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You Play to Win the Game

These days, you hear all sorts of talk about good sportsmanship, acknowledging your opponent, playing hard, playing well, and so forth. All of these things are true, and it would be a disservice for Ed or me to say these things don’t matter, because they certainly do. However, when a team takes the field, court, ice, or wherever the game is being played, the number one objective is simple: winning. If someone goes out to compete, and fails to win, they may see some moral victory in there, or maybe even a “loss-win,” as The Great Randy Galloway says on his daily radio show, but the goal is to win the battle on the scoreboard, and if that hasn’t happened, it’s back to the drawing board; that is, if it isn’t too late.

Don’t get me wrong now. I am a firm believer in the elements that make up competition. Before a game begins, I’m of the belief that combatants should shake hands before the start of the game, and when it doesn’t happen, the response is usually noted, and laughed off. However, when the game starts, all bets are off. All the preparation, blood, sweat, tears, getting cursed at by coaches, running plays repeatedly in practice all comes together to form what you see on the court, field, or wherever else competition is being held. It truly is a shame, at times, when you see two teams playing hard and putting on a great show, because in your mind (and in theirs as well), someone will win, and someone will lose. There’s no getting around it at all, not even a little bit. When a player walks off the court after a loss, and doesn’t shake hands, it can be viewed as wrong, but it can also be viewed as them merely being frustrated at the realization they competed as hard as they could, and still came up on the short end of the stick. It doesn’t even take having to be on their level to understand that single, fundamental concept. They don’t play just to play, and when they lose, it’s almost as if life doesn’t matter anyone, or as Steamin’ Willie Beamen once said, “losing is dying.”

There's a tendency on my part to hold out on criticizing a player or a team unless I have actually seen what they’ve done. When story after story comes out about folks crucifying Jack Yates high school basketball coach Greg Wise, it simply fueled me to make a journey to Houston to see what all the fuss was about, and once the arrival was made, what I saw was one of the most well-coached, disciplined, and relentless exhibitions of basketball I have ever seen, on any level. Not one time was there the thought that he was attempting to show anyone up. He’s putting his team in the best position to win, and besides, playing that style of basketball for 32 minutes is the most taxing thing anyone can do, but it takes someone who’s…I don’t know, played basketball before to understand that. He plays to win the game, period.

When you see what the UConn women are doing right now, winning 72 games in a row, are folks calling for Geno’s head? Even if they were, it doesn’t really matter, because he’s putting his team in the best position to win, and if that means every game in that streak is a win by double-digits, so be it. Same goes for the 2007 Patriots, who looked like their goal in every game was to not only win, but to humiliate you in the process. There are more and more examples, but the objective is clear. Hell, the Magic and Bird documentary is on as I’m writing this, and before they became great friends, they hated each other, because their goal was to win the game. The opposing coach and team realize how much work is put into preparing to win, and rarely will they jump in and criticize their opponent for doing what they have to do. However, if you ever forget what the goal of competition is, leave it to a resident favorite of ETSF to tell you exactly what it is. He says it better than anyone can:

Be easy.
-K. Masenda


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