Are We Sure Winning Is the ONLY Thing?

Vince LombardiIf you’ve read my other blog posts, you know my dad taught me that “It’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” In fact, that was the sports mantra of my youth.   But when Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” sportsmanship took a backseat.

I just played in one of the most enjoyable, competitive matches of my life because sportsmanship came first. And generosity of spirit was a close second.

It was during a 4-day, 6-round “Ryder Cup” type tournament with 16 very competitive friends – 8 per team.  In the final day’s singles match, I drew a woman whose nickname is Patti “Putts”. Yup, she’s such a good putter that her nickname is “Putts”. I have the same nickname…although mine is spelled with a Z.

I usually start out a match by being generous with “gimme” putts, and only become stingy if my opponent is stingy with me. But that didn’t happen with Patti Putts.   On the 2nd hole, I gave her a 2 and ½ footer and she quickly reciprocated by giving me a 2 and ½ footer on the 3rd.   On the 5th hole, she had a 3-footer, I had a 2-footer. I said good good? For non-golfers, that was very generous of me. But then on the very next hole, she did the same thing.    

And the match had more than just generosity.   Patti Putts could play, and she’s super fast (which you know I love). She’s also one of the funniest, most upbeat people I’ve ever met. I liked playing her so much I even said it would be fitting if we ended up All-Square (tied).

So on the 18th green, with her putt at 5’ and mine at 3’, I offered her a tie.

Look, would I do this if I weren’t playing a friend?  No. Have I ever done this before? No. Will I ever do it again? Probably not. But at that moment, it just felt like the right thing to do.  And, well, knowing Patti Putts, she was going to sink the 5-footer anyway.

Call it a tribute to Mr. Lombardi himself. In later years when asked about the quote, he said, “I wished I’d never said the thing, I meant the effort. I meant having a goal. I sure didn’t mean for people to crush human values.”



  1. Diane Kelly October 16, 2015 at 6:45 pm - Reply


  2. Peter October 17, 2015 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    So, did she agree to your offer or did she decline and, if so, how did it turn out?

    • Patty Ellis October 18, 2015 at 10:28 am - Reply

      Yes, she agreed. And as luck would have it, the entire 4-day Ryder Cup tournament ended all square too. Couldn’t have been more perfect.

  3. Brook Lau November 10, 2015 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    Another inspiring post
    Thanks for sharing that last bit from Lombardi.
    Beware the sound bite that lives forever with no sense of context /clarification of what was really meant. It was a pithy memorable quote and maybe he meant it at a certain point in his life.

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