A rumination on the nature of winning and losing
“John Teary” screamed the headline in The Sun newspaper after Chelsea’s loss to Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Blubber boy John Terry’s weeping reinforced what legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi told us decades earlier: “Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing.”
Vince knew a thing or two about winning, having won the Super Bowl twice and the NFL Championship six times in a coaching career that began with the New York Giants and culminated in an unprecedented era of dominance with the Green Bay Packers.
Lombardi loved winning, but how his teams won also mattered.
“The objective is to win: fairly, squarely, decently, win by the rules, but still win,” he said.
Discipline, sacrifice, preparation, resilience, collaboration and persistence are the sorts of values and attributes we all aspire to exhibit in whatever endeavour we’re engaged in.
These are encapsulated by the Lombardi philosophy on winning.
The fear of failure is also a primary source of motivation. Yet even in losing, Lombardi acknowledged there was a richness to the experience.
“To the winner, there is 100 per cent elation, 100 per cent fun, 100 per cent laughter and yet the only thing left to the loser is resolution and determination.”
Learn from the pain. Grow from the experience. Be better and braver.
Winning and losing for Lombardi were like road maps for us to find our better selves. Like life itself, there can only be light if we’re prepared to accept the darkness as well.
“If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?” Lombardi asked.
Well Vince, I hate to break it to you, but here in Australia, amongst our junior AFL players, we no longer keep score.
The story that under-nine footballers in Victoria will no longer play to win, and learn to lose, has outraged many. Which makes me wonder ...
Are we creating a generation of kids inoculated from the real world, insulated from the pain of defeat?
Could we be engineering an army of mummy's boys and daddy's divas who all think celebrity, stardom and success are theirs in the future simply for successfully breathing in and out?
Or is this theory of natural sporting selection an old fashioned, outdated notion?
It’s about time kids were liberated from their parents trying to fill the gaping hole in their own sporting dreams through their beleaguered children.
We live in an age where children need personal assistants to arrange play dates, so overscheduled are they by helicopter parents who think they need the air ambulance if little Billy grazes a knee.
Perhaps creating a space where kids can play, unencumbered by the expectation and demands of the sideline parent, a safe haven for childhood itself?
Is it time for mum and dad to sit down, shut up and just let the kids play?
Whichever side of the divide you sit, there is one thing guaranteed.
Security at the UEFA Champions League Final in Lisbon between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid will be on the look out for a pitch invader in full kit trying to sneak on to the podium for the celebrations with the winning team.
Even other people’s victories are irresistible to Teary Terry.
This an excerpt from a speech delivered as an introduction to The Great Debate at the Sports Without Borders Conference 2014.
The topic for debate - “People Who don’t care about winning don’t really care about sport.”