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Vince Lombardi was wrong. Dead wrong.

But his, “Winning is the only thing,” attitude has infected our society.

Granted, every athlete at the prep, college or professional level should approach every game, match and meet with a burning desire to win. And, the athletes and coaches should work to put themselves in the best possible position to win.

Yet, for every person that wins, there is a loser.

Losing an athletic event is not the end of the world, whether it be a non-conference baseball game, or the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final. Winning or losing does not determine a person’s worth or value to society.

This unhealthy, unrealistic, obsession with winning manifests itself almost daily. It seems to be getting worse every year, month, week, day, hour, minute and second.

Earlier this week an angry St. Louis Cardinals fan, upset because the team didn’t make roster moves at the trade deadline, tweeted he would no longer watch the team on television.

Against my better judgment, I suggested, via Twitter, that he either wasn’t a true baseball fan, or, his fealty to the Cardinals was largely overstated. He essentially paraphrased Lombardi’s famous mantra in his reply.

Reasonable people can debate whether or not the Cardinals front office acted properly in standing pat. Frankly, I don’t think the team’s chances of making a deep playoff run warrants sacrificing the young talent in the organization. The young man adamantly disagreed with me.

But, that argument, valid as it may be, is really beside the point. It’s about the big picture.

I began following the St. Louis Blues in 1967, the year the franchise was born. Had I adhered to the young man’s philosophy, I would have jumped ship about 1972.

Divorcing myself from the team because it didn’t win a championship would have robbed me of two magical months this spring. In fact, the Blues hoisting the Stanley Cup was sweeter because it had never been done before.

In addition, baseball, the game, is its own reward.

The Cardinals have been frustrating to watch this year. The team has several glaring issues. But, I’d watch a game just for the chance to see Kolten Wong play second base this season. He makes a highlight reel play virtually every game.

I’d watch a game just to watch Yadier Molina catch. It’s like going to a movie directed by Martin Scorcese or Steven Spielberg. You know you’re going to see something amazing.

And, following a historic franchise like the Cardinals is a reward in itself. There is the Gashouse Gang, Whitey Ball, the Wizard, Stan the Man and Gibby. Fans of the Dodgers, the Cubs, the Giants and a handful of other franchises have the same rich history.

The desire to win should not supersede the love of the game, the history of the game.

Winning is simply a bonus that no fan is entitled to.

Winning is the ultimate goal, but it shouldn’t get in the way of actually enjoying the games. If a person’s happiness is tied directly to whether his/her favorite franchise wins a championship every year, it’s going to be a long, unhappy life.

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LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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