General Question

itsnotmyfault1's avatar

Nice guys finish last?

Asked by itsnotmyfault1 (198points) October 14th, 2007

I’ve always wondered about this.
Why DO nice guys have a hard time (a lot of people chalk it up to being “pushovers” or needing to show some more “assertiveness”)
also, the phrase itself: where and when did it come from?

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12 Answers

itsnotmyfault1's avatar

I know i kind of answered my own question in the question… and am proceeding to give MORE details in a separate answer, but whatever.
I always feel like what other people consider “being a pushover” i see as being nice/understanding.
and what other people see as “assertiveness”, i see as being a jerk.
I also HATE when people yell at/otherwise verbally assault clerks, telemarketers, solicitors, cashiers, pharacists, customer service people, etc. Just because things didn’t work perfectly for you, doesnt mean you need to ruin other people’s day and try to get things done your way. (sometimes, you just want to punch them… and sometimes they are pretty bad at thier jobs…)
what happened to common curtesy?
(btw, there’s good chivalry thread going here )
Also, Nice guys and relationships. Assertiveness. Hm. (is that enough detail?)

as for the root, i’m pretty much just being really lazy and not doing any research on this, even though it interests me. I’m going to guess it was sort of like “Yes Virginia, there Is such thing as santa Claus” -an article that became very popular or famous.
I’m basing this idea off Jim Carrey in The Mask.
any other ideas?

srmorgan's avatar

Nice guys finish last is a statement made by (at the time) Brooklyn Dodger manager Leo Durocher. Durocher was in first place with the Dodgers that year, (1947). Leo the LIP had a reputation for being a nasty competitor with a big mouth,
They were playing the last place NY Giants, managed by former Giant star Mel Ott.
Someone asked Durocher why he wasn’t a “nicer ” guy and supposedly Durocher points across the field at Mel Ott and says “nice guys finish last


itsnotmyfault1's avatar

wow, good answer srmorgan

hossman's avatar

Finishing first is overrated. I can think of lots of things where it is a good thing to finish last. That said, I frequently cannot resist the temptation to ensure bad guys don’t finish at all, or sometimes, that they never even get a chance to start. Finishing first at the cost of being a jerk, in my book, is a loss. Sometimes, how you play the game is far more important than where you finish.

I always try to remember that observing bad guys finishing first is frequently a matter of incomplete perception. Sure, that jerk may have beat you for the promotion, but you aren’t around to see his wife leave him and his kids hate him years later. I believe the karma wheel sooner or later comes back around to slap the apparently successful jerk in the face. Since I believe in an afterlife of eternal reward or punishment, I can take solace in the success of the nasty only being in this imperfect existence, and the comeuppance simply is not to come by my hand.

gailcalled's avatar

@itsnot: as for the root: if you still care, revisit tubers

Jill_E's avatar

I would suggest to continue to be you.

I’ve been told am a friendly and kind one. Just a few people told me I am passive. To those people, I would tell them that I consider myself generous. Each one of us is unique. Maybe long ago I was a walking doormat, but I fine tuned it to set good boundaries and continued to be me to have more energy. It is what I have known all my life and am not going to change overnight.

For rude people, we have to keep in mind something is stirring inside them and perhaps maybe not have peace or appreciation in life inside. Let them find out if that is what they want to be remembered. On a dying bed, I want to look back and be remembered as a kind one, not a rude one.

I think kindness will carry through your life.

andrew's avatar

@srmorgan: There was a great piece in the New Yorker re: the origin of this, and many other famous quotes (and how history rewrites them)... the original quote was something like “Nice Guys finish in 8th or 9th place”. Not the same ring, eh?

Spargett's avatar

I really think this phrase is worded poorly. I highly doubt the reason anyone would ever finish last is solely because they’re “nice”.

Its all the other “unfavorable” traits that usually come with unusually nice people.

This leaves people with the impression that you shouldn’t be nice to get ahead, ergo… An asshole.

To summarize, nice guys don’t tend to finish last, just complete pussies.

Modern_Classic's avatar

“Finish last” implies a hierarchy, a linear single dimension ranking. The underlying assumption – that a contest is taking place with winners and losers – exposes our simian, or more basically, mamallian gene pool. And the winners in those contests were generally the biggest and best fighters. Losers die or die out. To quote Ms. Lee, “is that all there is?”

joli's avatar

This question is debated endlessly on the dating circuit. Nice guys tend to be polite when it comes to introducing themselves to women, and don’t actively pursue. Then they feel left out of the game when an aggressor gets the girl’s attention. Nice in my mind is a more sensitive caring type of guy but unfortunately this ‘finishing last’ tends to make them bitter. Not a nice quality at all. You can’t step up to the plate and not follow through. The girl isn’t supposed to do all the work!

srmorgan's avatar


His reply was “They are a nice bunch of guys… they will probably finish last”.

That’s another version of the same anecdote… He was referring to Mel Ott and the Giants.

His heavily ghost-written autobiography was titled “Nice Guys Finish Last”.


Oz_1's avatar

Nice guys may think they are finishing last….but in reality they will eventually come first when someone who appericates them notices them…they just need to wait a lil. I dunno…just my opinion (”,)

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