How You Play the Game

How You Play the Game

Grantland Rice was America's first sports writer. He was also our greatest. When he died a few years ago, literally millions of people thought back over the years when they had read his thrilling accounts of World Series. Notre Dame—Army football games, the Rose Bowl Tournament, the Jack Dempsey—Gene Tunney fights of 1925 and 1926. In fact, by his great writing ability, he made these events sound more thrilling than they really were.

One small, four-line poem he wrote will probably outlast every newspaper article. It inspired me when I was a boy. I pass it on to you. In it Grantland Rice says that how we play and live is more important than the victories we win or the defeats we suffer.

It goes:

When the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name—
He marks—not that you won or lost—
But how you played the game.'

The Great Scorer, of course, is God. The game is the game of life. And the score he puts on the scoreboard is not if you won or lost, but how much you tried and how fairly you played.

This overemphasis on results keeps millions of American boys and girls from playing sports as they should. Instead of playing for fun, doing their best, they feel inside that they must make the team. If they can't, they don't try. And not trying is the worst failure of all.

I realize that overwhelming competition discourages many boys and girls from trying in athletics, drama, and other extracurricular activities. For example, in a high school with 1,500 pupils, 750 of them boys, you still have a basketball team of just five players. That means the average or poor player will never get in a varsity game. What's the answer for the great majority? Not trying at all? No. It's doing your best in sports, knowing that making the team for you is to do your best.

Many boys and girls forget this. They say: "I don't have a chance. I won't even try." They become bleacher-sitters. They don't use their bodies, except to occupy a seat. They fail to realize that the most fun is in playing, not just playing on the team.

How much we try—how fairly we play—is God's way of keeping score on us. To each he gives minds, bodies, brains, abilities. In the Bible Jesus told of three men who were given different amounts of money by their master. Their master took a trip. When he returned, he asked for reports on how they'd used the money. The one who had received five talents (a talent was a certain amount of money) brought in five talents more. The second man reported two more talents from his original two. The third man, who had received one talent, had done nothing with it. His master condemned him for his laziness. That story is called the parable of the talents.

It illustrates how God expects us to do our best with what he's given us. Grantland Rice put this great truth in the tiny, four-line poem just quoted:

He marks—not that you won or lost—
But how you played the game.

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