Jerry Wainwright (who?) (a whistle-blower’s last request)

Yeah, well, I didn’t know who Jerry Wainwright was, either. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, Jerry Wainwright was the author that I nearly gave credit to for my last “He Said/She Said”, but thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I (think I) got it right in crediting Martina Navratilova, instead. In sourcing the “Wainwright” quote about winning in sport (and life), I learned about the man, which was interesting in the context of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Wainwright was a Division 1 head coach for nearly 20 years.

He had moderate success at two middling schools, occasionally qualifying underdog squads for the “Big Dance” of the national tournament, until his dogged success might have gotten him higher on the basketball coaching ladder than he’d have wanted, in hindsight. He took the headman’s spot at Chicago’s DePaul University, leading a program that had once been something of a national power but which has struggled in recent decades, a weak sister in a strong conference. As it had done with several other hires before him, the position ate Mr. Wainwright, bringing massive stress and even hate – ah, the shining ideal of sport in America! – towards him and his family. The Blue Demons lost more than they won.

I will get to the point, to his quote, after a little more context. (Who doesn’t love context, after all?)

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Martina Navratilova (on winning)

It being March, me being an irredeemable basketball junkie (and hoops purist, which is a difficult double these days), I’m thinking a lot about winning.


Life is hyper-competitive these days, has been for a long while, and most of the favoured paths to success, or happiness, or just plain fame, take the path of least cooperation. Beating that guy, out-performing those rivals, one-upping the neighbours, even defeating those personal demons: everybody’s urged to be competitive, and if you’re going to compete, then it’s usually better if you win. (Though not always.) Even the English language chimes in — being able to do your job, to have useful skills, is to be competent. Cooperation is often framed as secondary, nice for kids, a good refuge for the untalented. This is one of our biggest philosophical/historical misunderstandings, say I, but let’s not go there for now. Let’s say we’re competing,

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