Winners Take Nothing

There is no substitute for winning
football games and wars.
We are strong and brave,
having been taught winning
is what counts after all.

After all, after all the weeks of sweat,
practice after practice, play after play,
men of strength will win, be honored.
Losers, lacking muscle fight heart
eyes limbs guts and blood
will lose.
So will the children.

Oh the children. Be men, be strong.
Let us not now praise
a man, a man’s man,
a coach of real men,
whose religion was winning Christianity,
whose dedication to god country blood
knew no limits, surely not
the death of children
and grownup children
of families
different, foreign, unreal.
Families of losers.

Oh, Americans, let us not pay
homage to the dead man,
leader of
strong men, winning men.

Leave it to the president to praise
his fighting spirit, bishop bless
his dedication to the cause
of winning games
of warball and football.
My fellow Americans, he is
us and we are he. We stand together
in solidarity, drones the leader
of sycophantery.

Coach, you have shown us
what it means to win on fields
of war and sport for God, team
and country,
in spite of, for spite of
children shrieking out of burning bodies.
Losers, losers, yes,
the children are the losers.

Rest, coach, for you have finally
in the end
lost a big one. You are
at peace.
Your ears cannot hear
children’s tears
as they lose
their lives.

But didn’t you say:
Winning isn’t everything;
it’s the only thing?
They had their warning,
didn’t they?

And so did we.
We didn’t listen then
and aren’t listening still.
Perhaps we never will.
Who do you think will win
the Doomsday Bowl?

Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely. He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

Read other articles by Edward, or visit Edward's website.