Two things surely signal the arrival of spring: the appearance of determined flowers from a seemingly barren ground, and the start of a new baseball season.

Across the country, little leaguers will be told this one quotation more than any other: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” The quote is right on, but through vast overuse it has become trite, so it goes in one ear and out the other and has little effect on our youth.

The entire quotation has much more power and might stick with some kids if given the chance. “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes—not that you won or lost—but how you played the Game.” These words were the two closing lines of a poem written by this country’s first great sportswriter, Grantland Rice. Rice began writing about sports in 1901 when there weren’t many sporting events to cover, and he was still writing when he was found slumped over his typewriter in 1954.

Rice was fortunate enough to cover the greats who laid the foundations for our major sports today: Babe Ruth, Bill Tilden, Jack Dempsey, Bobby Jones, Red Grange, even Man O’ War, his favorite racehorse, and hundreds of other athletes. Rice was first a fan, then a reporter. He did not want to be known as a “calamity howler,” one who dug for dirt instead of the positive side of sports.

The One Great Scorer refers, of course to God, our Creator, our Maker, whatever the person citing the quotation prefers to call him. The words, “He writes,” refer again to a higher power. And the “Game,” is life. So how we conduct ourselves here on Earth, not only in sports but in business, friendships and family relationships, is how we will be judged, how the One Great Scorer will mark against our names. If life is lived as a game, then we should all do our best and act as good sports, which are the lessons we hope our youth will learn from participating in sports.

When we cite the abbreviated quotation that does not mention any higher power, we expect the kids to extrapolate the greater meaning from it, and they usually do not because there is no reason to ascribe any deeper meaning to the words than the simple reference to the game they are playing at the time. But the entire quotation as Rice wrote it does give kids a broader frame of reference and a sense of perspective that the games do not mean as much as how they play the Game.

Author's Bio: 

Bill is a sports historian and fan of a good quotation. In combining those areas of interest, he discovered a new field of sports--sports wisdom, or sports philosophy. This article highlights one of those bits of sports wisdom he has discovered.