Some years back, Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, is reported to have said "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." He may have cribbed the sentiment from a UCLA football coach of lesser repute, but Lombardi's words, which reflect the no-nonsense, substance-over-style mentality typically associated with old, white coaches from bygone eras, have since been codified as gospel.
In our sports culture, you're either a winner or you're not. Take home a championship, and in the immediate aftermath sportswriters will spare no effort eulogizing your accomplishments and turning your back story into a narrative worthy of Hollywood. Come up just inches short, and the first line of your CV will always make mention of your lack of titles. Just ask Charles Barkley, or until last year, LeBron James.
But in some respects, Lombardi may have been half-right, though not in the way he (probably) intended. Winning, as it turns out, may not be everything—not within the context of creating a legacy that outlasts your time spent in the arena. Consider Monday's NCAA Men's National Championship. Two good teams played a great game, and a significant number of pundits working within the sports media industrial complex immediately labeled it a classic. While I find myself agreeing with that assessment, I don't think the winning team, the Louisville Cardinals, achieved "everything." There have been a lot of classic NCAA championship games in the past 20 years, but the sad truth is most of the participating teams are largely forgotten, one thread in the tapestry of past champions, one brief clip on a retrospective edition of "One Shining Moment." The 2012-13 Cardinals' legacy will only live on within the confines of Kentucky, but in 10 years, kids on playgrounds across the country aren't going to be talking about Peyton Siva. After all, when was the last time you heard someone reference the 1999 Connecticut Huskies and Khalid El-Amin in casual conversation?