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Peterson: More to the game than winning

It’s a subject that has been discussed endlessly ever since the first cavemen started playing competitive marbles.

Is winning the main objective to any activity?

Vince Lombardi had it all figured out. The legendary Green Bay Packers football coach simply said: “There is no substitute for winning, it’s the only thing.”

After watching sports, amateur or professional, for the better part of 65 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that it all depends on the level being played.

I’ve watched teams that were outstanding in the regular season. And many more that often struggled to win a game or two.

I know I used to wonder what good Lake Linden-Hubbell hockey players were getting out of losing games by scores of 21-1, 18-0 or 15-1 in the 1970s.

Their goaltender (often Joel Koepel) would often have to turn aside 50 or 60 shots just to keep the margin under double figures.

I once asked Koepel about playing in so many one-sided blowouts. He answered in so many words that it was “just fun being out on the ice.”

Just the other day, I asked Finlandia University men’s basketball player Dylan Underwood if losing (the Lions have lost something like 34 straight games in the last two seasons) if it wasn’t getting old being on the wrong end of the score.

“No, not at all, I enjoy having the chance to play in the game with these guys (teammates). I know we’re going to break through one of these nights.”

Underwood, a fine player, hails from Michigan City, Ind. That’s a state that knows as much about basketball as the Copper Country does about hockey.

In short, hoops is a religion in the Hoosier State. Just as hockey is up here.

I can understand Lombardi’s words because professional athletes make remarkable amounts of money nowadays. Far too much, many people argue.

And the sad part is that many pros take the game lightly, preferring to take more time for their carefully coifed hair. Or the many tattoos that cover their bodies.

When I played competitive sports eons ago, I know I wasn’t doing it for any other reason than just competing as best I could against athletes from other areas.

That’s why the words of Joel Koepel in 1977, or Dylan Underwood in 2020 make sense.

It’s all about the love of the game.