Our Winning Culture… Who Really Wins?

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.

Pierre de Coubertin

In our culture, winning at all costs has become a virtue expanding in and beyond the sporting arena. Whether in conversations where reason is discarded for self-preserving rationalizations, or in the world of sport where pride and integrity are considered important only as pretenses, winning has become less about individual growth and prosperity, and more about the superficial appearance of having virtuous qualities.

This quote by Pierre de Coubertin, who is considered the founder of the modern Olympic Games, isn’t merely a statement on participation, but on the true value of competition; the victory of one’s self. In a competition, individuals are placed against one another with the goal of winning a contest. A person does not enter a competition with the intent to lose. But the essence, the prime mover of the noblest competitor is not merely the conquering or defeat of others . It is the pursuit of excellence, the fulfillment of their potential as individuals. The achievement of the best within themselves. A sporting event presents an opportunity and a platform to express these qualities.

The man who tries to win a match by means of cheating acknowledges on some level that he is incapable of winning in a fair contest. He declares through his actions that he is inadequate, and consequently gains nothing by winning except a meaningless title devoid of the pride that should have come with it. Such a man is not interested in the pursuit of greatness, but the pursuit of perceived greatness. Not the achievement of the greatest within himself, but the perception of achievement in the eyes of others. To such a man, they sacrifice their independence and integrity for the sake of validation. Such an individual is not guided by his own values but is a dependent to the values of the group which he wants acceptance.

The statement by Pierre de Coubertin should be taken as a reminder of why we have sports to begin with. Properly, sports provide a platform to express and actualize our greatest potential as individuals, pushing ourselves to be all the better, not by faking, but by demanding the utmost integrity and reaping the reward of pride; the recognition that you are a person of virtue and are deserving of the joy and self-esteem that comes with it.

For the man who attempts to win by fraud, he sets others above reality. Victory no longer holds his own virtuous development as the standard of value, but the achievement of its pretense. As a consequence, he does not love men of achievement. Such men stand in the way of his charade and are a threat to his pseudo self-esteem. Such individuals prefer men of evasion and irrationality, and fear the men of principle. The evader reinforces and validates his false image, while the man of principle sees through him; a threat to expose his nature. He may not even recognize it consciously, but implicit in his psychology is the reality of his fraud and the lack of integrity and self-esteem that comes with it. This is the price one pays, and it is the cost that is demanded by the nature of a mind who seeks victory by means of fraud; who abandons reality through evasions and rationalizations, to fake what he does not have.

As with all actions, there are consequences. If one eats poorly there will be consequences to one’s health. If one lies and cheats, there will be psychological consequences. The achievement of authentic pride and self-esteem cannot be faked through evasions, rationalization, or validations. Yet this is what many attempt to do, believing the ends justify the means. To such a person it is precisely the means they cannot evade and an effect they cannot enjoy.

The man of virtue, is the man of pride; the man who can actualize his efforts and be proud of the means by which he does so. To such a man, joy, devoid of conflict, is experienced in its truest form, with the knowledge that he has earned his victory.

The greatness of sport is that it allows individuals to have a contest of virtue. To come together and fight for the actualization of the greatest within them. For the man who does so with honor never leaves empty handed.

So if winning is to be that of pride or prestige, who really wins?

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