks would never have given up the victory if he hadn't been goaded into it by the vocal minority. Two months and about two dozen bar fights later tensions died down and the incident was largely forgotten; or so it seemed.

A year later Michael Banks once again participated in the Greenwell Marathon, and once again found himself the target of a very vocal audience. Only this time, the loudest members of the audience were threatening to subject him to various forms of bodily harm, were he to surrender the race once again. Despite the verbal abuse, he hung back for much of the race, occasionally pointing with his thumbs to the words on the back of his shirt which said, `I'm a nice guy.' That was until several members of the crowd started to chase him with pitchforks.

He was the first across the finish line, a small army of angry fans barely ten seconds behind him. Even then he kept on running, for good reason, since the judges disqualified him for relying on outside help to win the race. The decision did nothing but reinforce the idea that, one way or the other, nice guys finish last.
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