“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Through overuse, this quotation usually falls on deaf ears. If one were presented the entire quotation, it might have its intended impact.
The abridged quotation came from the final two lines of one of the many poems written about sports by this country’s first great sportswriter, Grantland Rice. “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.”
The full quotation has value beyond the world of sports. The One Great Scorer—our Creator—will mark against our name at judgment day, and He will note how we conducted ourselves in the Game of life, not just in a little league game. We will be judged by how we treated our friends, how we behaved in business, or what kind of parents we were.
Rice lived by his own words. Before leaving for duty in World War I, he entrusted his entire fortune (about $75,000, big money at that time) to a friend. Upon returning from the war, Rice discovered that his friend had lost all the money in bad investments, and then committed suicide. Rice’s reaction was to look inward, accepting blame for putting “that much temptation” in his friend’s way. Rice then made monthly contributions to the man’s widow for the next 30 years. The One Great Scorer had reason to mark favorably against the name of Grantland Rice.
“It’s not whether you win or lose . . .” has become cliché. It’s a good sentiment but a feeble one compared to the original quotation from which it was derived, and is one of many examples of sports-based quotations and sayings that can enrich our lives if we allow sports to “build character,” as another sports saying suggests.
Bill Cairo is the author and publisher of a soon-to-be released book about inspirational sports quotations, entitled "The Story Behind the Glory--Winning Quotes from Sports Greats on the Game of Life." A lifelong sports fan and admirer of a good quotation, he seeks wisdom and inspiration from sports greats, their quotations and their stories.