I am a career sports guy.
I have competed in all aspects of sports. I was a player, a parent, a coach and now I write about sports.
I hate to lose if you haven’t figured that out by now.
I am competitive to a fault. Everything is a competition with me. Always has been, always will be.
I was one of four kids growing up and part of the whole neighborhood street gang where every day involved some form of athletic competition.
On my street, winning gave you the right to gloat. Losers walked.
It’s how we played the game.
We would play other street gangs in whatever sport was in season. We had a balanced attack across the board. Size and experience followed by youth and speed.
Other street gangs might have been bigger and older but they were more oaf than athlete. We usually sent them packing shaking their heads.
We were better only in that we hated to lose more than they did. That loathing of losing is the one thing that has stayed with me all these years.
To quote Ricky Bobby, “If you’re not first you’re last.”
I believe that fervently.
Other favorite sayings of mine include, “Second place is just first place for losers.”
“Whoever said, ‘It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you played the game,’ must have always lost because a winner would never say that.”
Like Vince Lombardi used to say, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
I remember watching The Bozo Show on Sunday mornings and saw this one sorry kid wash out in the Grand Prize Game.
That’s where he had to sink five ping-pong balls into a line of buckets, each at a greater distance than the one preceding it in order to win a treasure chest of toys the rest of us could only dream about.
When the kid rimmed out the last shot and uttered a colorful adjective that was bleeped from the video recording, Bozo said, “That’s okay young man. There are no losers on the Bozo Show, only non-winners.”
To which the kid replied, “Stuff it clown.”
Growing up, certain board games were forbidden around our house because we all felt cheating was an acceptable strategy at winning games like Monopoly, SORRY!, and Stratego.
A classic UNO battle strategy includes, “I don’t care who wins as long as I don’t lose.”
I don’t coach now because I hate losing.
In fact, I am the character model for all the evil coaches you see in The Bad News Bears and The Mighty Ducks Movie.
“It’s not worth winning if you can’t win big,” was one of my most oft-used motivational lines.
With this being the week following the Daytona 500, which will forever be remembered as the race that cost Dale Earnhardt his life, references to “Senior” filled the six-hour rain delay on 500 Sunday.
Senior’s old Number 3 Chevy was entered into the race for the first time since his death coming off turn four in the 2001 Daytona 500.
They flashed a quote from Senior during the finish of the 500, a race that Dale Jr. won for the second time.
Senior used to say, “It’s not the fastest car that wins the race. It’s the driver that hates to lose the most.”
I have a stack of Press Association first place writing plaques stacked off in the corner tall enough to make a nice end table. I should tack them up on a wall somewhere.
I also have a deck of second and third place certificates around here somewhere.
I use them as bookmarks.
As I said, second place is just first place for losers.
And third place?
Let’s not even go there.