Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.


In the ongoing initiative with legislating bodies to create a proper perspective on winning, the real initiative should be not to confuse what actually works…or with what’s culturally popular.

I know before I get there this weekend that a major message at the girls state tournament (and boys next weekend) will be the current initiative with the OHSAA about the proper perspective for “winning”.

This was apparent during the fall football season when ads were run to remind that the outcome of the game is secondary to how you play the game.

Really? I actually asked several coaches at the state football tournament if after 14 games and a year’s worth of preparation they were willing to accept that the outcome of playing the most important game of your life is secondary. What I got was a lot of confused looks.

Meaning, that no truly competitive person really knows how to respond when you tell them that “winning at all costs” may not be a good thing. And that’s the message with the new “inSideOut” initiative being promoted by the OHSAA and other legislating bodies across the country.

Here in Ohio it’s garnered the support of both the Browns and the Bengals organizations – in an effort to promote development of a better, and more well-round student athlete.

Ruhenkamp_boring&trenching_248x141_embedI cannot disagree with this, of course, because how can you disagree with proper perspective on anything? And of course, winning means different things to different people and for different reasons.  But, at the same time I’d like to know what the alternative is to “winning”, and the cost in terms of life’s pleasure and security…if you don’t?

My concern, as a former athlete and perhaps the most competitive person I know, is that in promoting this message we actually COMMUNICATE a proper appreciation for how important winning really is.

I’m concerned on how we equate the history of winning with the current mindset that if you don’t win…it may not be your fault. That everybody deserves the same recognition, regardless of whether you finish first in the race, or last. Doing your best, we like to say now, is just as important.

I’m concerned on how we explain people like Vince Lombardi, one of the most respected figures in the history of football, who once famously said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing”, and what he meant by that.

I’m concerned about how we explain the old Bear Bryant quote, “Get the winners into the game…before it’s too late.”

How do we rationalize that in modern perspective?

Obviously, Lombardi and Bryant didn’t win every football game they played. They lost plenty, but most of their losses came before their reputation for winning was appreciated and made legendary. And when they did lose they used it as a tool to rethink, prepare, and scheme on how to not make the same mistake or to endure the same outcome. This then, is the educational part of sports that administrators are charged with teaching. And they cannot – repeat, cannot – screw that up.

My wife, God bless her, is one of the best classroom teachers in the history of Ohio public education. Retired now, she’s teaching her craft to other would-be teachers at Wright State University.

But one of the things we’ve disagreed on over the years is that education, as with sports, gives equal opportunity for success from the day you step on the field. EDUCATION “is” the key to success, in both. It’s what you learn to do with that math and English book you get in the first grade that determines how you finish in life.  Just like how you learn to score when you’re the shortest kid on the team.

She tells me all the time that everyone doesn’t have the same chance, because of their environment – poverty, and varying degrees of home and parental support.

And I say that sports is like that, too. Everyone doesn’t have the same physical attributes, or will to succeed starting out. But the person who ultimately does win figures it out along the way – just like learning in the classroom.  It’s why sports is so important for the practical example it teaches on how to get back up, rethink things, and try again with a different approach.  And the more we win, the more we learn that winning is what sets us apart.

Life is a continual reflection of winning.  Did we win at school? Did we get the education necessary to create a successful life path?

Did we win in finance? Did we make enough, or do enough with what we did make to live securely for the rest of our lives?

And did we win emotionally, understanding our potential, and knowing, did we reach our full potential?  Did we achieve a proud legacy? Or did we even stop to think about its importance?

sonny_inset1No, Lombardi and Bryant did not win every football game, but they fulfilled each of those life measures of success. Which is why I worry about the contradiction of saying that winning isn’t everything;  because what’s the alternative?  Isn’t the cost even greater if we don’t “win” – in finance, security, and self esteem?

It starts with educating yourself as a means to compete. No excuses. Losing is not an option here, and no full court press can take that away.

And best, once you learn your percentage in life becomes higher. You like it, and you learn to like yourself…better with each passing day.

Inside, and out.

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