To the Victors Go the Spoiled

We’re all aware of Vince Lombardi’s legendary quote, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”1 Today, I shall argue that winning isn’t a thing at all.

I like to brag that the 1990 Liberty Knights only won one football game. This isn’t entirely true. At the end of the season our record was 1-7. But then someone discovered that the Woodlin Mustangs had allowed an ineligible player to participate in their victory over us earlier in the year, which meant they had to retroactively forfeit the game. And so, due to a technicality, the Liberty Black Knights doubled our win-total.


Changing our final record didn’t change the fact that, in our newly-discovered victory, Woodlin had forty-fived us before the fourth quarter, it didn’t change the fact that our running back twisted his ankle and had to sit out our next game, and it didn’t change the fact that Woodlin would have beaten us even if half of their team had been on the down-list.

In reality, Woodlin “won” the game. The players they put on the field trounced the players we put on the field. In another reality, Liberty “won” the game. The players we put on the field did not violate eligibility rules. Even though we lost the game, we won the game, simply by not cheating, which is the equivalent of passing a test because you spelled your name right at the top of the paper.

But I don’t care about any of that, because, as I mentioned five paragraphs ago, winning isn’t a thing.

Well, obviously, that’s silly. Without winning, how would we know for certain that the Broncos won Super Bowl 50? How would we know who earned the most money on Jeopardy last week? Without winning, how would we know that we live in the greatest country in the history of the world?

Hang on a minute. How do we know that we live in the greatest country in the history of the world? It’s not like the United States competes in an annual Greatest Country in the World Contest. And if we did, and if we won, I’m fairly certain that someone would claim that the referees were being paid off, and therefore declare the results invalid.

I mean, I sure do like living here. But I really don’t know a whole lot about the other 195 nations on Earth. I hear things are pretty good in Norway; low crime, great health care, lots of fjords. Maybe Norway’s the world’s greatest country. Maybe it’s Canada, or Costa Rica, or some place in Africa. Who knows? Who cares? I like it here. This is where I’m from.2 I love our free press, free speech, and freedom of (and from) religion. The Bill of Rights is awesome! The constitution was a brilliant document! I love Colorado! I love Yuma County!

That’s good enough for me. My self-esteem ought not to hinge on whether I’m a citizen of the world’s greatest country, or if my football team won one or two games, or if I’ve once again failed to write a coherent column.

In fact, there are many cases I’m just as happy to lose as to win, which is why I often do things that might seem nutty to an outside observer. When I fail at something — which is often — I endeavor to examine where I went wrong, take note of where I managed to go right, and then move on just a little wiser for having taken a risk. Or, in the case of six-man football, I was able to move on with the understanding that, no matter how many games we won in 1990, I would be wise to never touch a pigskin again.

Greg Hill grew up on the family farm in southwest Yuma County, and has returned there with his wife Maureen Hearty. He has had two novels published, “East of Denver” and “The Lonesome Trials of Johnny Riles,” and has a third one on the way.

1 For the record, Lombardi appropriated the quote from a guy named Red Sanders, coach of the UCLA Bruins, who was apparently saying it as early as 1950.

2 Speaking of which, George Bernard Shaw may have been onto something when he said, in 1893, “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it….”