Despite what Vince Lombardi said, if winning’s the only thing in sports, you’re going to be miserable a lot of the time

By Ken Reed

Originally published by Troy Media

From time to time while flipping through a magazine or surfing the Internet, you’ll run across a list of Best Sports Quotes. These lists can be somewhat entertaining, as the quotes run the gamut from inspiring to funny.

While glancing at one of these lists recently, I saw the Vince Lombardi quote that always seems to show up on these things: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

I’ve always thought this belongs on a Dumbest Sports Quotes list.

First, if winning’s the only thing in sports, you’re going to be miserable a lot of the time.

Second, there are so many positives that can come from sports besides winning: camaraderie and lifelong friendships, learning how to deal with adversity, the importance of teamwork, leadership, persistence, physical fitness and perhaps the reason we all initially gravitated toward athletics – fun.

After reflecting a little on this Best Sports Quotes list, I thought I’d throw together a sports quotes list of my own. Let’s not-so-humbly call it The Smartest Things Ever Said About Sports. Might as well make it a top-10 list. Here we go:

10) “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back … play for her.” – Mia Hamm

In order to be happy and fulfilled playing sports, you must remember the reason you started to play in the first place: it’s fun.

9) “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” – Gary Player

The more prepared you are physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, the more likely things will go your way – in sports and in life.

8) “Sport should be more fun, more inclusive, more humanized, and more ethical. My hope is that you will join me not only to understand these complex social arrangements called sport but also to work for their improvement.” – D. Stanley Eitzen, PhD

We can all work to enhance the positives and minimize the negatives in the world of sports.

7) “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” – Heywood Hale Broun

Broun, one of the greatest sports journalists of all time, nailed it here. When the competition heats up, we get to see what people are really made of. Will you cheat? Will you exhibit unsportsmanlike behaviour? Will you lose your composure? Or will you give your best effort and do it with class and sportsmanship?

6) “Sport is a preserver of health.” – Hippocrates

The father of medicine was right. Recent research has revealed that sports – especially those that require cardiovascular fitness – will make you physically and emotionally healthier, and smarter (exercise grows brain cells and makes you more ready to learn).

5) “God gives each person X amount of talents. The question really isn’t how many talents you’ve been given. That’s the sovereignty of God. The real question is what you do with the ones you have. Some of us get paralyzed when we feel we don’t have ‘as much as’ or [aren’t] ‘as good as’ someone else. But the person we really want to honour is the one who maximizes whatever it is he [or she] has.” – Joe Ehrmann


4) “Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside of them – a desire, a dream, a vision.” – Muhammad Ali

Well-meaning parents and coaches can only do so much to motivate an athlete. Ultimately, it’s internal motivation that will lead an athlete to put in the extra time to be the best they can be.

3) “Sports are like life with the volume turned up.” – Mike Reid

In sports, the emotions are cranked up. The ups and down are more intense and happen faster. The highs are more joyful; the lows strike deeper. Lessons seem more lasting and friendships stronger.

2) “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” – John Wooden

This is the antithesis of the Lombardi quote about winning being the “only thing.” True success must be solely within an individual’s control. Giving your best effort is. Winning isn’t.

1) “You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball; and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.” – Jim Bouton

I think this might be the most insightful thing I’ve ever read about sports. Sports can definitely hook you for life. And, if kept in the proper perspective, they’re a blessing.

Ken Reed is sports policy director for League of Fans, a sports reform project. He is the author of The Sports Reformers, Ego vs. Soul in Sports, and How We Can Save Sports.


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