“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” is a popular American sports proverb, cited in print since at least 1948. “Winning isn’t everything, but losing isn’t anything” (or “winning isn’t everything, but losing is nothing") is a popular variation of the proverb. The Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000), in November 1967, had the Linus character say, “Winning isn’t everything, Charlie Brown.” The Charlie Brown character responded, “That’s true, but losing isn’t anything.”
“Winning isn’t everything, but losing is nothing” has been cited in print since at least 1971. Australian musician, writer and radio host Red Symons (born in 1949) is often given credit for coining this saying, but the saying existed before Symons started his career.
Wikipedia: Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing
Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing is a well-known quotation in sports. Its assertion about the importance of winning has been touted as a basic tenet of the American sports creed and, at the same time, identified as encapsulating what is purportedly wrong with competitive sports.
It is attributed to UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell ("Red") Sanders, who spoke two different versions of the quotation. In 1950, at a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo physical education workshop, Sanders told his group: “Men, I’ll be honest. Winning isn’t everything,” then following a long pause, “Men, it’s the only thing!” In a three part article, December 7, 1953, on Red Sanders, by Bud Furillo of the Los Angeles Herald and Express, the phrase is quoted in the sub head. Furillo said in his unpublished memoirs Sanders first made the statement to him after UCLA’s loss to USC in 1949. The phrase is quoted in the 1953 film Trouble Along the Way by Sherry Jackson’s character, Carol Williams. In 1955, in a Sports Illustrated article preceding the 1956 Rose Bowl, he was quoted as saying “Sure, winning isn’t every thing; it’s the only thing.”
(My post to the American Dialect Society is mentioned in the Wikipedia:Talk page and my work is used in this article, but it is not credited—ed.)
6 November 1967, Port Angeles (WA) Evening News, “Peanuts” comic strip, pg. 9, col. 5:
CHARLIE BROWN: I’VE BEEN GOING OVER OUR BASEBALL STATISTICS FOR THIS PAST YEAR…
CHARLIE BROWN: WHEN I THINK OF ALL THOSE GAMES WE LOST, I GET SICK…
LINUS: WINNING ISN’T EVERYTHING, CHARLIE BROWN…
CHARLIE BROWN: THAT’S TRUE, BUT LOSING ISN’T ANYTHING!
Google News Archive
13 November 1967, Youngstown (OH) Daily Vindicator, “Around Town” with Esther Hamilton, pg. 25, col. 1
A disappointed teacher made this comment when his school levy lost: “Winning isn’t everything but losing isn’t anything.”
11 February 1969, Delaware County (PA) Daily Times, “Another View” by Ed Gebhart, pg. 12, col. 2:
PMC Colleges isn’t ready to adopt Coach Lombardi’s philosophy: “Winning isn’t everything...it’s the only thing.”
But it is apparent that the Cadets are ready to concede that “winning isn’t everything...but losing isn’t anything.”
The Consent of the Governed:
An Introduction to American Government (Third Edition)
By John C. Livingston and Robert G. Thompson
New York, NY: Macmillan
They tell me “Jess, winning isn’t everything.” To this I readily accede. Winning isn’t everything but losing isn’t anything.
(Jesse Unruh, 1922-1987—ed.)
13 January 1971, The Herald (Provo, UT), “Orem, Provo Set for Cage Showdown at Y” by Mike Twitty, pg. 6, col. 3:
The old sports adage that “winning isn’t everything but losing is nothing” couldn’t apply more where these two schools are concerned.
The Wooden-Sharman Method:
A Guide to Winning Basketball
By John Wooden and Bill Sharman with Bob Seizer
New York, NY: Macmillan
I like what Charlie Brown, the character in “Peanuts,” says: “Winning isn’t everything, but losing is nothing.”
December 23, 1985
Good Ol’ Charlie Schulz
The holidays always bring you Charlie Brown specials. We bring you his creator, who’s special too
Sports allow Schulz to move freely from childish games to adult concerns. They provide him with an easy way to express frustration. He often twists sports clichés to make all sorts of little commentaries on life. “Winning isn’t everything,” Linus says consolingly. “But losing isn’t anything,” answers Charlie Brown.
The Age (Melbourne, Australia)
In defence of a well-earned reputation
June 10 2003
By Red Symons
For some reason, I seem to have gained a reputation over the years for being a cynic. I’m not just bitter about the past; I’m already disappointed in the future. When I smell flowers I look for a coffin.
One of these mal-mots has even found its way on to a website in the US devoted to inspirational quotes. “Winning isn’t everything but losing is nothing.”
OCLC WorldCat record
Winning isn’t everything, but losing is nothing
Author: Fred J Lewis
Publisher: Alpine, TX : WordWright.biz, ©2007.
Edition/Format: Book : English
New York City • Sports/Games • Sunday, September 23, 2012 • Permalink