Sitting in the back seat of my parents' station wagon, my teammates and I were going over the game we just lost as we drove back to Winneconne from the Winnebago County Park soccer fields in Oshkosh, Wis.
Our teams didn't lose very much when we were young. When we did drop a contest on the pitch, we were one cranky group of 9-year-olds.
My mother finally interrupted the bickering to ask us a question we all thought was pretty stupid at the time:
"Don't worry about the loss. The important thing is you had fun, right?"
My response: "No. We lost. How is that fun?"
That philosophy stuck with me for a long time and it wasn't limited to the pitch. A video game was not fun unless I won. A Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and Green Bay Gamblers game was a horrible time unless the home team came out victorious.
Outside of sports, I wanted to be the best Boy Scout in my troop. I had to be the star journalist at The North Wind - the Northern Michigan University student newspaper - and all of college hockey. In the classroom, I had to get A's in order to enjoy school.
Actually, I never had fun in the classroom, so scratch that one.
For the most part, I've always been an ultra-competitive person and it's been that nature that has allowed me to succeed in life.
The problem was, I always had the wrong attitude. Winning does not equal fun. First comes the fun, then comes the success.
It's a philosophy my soccer teams could have used. We never won a lot of championships.
We had the talent and we were always close, but we had a terrible attitude and in the end, underachieved.
We all started playing sports, or became interested in sports, because it's fun. It's a game. By definition, games are supposed to be fun.
So, like I told Craig Remsburg and Steve Brownlee at our first staff meeting after I took over as sports editor of The Mining Journal last week, let's have some fun around here.
Let's go beyond breaking down zone defenses, power-play units and the movement of a pitcher's curve ball.
Stopping the Michigan Wolverines' power play and taking down the top-seeded Negaunee Miners might be at the front of our minds, but I can guarantee it's not what keeps the high school, college and USOEC student-athletes in Marquette County up at night.
They're trying to figure out how to get the attention of the cute guy or girl that sits next to them in the classroom
The fact is, they're just kids, folks. I know because I was one of them just a few years ago.
In reality, Steve, Craig, Amanda Monthei, Jim Lajoie, Kurt Mensching, Curt Kemp and all of us who cover sports for a paycheck are all just big kids because we get to cover a game.
So I invite all the readers of the Journal sports section to join in the fun that so many of the athletes and coaches are having out there every day.
Save your anger for the real issues facing our country these days and the politicians who are failing to solve anything.
Maybe they, too, need to chill out a bit, be civil and have some fun with their jobs.
Then, like all the athletes and coaches of Marquette County, they would accomplish something great.
Matt Wellens is the sports editor of The Mining Journal. He can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.