"Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser” is a famous sports saying, used in many sports. ‘Show me a good and gracious loser and I’ll show you a failure” is often credited to Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne (1888-1931), but that hasn’t been found in print. A 1931 article just after Rockne’s death quoted him as having said, “Be a good loser, don’t beef. But don’t lose.” “‘Show me a good loser and I will show you a failure” was credited to Rockne in 1943.
University of Illinois football coach Robert Zuppke spoke in December 1929 about how he disliked the “good loser,” saying “Show me a team of singers about a defeat and I’ll show you a team of punks.” “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you an idiot” was said by the actor Paul Gilbert (1918-1975) in 1956. “Show me somebody who likes to lose and I’ll show you an idiot” was said by the baseball manager Leo Durocher (1905-1991) by at least 1967.
“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser” appeared at least twice in print in 1963, said by football player Frankie Albert (1920-2002) and basketball coach Red Auerbach (1917-2006).
“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a man who is playing golf with his boss” is a joke variation that has been popular since the 1980s.
10 December 1929, Jefferson City (MO) Post-Tribune, “Hooks and Slides” by William Braucher, pg. 9, col. 5:
Singing of Defeat.
Robert Zuppke, who directs the football destines of the University of Illinois and usually manages to direct the team to a pretty high spot, dislikes among other things the “good loser.” Zuppke has been the speaker at several football banquets lately, an some of the views he expresses are interesting enough.
“Show me a team of singers about a defeat and I’ll show you a team of punks,” says he. “I detest a good loser. I want bad losers. When my men get licked I want them to be so cut up and to worry so much they’ll make up their minds never to have that terrible feeling again.
12 December 1930, Oakland (CA) Tribune, “Just Folks” by Edgar A. Guest, pg. 56, col. 5:
COACH YOST DISCUSSES A GOOD LOSER
Said the gray old coach to me: “Once I heard a fellow say,
The good loser is a sham, think about it as you may.
There is not a man on earth who can wear a cheerful grin
When he has to lose a fight that he really wants to win.
That is merely idle talk, every loss is hard to bear,
And I wouldn’t give a dime for the chap who doesn’t care.”
1 April 1931, Fayetteville (AR) Daily Democrat, “Rockne Used Many Remarks to Spur Team” by Charles Bunkley (Associated Press Sports Writer), pg. 6, col. 1:
One of Knute’s select sayings was:
“Be a good loser, don’t beef. But don’t lose.”
1 June 1937, Daily Courier (Connellsville, PA), “Energy of Man Lives on, Says Legion Speaker,” pg. 3:
“Be a good loser but don’t lose,” said Rockne.
11 September 1943, Wisconsin State Journal (Madison. WI), “Roundy Says,” pg. 7, col. 7:
It can be presumed that it will be plenty, for these fellows are strictly Rockne men and Rockne despised good losers.
‘Show me a good loser,” he used to say, “and I will show you a failure.”
31 January 1946, Oakland (CA) Tribune, “On the Level” by Lee Dunbar, pg. 16, col. 1:
Reader Curran says Clint Evans is a poor loser. That statement is absolutely true. And, oddly enough, it is this very quality I most admire in him. Never, since I’ve been old enough to reason for myself have I had a particle of respect for the so-called “good loser.” Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a guy without an ounce of competitive spirit in his makeup. And a man without competitive spirit has no place in athletics.
23 February 1952, Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT), “Sports Mirror” by John Mooney, pg. 22, col. 1:
Readers (Bless ‘em) Write
“I enjoy your Sports Mirror very much, it’s my most interesting reading. However, your statement in the morning paper caused me to disagree with you. You said, “Show me a coach who always appears the perfect gentleman in the heat of battle and I’ll show you a consistent loser.”
3 February 1956, State-Times (Baton Rouge, LA), “Try and Stop Me” by Bennett Cerf, pg. 9A, col. 1:
“Show me a good loser,” challenges Paul Gilbert, “and I’ll show you an idiot.”
1 September 1958, Rockford (IL) Register-Republic, “Today’s Chuckle,” pg. 1, col. 1:
In a sales meeting: “You show me the man who has the moral fiber to lose a $10,000 order and keep smiling...and I’ll show you an idiot.”
2 April 1959, State-Times (Baton Rouge, LA), “Tiddlywinks Seen as Influence On Khrushchev” by Henry McLemore, pg. 8B, col. 1:
As Asa Mullington, three times world champion, points out in his “Tiddlywinks As I See It,” “crossed legs and titles walk hand in hand. Show me a comfortable tiddlywinker and I’ll show you a loser.”
19 June 1962, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), “Batting Around,” pg. 30, col. 1:
Barry Latman’s shrewd observation: “Show me a team with 25 contended (contented?—ed.) players and I’ll show you a loser. If the guys who are sitting on the bench aren’t sore, they’re not ball players.”
21 June 1963, Life magazine, pg. 87, col. 2:
“Hell,” he (Frankie Albert, an All-American quarterback—ed.) says, “in football we were out to kill the opponent. Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”
6 December 1963, Boston (MA) Globe, “Cousy Inspires 1st Hoop Rally” by Harold Kaese, pg. 41:
From Auerbach’s Quotations, he recited the well-known lines: “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”
Google News Archive
13 June 1964, Pittbsurgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Sidelights on Sports” by Al Abrams, pg. 12, col. 1:
Red Auerbach’s philosophy: “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser!”
July 17, 1967
Better To Scramble Than Lose
In Part I of the story of his pro football career, the game’s most, unorthodox quarterback examines his sideline-to-sideline style and explains that he is really a pocket passer but believes it is BETTER TO SCRAMBLE THAN LOSE
Fran Tarkenton, Jack Olsen
Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser. I’d rather be a good winner any day.
Google News Archive
7 October 1967, The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), “It wasn’t fun before Leo came” by Paul Rimstead, Canadian magazine, pg. 12, col. 3:
“I’ll (Leo Durocher—ed.) give you another one: Show me somebody who likes to lose and I’ll show you an idiot.”
Nothing but Winners:
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Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a man who is playing golf with his boss.