“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing” is a popular sports adage that has been printed on many images
“Winning isn’t everything, but losing isn’t anything” is a related saying.
[This entry includes prior research by the Quote Investigator.]
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. It is attributed to UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell (“Red”) Sanders. He is on record with at least two different versions of the quotation during his coaching career. Sanders is reputed to have used this quote even as far back as the 1930s.
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 Furillo said in his unpublished memoirs Sanders first made the statement to him after UCLA’s loss to USC in 1949.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. Screenwriter Melville Shavelson heard it from his agent, who also happened to represent Red Sanders, which is how it got into the script. The quotation is widely, but wrongly attributed to American football coach Vince Lombardi, who probably heard the phrase from UCLA coach Sanders. Lombardi is on record using the quotation as early as 1959 in his opening talk on the first day of the Packers’ training camp.
Wikipedia: Red Sanders
Henry Russell “Red” Sanders (May 7, 1905 – August 14, 1958) was an American football player and coach. He was head coach at Vanderbilt University (1940–1942, 1946–1948) and the University of California at Los Angeles (1949–1957), compiling a career college football record of 102–41–3 (.709). Sanders’ 1954 UCLA team was named national champions by the Coaches Poll and the Football Writers Association of America. Sanders was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1996.
9 November 1948, Birmingham (AL) News, “Sanders Gives Prescription For His Grid Success—Material” by Jerry Bryan, pg. 22, col. 5:
SANDERS WRYLY told that QBs that coaching today is a day to day proposition and there is no place in football for losing. “I think with the fans winning isn’t everything,” he said. “It’s the only thing.”