Help me remember this phrase, if it exists!
December 19, 2008 10:26 PM   Subscribe

Is this phrase or saying real? Something along the lines of "The play never changes, only the players".

It pops into my head now and then, or at least a similar sentiment, but googling for that and related phrases isn't turning up anything. The phrase I am trying to think of (or perhaps have invented?) is about the way that people repeat the same basic stories and dramas over and over again. Am I making this all up? Or is a similar phrase quite famous and I've just got the words slightly wrong in my head?
posted by rivenwanderer to Grab Bag (14 answers total)
There are a few sayings sort of like this. In O Pioneers! Willa Cather writes:

"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."
posted by washburn at 10:32 PM on December 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

Sounds like a football (American) quote to me. Something like the Broncos always seem to do. Have a 1000 yard rusher no matter the year, they just plug in a back and go.
posted by sanka at 10:34 PM on December 19, 2008

It rings a bell, but for me the phrase was something like 'history never changes, only the players do.' I can find a few similar examples during google, (the game never changes, only the players. the show never changes, only the stage) but no one common one.

Here is a similar quote:
"Wall Street never changes, the pockets change, the stocks change, but Wall Street never changes, because human nature never changes. " — Jesse Livermore
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:43 PM on December 19, 2008

"The streets don't change but maybe the names."

-----------Axl Rose
posted by Roach at 10:47 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players"
posted by Emilyisnow at 11:09 PM on December 19, 2008

Einstein: "The play has neither beginning nor end and only the players change."
posted by Knappster at 11:42 PM on December 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

"The dream never dies.... just the dreamer"--70's song by The Cooper Brothers, Canadians (although the Einstein quote is clearly the one you're looking for...I just like the dream line.)
posted by mumstheword at 1:33 AM on December 20, 2008

Sounds familiar to me too.

Embarrassed as I am to admit this, I know the quote from Miami Vice, which I watched somewhat obsessively in the mid-80s as a troubled teenager. Sadly (?!) I can't cite or quote the episode verbatim anymore, but I would say that Sonny Crockett -- quoting the famous saying that you are seeking -- said something like "The game's the same - only the players change."

I think it was either in Melanie Griffith's episode (a classic!) or one of the Sheena Easton ones.

Which would mean that the expression dates back at least to the mid-80s and perhaps came about around then.
posted by sueinnyc at 3:13 AM on December 20, 2008

It made me think of Faulkner's line: "The past isn't dead, it isn't even the past." Also Bergen Evans, quoted by Ricky Jay in Magnolia: "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."
posted by EarBucket at 6:31 AM on December 20, 2008

Although I'd say the line you're looking for is "The game never changes, only the players." Can't find an original source for it, but it's an obvious enough thought that there may not be a clear source.
posted by EarBucket at 6:34 AM on December 20, 2008

What EarBucket said. I know it as "The game never changes, only the players."
posted by geeky at 6:36 AM on December 20, 2008

In Portuguese we say something along the lines of "the shit is always the same, only the flies change".
posted by neblina_matinal at 6:42 AM on December 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Well, gentlemen... the players may have changed, but the game remains the same, and the name of the game is Let's Make a Deal."

- Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) in Working Girl

Another Melanie Griffith-related quote for ya.
posted by teg at 7:45 AM on December 20, 2008

Bon Jovi sang it as "It's all the same, only the names will change."
posted by bowmaniac at 8:14 AM on December 20, 2008

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