When winning becomes just another thing …


   “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
We seem to have come a long way since that hoary old aphorism was in its prime, presumably in the Vince Lombardi days of Green Bay Packer dominance in the 1960s.
   Though he is widely linked with the pronouncement, its actual originator is 1950s UCLA Bruins football coach Red Sanders, with the legendary Packer coach reportedly first taking it out for an oratorical spin nearly a decade after Sanders’ reported first utterance in 1950.
   Perhaps now its been unofficially modified to something more in line with the alleged moral relativism of modern times. I blather in this fashion as a result of watching a couple of weeks of NFL tap dancing in the closing weeks of the regular season that seems markedly different from the win-at-all-costs image that gave the game its initial verve and vitality.
   I don’t know about you, but regardless of the quite understandable explanations, I don’t much care for watching NFL games where one team has little or no interest in winning and instead is more concerned with avoiding injury. With those as the parameters, that makes it exactly a half-ass exhibition game.
   I suspect that the expansion of this particular problem came about because the parity theme in the NFL seems to have gotten strained a bit this year, with several teams posting such imposing records that the final stretch of games was almost guaranteed to pose difficulties along these lines.
   While I understand that winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal, I think it raises really troublesome issues when you have things like an undefeated team essentially throwing in the towel early in the second half, even with the understandable goal of avoiding injury to the front liners.
   I object to this simply on the basis of upsetting the fundamental underpinnings of the sport; a game where physical contact is such an elemental component is not meant to be played halfheartedly. The very bastardization of the process is enough to invite injury itself, since the game is being performed in a fashion diametrically opposite to its primary function.
   And if it seems too snooty to decry it on such broad philosophical grounds, how about this: What happens if – for example – the New York Jets somehow pull off the second miracle in the history of that often moribund franchise? Would a Jets Super Bowl win in four weeks be forever tainted by the argument that they never should have set foot in the playoffs in the first place?
   I’m just sayin’.  

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