Playing to Win

Here’s the thing about sports.

There Are Winners & Losers

Someone is going to win and someone is going to lose. It doesn’t matter if you lose by 30 points or by 1 point, it’s still a defeat. In the weekly television show, The Wide World of Sports, the opening gambit to the show included this phrase,

      “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat.”

Anyone who has played on a competitive level understands. Winning was just as important in Jr. High basketball as it was in my senior year of football.


I’ve won more than I’ve lost. But I’ve lost plenty and the bigger the game, the bigger the agony and the thrill. 

You Have To Suit Up

Sometimes defeat came from the other side being stronger and faster, or just having better athletes. It wasn’t a matter of effort, skill, or commitment. My Jr High football team, as good as we were, were never going to defeat Alabama.

Still, you have to suit up, no matter what. Which means that mentally, emotionally, and physically you go out and give it all you’ve got, for four quarters, for every play. It’s how winners compete.

Here’s a quote from Wayne Gretzky:

        “I miss 100% of the shots I don’t take.”

Well said, thanks Wayne.

Here’s Another Quote

    “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

Do you know who first said that? It came from an American sports writer who died in 1954. His name was Grantland Rice and his sports article was published in newspapers all over the country.

I agree with him, sort of. His sentiment was that win or lose the athlete needs to play with class, to play within the rules, and to reflect the best interests of his team, his sport, and his school.

But having competed on a basketball court, a football field, the track, and other venues, it absolutely mattered whether I won or lost.

The Bowl Season

I watched several recent bowl games that were won by teams who came from behind. Some were down at half time by 20-30 points. But they came out in the 2nd half, fought back, and emerged victorious. One finished thrilled and the other in agony.

Yes, I’ve seen players throw fits, start fights, and take cheap shots. I’ve seen athletes dishonor their sport, their team, and themselves. It does matter how you play the game. But it matters just as much whether you win or not. Nobody competes to lose. Nobody joins the team so they can have a winless season.

To Close

Paul’s letters included metaphors from the games to illustrate the spiritual disciplines, such as competing to win, finishing the race, and running with perseverance. 

When it comes to faith, it matters whether we win or lose. Paul said the path to spiritual victory came from competing whole-heartedly, and according to the teachings of Christ. Paul would say that we need to suit up, play to honor him, and win.

Wayne was right, we miss 100% of the shots we don’t take.


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