Lessons From Patton

Lessons From Patton

Aug 5th, 2012

The Summer Olympics are all the rage right now, which means that most Americans—myself included—have been glued to our TVs as we watch our country's greatest athletes earn medals and break records in the name of America. While searching for a quote on the Internet, I came across a bit of Olympic-like history that seemed worthy of sharing:

Long before he was a hard-charging General in WWII, George S. Patton was, among other things, an Olympian. In 1912 Patton competed as a Pentathlete in the Sumer Games in Stockholm, where he ran cross-country, swam, fenced and rode a makeshift Supercross track on a horse. Now, here's the part worth sharing: In the pistol shooting competition (this guy clearly wasn't scared to participate in more than one event!), there was some controversy about Patton missing a target (he claimed that two shots went through the same hole), and the judges docked him a ton of points. Word is that Patton didn't whine, snivel, protest or make excuses, but he did have this to say:

"The high spirit of sportsmanship and generosity manifested throughout speaks volumes for the character of the officers of the present day. There was not a single incident of a protest or any unsportsmanlike quibbling or fighting for points which I may say, marred some of the other civilian competitions at the Olympic Games. Each man did his best and took what fortune sent them like a true soldier, and at the end we all felt more like good friends and comrades than rivals in a severe competition, yet this spirit of friendship in no manner detracted from the zeal with which all strove for success.”

Let's look at that quote for a moment. Patton is basically saying, "We all put in 100% effort, and we took the ups and downs in stride. And although we were friends, each one of us wanted to win in the worst way." This is not only an excellent attitude toward competition, but it also sounds exactly like something you would hear a pro off-road racer say today. Especially in hard enduro racing—where getting to the finish is arguably more important than beating any one person—modern racers seem to embrace the same sense of camaraderie and sportsmanship that Patton described. As we all know, Patton went on to an incredibly memorable military career, and I'm sure that he applied these same principles to the rest of his life that he applied to Olympic competition.

One thing is for sure: Patton would have made one hell of a motorcycle racer!