I think every kid in Flushing in the mid 1950’s knew that it was Leo Durocher, the manager of the NY (baseball) Giants, who said “Nice guys finish last.” It was common knowledge that he said that, and it was also implicitly understood that this proposition was undisputable. Yeah, Leo the Lip said it, and Leo had just brought his team a baseball World Series championship in 1954, so it was taken as gospel truth. To buttress this Durocher doctrine, along comes Vince Lombardi a few years later who said (it’s attributed to him, at least) that Winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing!
Well, so there, in these two declarations made by these two legendary sports bigwigs, you have a nice, concise distillation of the American competitive ideal – at least in the milieu of my youth. And, not surprisingly, these values and principles generally hold true today (just listen to a radio sports program), with some modifications over the years. I mean it’s practically a joke that nowadays kids get awards and recognition for just participation, but I don’t think that’s the prevailing current attitude. Maybe it should be.
But … (there’s always a but), what about other competing values? What about sportsmanship? Is that compatible with winning at any cost? Was the guy who said It’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game an idiot? Was that just total, good-sounding BS or does it somehow relate to decency and honor. I’ll lay it out more graphically: Do you applaud the likes of John McEnroe, an established so-called winner, screaming at the officials and carrying on like a churlish snot, or do you favor the more gentlemanly brand of tennis featured by the Australian tennis champions of the late 50’s and 60’s (Newcombe, Rosewall, Hoad, Laver, Frazier etc.) ?
I’m not a young kid anymore, and I no longer subscribe to the ideologies set forth in those words offered up by Durocher and Lombardi. Winning cannot be the end all. Yeah, it’s good to win – feels nice. Better than losing, sure. But … if you’re not having fun, then what real value is there in winning? To laud it over your opponent? Nah. Making friends, exercising my body – those are probably more important to me now.
Hey, ya know what, I think this is an indication of how much I’ve matured. I think I won’t knock the chessboard over next time just before my sister calls checkmate. … Ah, maybe I will. Okay, okay, I still hate to lose. Lao Du