If you don’t play to win, why bother to keep score?

Adolph Rupp
Adolph Rupp (1901-1977) American college basketball coach
Comment (11 Jun 1958)

Rupp frequently returned to this phrase, usually in response to someone quoting to him from Grantland Rice's "Alumnus Football" (paraphrased, "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, but how you play the game").

Variations:

  • "If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then what in the hell is that scoreboard doing up there?"
  • "If it doesn't matter, then why does every school have a scoreboard? If it doesn't matter who wins why do 25,000 football fans follow a team 400 miles and sit in eight inches of snow to watch the game?" [Source]
  • "If winning isn't so important, why do they keep score?" [Source]
Rupp wasn't necessarily the originator of this thought. Clair Bee, another US college basketball coach, said during the CCNY Point Shaving Scandal that ended his career, "If the kids aren't playing for keeps, why keep score?" (20 Feb 1951).

Sometimes attributed to Vince Lombardi.

More discussion of this quotation: The Big Apple: “If winning isn’t important, why keep score?”
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Mar-22
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