As the football season is winding down, I recall something that Duke football coach David Cutcliffe said during a recent speech at the Raleigh Sports Club.
“Winning is important,” he said, “but it’s not everything.”
Variations of that statement have characterized coach interviews down through the ages, especially during losing seasons. The quotation can be traced back for more than a hundred years to Grantland Rice (1880-1954), perhaps the sports world’s most famous sports writer:
For when the One Great Scorer comes
To mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost –
But how you played the Game.
I disagree. Of course it matters who won or lost. It always matters, especially to those involved in sports contests.
All of us spend our energy trying to win the thousands of life contests so as to avert the pain of losing.
A favorite “Andy Griffith Show” rerun deals with the importance of winning and losing.
Opie had dreamed of winning a foot race during “Mayberry Day.”
When he came in almost last, he sank into a deep sulk. Andy lectured him that being a good winner is easy, but that it takes courage to be a good loser.
Who won and who lost certainly mattered to the millions of voters who cast ballots in the recent presidential election.
When I once speculated that Sunday mornings must be rough in a coach’s household after a Saturday afternoon’s loss, Alice Howard McClure of Washington, N.C. wrote, “You’d better believe it!”
Alice, the daughter of the late, colorful, hard-driving and highly successful Clemson University coach Frank Howard, said that after a Clemson loss she suffered more for her dad than for herself.
She particularly remembers when she was 10 or so and trudging home from Tiger Stadium after a loss. She came up behind two Clemson fans who were airing their personal thoughts about the coach.
“They were really laying Daddy out,” she said. “They talked about what a sorry coach he was, and about how he should have done this and that. One concluded by calling Daddy ‘the biggest, lying S.O.B. in the whole state of South Carolina.’
“Mama was waiting for me when I got home. The first thing I asked her when I walked in was, ‘Mama, what is a S.O.B.?’”
Alice remembered that, on another occasion, after a loss, she found Coach Howard really down in the dumps. Trying to cheer him up, she said, “Daddy, it wasn’t your fault. It was pouring down rain, and there was so much mud everywhere.”
“He looked at me with those deep blue, sad eyes, pulled me close and said, ‘Honey, it was raining on both sides of the field.’”
Across America, disappointed political candidates facing the trauma of losing and looking around for someone to blame might remember Coach Howard’s comment and Sheriff Andy’s reminder that losing gracefully requires courage.
So what’s it like being a Jehovah’s Witness going door to door selling one’s particular faith? Mark Cantrell of Wake Forest, formerly of Florida, tells us:
“I did the door-to-door thing for years and years, hating every minute of it, but compelled to do so for fear of antagonizing, or worse, disappointing my relatives,” he wrote.
“Being in a Witness family wasn’t all bad. My grandparents, especially, instilled in me a desire to help people, although I’m sure I never converted a single soul. That’s despite having guns pulled on me, dogs sicced on me and heaps of abuse the likes of which not even Hillary could barely imagine. Today I’m a freelance writer, and through articles such as the one I just wrote for Cure on sources of financial help for cancer patients, I hope I’ve actually fulfilled my grandparents’ wishes, although I’m now independent.”
So, if you’re out of TV range of Greg Fishel’s weather forecasts, you can turn to the Bible for help.
Reader Memory Mitchell directed me to the Biblical weather prediction in Matthew 16:2 (International Version): He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.