For the Love of the Game

Whether you think of them as recreation or warfare, sports are an undeniable part of the human fabric—the source of enduring national pride, family traditions, and plain old fun. Here some of our favorite writers, fans, coaches, and players share their brief wisdom on the thrill and beauty of athleticism and competition.

Nothing happens until something moves.
—Albert Einstein

It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.
—Muhammad Ali

In the field of sports you are more or less accepted for what you do rather than what you are.
—Althea Gibson

Sports take people out of doors, get them filled with oxygen—generate some of the brutal customs . . . which, after all, tend to habituate people to a necessary physical stoicism. We are in some ways a dyspeptic, nervous set: anything which will repair such losses may be regarded as a blessing to the race. We want to go out and howl, swear, run, jump, wrestle, even fight, if only by doing so we may improve the guts of the people: the guts, vile as guts are, divine as guts are!
—Walt Whitman, as quoted in Intimate with Walt, ed. Gary Schmidgall

Be bold. If you’re going to make an error, make a doozy.
—Billie Jean King

I believe we have played games, and watched games, to imitate the gods, to become godlike in our worship of each other and, through those moments of transmutation, to know for an instant what the gods know.
—A. Bartlett Giamatti, Take Time for Paradise

I told myself before the game, “He’s made of skin and bones just like everyone else,” but I was wrong.
—Tarcisio Burgnich, on playing against Pelé

The key is not the will to win . . . everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.
—Bobby Knight, My Story

The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.
—Damon Runyon

You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.
—Yogi Berra

People on couch
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