Winners Take Nothing

There is no substitute for winning

football games and wars.

We are strong and brave,

having been taught winning

is what counts after all.


After all, after all the weeks of sweat,

practice after practice, play after play,

men of strength will win, be honored.

Losers, lacking muscle fight heart

eyes limbs guts and blood

will lose.

So will the children.


Oh the children. Be men, be strong.

Let us not now praise

a man, a man’s man,

a coach of real men,

whose religion was winning Christianity,

whose dedication to god country blood

knew no limits, surely not

the death of children

and grownup children

of families

different, foreign, unreal.

Families of losers.


Oh, Americans, let us not pay

homage to the dead man,

leader of

strong men, winning men.


Leave it to the president to praise

his fighting spirit, bishop bless

his dedication to the cause

of winning games

of warball and football.

My fellow Americans, he is

us and we are he. We stand together

in solidarity, drones the leader

of sycophantery.


Coach, you have shown us

what it means to win on fields

of war and sport for God, team

and country,

in spite of, for spite of

children shrieking out of burning bodies.

Losers, losers, yes,

the children are the losers.


Rest, coach, for you have finally

in the end

lost a big one. You are

at peace.

Your ears cannot hear

children’s tears

as they lose

their  lives.


But didn’t you say:

Winning isn’t everything;

it’s the only thing?

They had their warning,

didn’t they?


And so did we.

We didn’t listen then

and aren’t listening still.

Perhaps we never will.

Who do you think will win

the Doomsday Bowl?

Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely.  He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. A former college basketball player, he teaches the sociology of sports, and writes on a wide range of topics.  His website is

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