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How You Play the Game

Ever heard of a guy named Grantland Rice? Me neither, until just recently.


There is an oft-quoted saying that many have heard but couldn’t tell you who said it. It was, in fact, penned by this ground-breaking sports journalist in the early 1900’s. His closest friends called him “Granty,” but I’ll just call him Grantland.


Fun fact: Grantland was the very first play-by-play announcer carried live on radio for the World Series Game (1922), and his expressive writing was saidto help raise sports players to heroic status. He often compared the challenges of sports to mythic stories and the greater human condition.” (


 So, LaBraun, Micheal and Serena, Grantland says, “Your welcome!”


In 1908, Grantland wrote a poem he called “Alumnus Football” and presented it before the Alumni Association of Vanderbilt University, his alma mater. From this poem, comes this famous phase:

"It's not whether you win or lose -

it's how you play the game."


Anyone one earth can attest to this truth: no matter who you are, your life will have triumphs AND troubles.


  • Wins and losses.

  • Good days and bad.

  • Mountaintops and valleys.

  • Times of victory and times of struggle.


But as Grantland observed, the true wonder of the human soul is seen not in the number of wins and losses we have, but what we can do in the midst of these ups and downs.


In other words, HOW WE PLAY THE GAME.


While walking and praying today, this verse came to mind. It sounds a lot like a game plan to me. Whether I’m winning or losing, it’s a way to live my life through Christ.


“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. 

In the world you will have tribulation.

But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 (ESV)


Jesus is talking to His disciples here. For three years, these twelve people witnessed so many miraculous moments and out-of-this-world experiences: the healings of hundreds, the feeding of thousands, and the bringing of life where there was death! That’s a lot of wins!


And then there were the troubles: they argued amongst themselves, didn’t understand what Jesus was teaching them, and wondered why He didn’t rise up and destroy the oppressors of Israel. Then came the times of terror as the Jewish leaders started to fear Jesus and plotted His death.


I think that qualifies as “tribulation,” and I’ll bet they felt like they were losing…seriously losing!


And how did Jesus coach them through this? Did He teach them to only value the victories and high moments? Or, when they were on a losing streak, did He coach them to just work harder and toughen up…or even just give up and get out?



He affirmed that tough times were guaranteed to come right along with the good. Then, He taught us how to take heart, keep moving forward, and trust Christ to bring us peace.  


“…that in me you may have peace.”


This precious peace is ours because Christ’s power surpasses and overcomes this world! He saves us from our old way of operating, where we counted up the wins and losses of our lives as a determinant of our worth. 


He came to teach us a whole new way to “play the game” His way.


Friends, we can all agree that following Christ does not make all the hardships melt away. I’ve had plenty, as I am sure you have as well! Nor does it make our “wins” magically increase. The game-changer here is that Christ is greater than them all, and that’s why there can be peace, both in the ups and the downs. 


And this peace is a gift! It comes not because of who we are, but because of who Christ is! With Him, we are transformed into people with “Uphill Hearts.” Even in the struggle, our hearts can believe, hope, and keep going. The hills become surmountable, the struggles bring perseverance, coming not from our own power, but from His power living within us.


He is the reason we can “Choose to Keep Going!”


I’d like to leave you with the last portion of Grantland’s poem, “Alumnus Football.” May it remind you that how we walk through the wins and the losses matters; that you and I have a source of peace and power that is greater than the score the world keeps on us.


You have what you need to keep going, to flourish even in the struggle, and you can find peace in Christ as He overcomes it all.


“You’ll find the road is long and rough, with soft spots far apart,

Where only those can make the grade who have the Uphill Heart.


And when they stop you with a thud or halt you with a crack,

Let Courage call the signals as you keep coming back.


Keep coming back, and though the world may romp across your spine,

Let every game’s end find you still upon the battling line;

For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,

He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the Game.”





"Alumnus Football." (click here to read the entire poem)






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