Winning Isn’t Everything

We have all probably heard the quote, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” The quote, often attributed to legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, implies that anything less than winning the championship is pointless. Contrast that quote with one from the sportswriter Grantland Rice: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” To Rice, the championship is something to pursue, but not necessarily a defining accomplishment.

As sports fans, we certainly want to see our team win, but there can only be one victor in the championship game. However, defeat does not necessarily make one any less of a champion. Consider the 2005 Astros as an example.

The team began the season with high hopes. But by the end of May, they had a record of 15 wins and 30 losses. On June 1, the front page of the Sports section of the Chronicle featured a tombstone that declared, “RIP, Astros’ Season.”

Things did look pretty dire for the Astros on that day. And then, “magic” happened. The team won 74 of their last 117 games and made the playoffs. And the “magic” continued. The team went to the World Series for the only time in its history.

Of course, it wasn’t magic that took the Astros to the brink of being world champions in their sport. What took them to the precipice was everything that makes athletics so enjoyable to watch.

On June 1, the Astros faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge. It would have been easy to give up on the season. But the Astros didn’t. And then they took the city on an emotional roller coaster ride that surpassed anything AstroWorld ever offered.

All of us face challenges in life. All of us must overcome obstacles. At times, it can feel overwhelming, and we might feel like giving up on our dreams. At times, we might feel like success is hopeless.

The 2005 Astros showed us that, no matter how dire the situation, success is possible. They showed us that a huge challenge is no excuse for giving up. They showed us that perseverance and hard work are the only path to success. Life isn’t a game, but the analogy holds.

That the Astros did not win the World Series that year is irrelevant. They showed us all what it means to be a champion. They were champions. Winning isn’t everything. It really is how you play the game.

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