Winning at the Expense of Integrity


[Original Nike Ad with Tiger Woods quote]

Here at The Drive, we often talk about what it takes to win or what someone has overcome to succeed or even the triumphs that have inspired us to reach higher. Winning, whether in sports or as a metaphor for success, always seems to be in the center of our focus and the goal for all of us that want to be better, faster and smarter. Winning is everything. But this is where we have to be careful and artful with our language. Winning, literally and figuratively, should be your aim in every endeavor you engage in, big or small. You should want to give your best and to be the best at everything you do as demanding the most from yourself will push you toward success. However, winning is NOT everything. Winning at the expense of others or winning just to spite others has never and should never be mentioned in the same light as winning in your humble pursuit to be the best. You don’t have to be nice or polite (as I make clear here) as you compete, but you absolutely have to show respect and sportsmanship toward those you compete against.

Now, why the big lecture on winning? Well, recently Nike released a brand new ad campaign on the heels of Tiger Woods’ recent ascension back to number one in the world that promotes an old quote of Tiger’s: “Winning Takes Care of Everything.” Now, if you naively believe that this quote is only referring to Tiger’s performance on the golf course and his “recover” from the “ills” of his injuries then maybe, just maybe, this quote is an acceptable and respectable piece of advertising. However, if you take into account the context and multiple implications of the quote then you might understand (as I do) that this is an intentionally ambiguous quote aimed at inciting publicity, good or bad. I understand the business angle to this advertising strategy, but I am whole-heartedly against the message that it seemingly endorses – that athletes are exempt from same morals and rules that all of us can and should uphold. That an athlete like Tiger Woods can commit adultery (time and time again may I add) and somehow be pardoned by the public when he wins a few tournaments and gets back to number one in the world. Or on an even broader scale, that the “achievements” and awards in our lives rectify or negate any unacceptable behaviors along the way.

Let me be clear though that I am not at all condoning that we forever hold grudges against athletes or our friends or our family. In fact, the ability to forgive someone is a critical part of helping whomever potentially recover or rebuild from their previous mistakes. And one of the many unique and important qualities of sports is its power to help in this healing and rebuilding process. That said, I do believe that we should definitely not be promoting the idea that athletic success and achievements are the “silver-bullet” solution for solving your problems, for “taking care of everything.” No, there is a lot (A LOT) of work on and off the field that we have to do to even begin to make amends for the things we might have broken. Just like you have to put in the time, effort and commitment to be a great athlete, you should have to do the same to earn back family, friends’ and fans’ respect. If you didn’t have to earn it and “winning” was the only cure then you truly would have learned nothing and may likely repeat your mistakes. And that’s not helping anyone, you or the people you care about. No matter what you’re competing at, you always have to remember to not only demand your best effort, but to also demand your best judgment as “winning is not everything.”

-Dan Reaves


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