Vince Lombardi, Charlie and Winners and Losers

Written by Pauline Wolak on October 24, 2013

People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.” — Vince Lombardi

Coach Tim Buchanan never saw it coming.  From the opening play until the final seconds ticked off the clock, his Aledo High School Bearcats played the game they love.  After only 21 plays, the starters were benched.  Not because they weren’t doing well, but because they were running away with the game.  The second string got to play.  Then the third string.  Before it was all over, the Bearcats slaughtered Fort Worth Western Hills 91-0. They aren’t alone in defeat.  The Bearcats average margin of victory this season is 77 points.  Not surprising considering they’re ranked 4th in Texas and 24th in the nation. Coach Buchanan isn’t quite sure what to do though, telling the Star-Telegram, “I sit there the whole third and fourth quarter and try to think how I can keep us from scoring.”

It’s a problem most coaches would love to have (paging Jim Schwartz).  That is until Saturday morning when Coach Buchanan learned about the bullying complaint filed against both him and his staff.  The infraction?  Winning big.  The parent, who remains anonymous, said, “Picking up my son from the fieldhouse after the game and taking him home was tough. I did not know what to say to my son on the ride home to explain the behavior of the aledo [sic] coaches for not easing up when the game was in hand.”

Didn’t know what to say?  Seriously?  How about telling your son that he just had the privilege of playing one of the best high school football teams in the entire nation? Why not tell him that what he just witnessed was incredible coaching and incredible talent?  If you’re at a loss for words, borrow Mr. Lombardi’s, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” 

On the other side of the country, another game was being played last week. On a soccer field in Midwest Michigan, fifth and sixth graders from St. John Vianney Catholic School were playing against the boys from Grand Rapids Christian.  What happened is best explained in a letter written by mother Karen DeVries to St. John Vianney’s principal,

Our Charlie has Down syndrome. He is blessed through his classmates every day at school and has been encouraged by his teammates throughout the year on his soccer team. They make sure during practice and games that they give Charlie a chance to get his foot on the ball and they give him a chance to score when they scrimmage or play a game against the other GRC team.
Yesterday, your boys bumped that up a notch!

This is where your 5/6 coach recognized what they were trying to do, and call out to his players. They caught on to the fact that he was asking them to cooperate with our team to give Charlie a chance.

Charlie dribbled down the field as if he was on a fast break (not really moving that fast!) and his teammates ran alongside him. He dribbled all the way to the goal and your goalie made a “failing” attempt to stop it. Charlie scored! Yea Charlie! Yea for all the boys on the field and ALL the parents who were able to tell their boys how proud they were of them on the way home.

Though it may not be obvious, both stories provide the same lesson.  Mr. Lombardi had it right (even if he DID coach the Packers).  Team work.  That’s what it’s about.  Whether you’re playing under the lights on a Friday night in Texas or helping your buddy score a goal, it’s not about you.  It’s about giving the very best of yourself to those around you.  It’s about playing with your heart and soul and guts.  Charlie has the heart. Tim Buchanan has it too.

Anonymous parent could learn a thing or two from them.  We aren’t doing our kids any favors when we furnish them with excuses. Being on the losing side of a game doesn’t make you the victim of a bully.  Sportsmanship isn’t about letting the other guy win.  It’s not throwing in the towel when others think you’re winning by just enough.  Sportsmanship is doing your best.  It’s about working together.  It’s about being gracious in victory. 

And in defeat.


Image: Courtesy of

Pauline is a proud wife and mother of three. When she isn't being the world's greatest Girl Friday, she is volunteers her time as a school librarian and athletic director. Pauline enjoys football, politics, good beer, and arguing with anyone. She's a devout pro-life Catholic. Pauline believes in the 1st Amendment and uses it on a daily basis, most notably to ambush unsuspecting family members in political debate! You can find her work here at Clash and at Follow her on twitter at @MiStateFan.