Super Bowl Commentary: Vince Lombardi was Wrong
Vince Lombardi was Wrong
By George Mantor
Ah the Super Bowl.
The pinnacle…the greatest spectacle in American entertainment.
A season that began with training camp in July and then ground through four preseason games, 16 regular season games, the playoffs, and two weeks of diluted yet unrelenting hype has come down to the final game.
This is the culmination of numerous compound fractures, torn ACLs, separated shoulders and mind altering concussions. Along the way a player shot his girlfriend nine times and then blew his brains out in front of his coach. “Hey, Coach, watch this.”
Last season’s most exciting NFL asset, Tim Tebow was shrouded. Are you telling me that a whole bunch of billionaires can’t figure out a way to capitalize on his drawing power and his image? The funny thing is the NFL needs Tim Tebow more than Tim Tebow needs the NFL.
The NFL’s image has never been more tainted. He’s almost too good for them. Tim Tebow would be adored in Canada and unbeatable on the wider playing field with more receivers to throw to. He could be the first Canadian Prime minister whose day job was playing in the CFL.
Ask Doug Flutie, Warren Moon and Joe Theismann about the pure fun of playing in Canada, eh?
And Commissioner Roger Goodell went out of his way to make sure he wouldn’t be able to go out in public in this year’s host city by destroying Saints fans dream of their team playing in their Super Bowl, in their Super Dome.
When it’s all over, one team will emerge victorious and walk off with the coveted Lombardi Trophy. The other team and their fans will endure the agony of defeat. The entire community will descend into a period of mourning and self-loathing, wrongly believing that “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
But it isn’t. Far from it. Vince Lombardi was wrong. There, I said it. It’s bullshit and it’s wrong headed.
Winning may be the only thing if you are a paid coach who wants to avoid unemployment.
To me the most obvious flaw is that winning and losing are just two sides of the same coin, the coin itself is competing.
How could you play and never lose? Losing, failing, falling, and getting up are part of the road to getting better. You learn more from a loss than a huge win.
Losing is just the price of playing. Winning is the reward. The goal is competition. The competition is both everything and the only thing. Winning is frosting.
I enjoy athletic competition so much that I am willing to lose in order to improve.
When I was a rangy youngster prowling the local tennis courts I’d show up and watch the courts to see who had the best game. Then I’d take a seat behind him and make disparaging remarks about his game until he couldn’t wait to play me. I would routinely get my ass handed to me in the most humiliating ways but I got good.
When winning is the only thing you get Lance Armstrong and Bounty-gate. When winning is the only thing you have parents beating referees at kids games. When winning is the only thing then cheating isn’t anything. Nor is sportsmanship. Or poise. Or grace.
Money did this. There was actually a time when people looked down on professional sports and revered amateur athletics for their purity. Can you even believe it? People were better educated and they actually knew the meaning of the word amateur. Amateur comes from the Latin word amator, to love. Thus, an amateur athlete is one who competes for love of the competition, not for filthy lucre.
Today, to say that someone is an amateur is to suggest a lack of ability rather than the reason behind the performance.
Over the years I coached and managed many of the softball teams I played on. During one difficult season my young center fielder, fleet of foot with hands of lead, complained to me, “I just hate losing.”
“Well, Son, you’ve got two choices,” I replied, “Play better or quit.”
He quit. We started to win.
A few seasons later we were headed for the City Championship. On the day of the game I got a call in the early afternoon. The caller claimed he was with the City and that due to a broken sprinkler line the field had been flooded and our game was postponed until the following night.
When we showed up the next night we were informed that there had been no problem with the field and we had forfeited the night before. This is what happens when winning becomes more important than playing. Members of the other team get to wear a tee shirt commemorating a game that never was.
That is what you get when winning is the only thing, no games, just victories.
Sure, I know Vince Lombardi is revered by some fans as a football god particularly for turning around the hapless Packers. Though he never had a losing season, his career record with the packers was 89-29-4, which means he lost about a third of the time.
No one who competes likes to lose. No competitor plays better because the coach says he doesn’t like to lose.
A competitor wants to bring his A game and have his opponent bring his. That right there, that is everything.
So enjoy the game for what it is. A diversion, a pastime, a recreation, a contest, a spectacle all intended for entertainment. Whether your team wins or loses, you have two brothers facing off as head coaches and both made bold moves to get to this point.
In my world, they’ll both go home as winners regardless of which team takes the Lombardi Trophy.