A message from the Pastor

For many years as a kid, every Saturday afternoon I loved to watch ABC-TV’s “The Wide World of Sports.” Many of you probably remember the familiar way that the show opened: “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport; the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat.” The opening video illustrated “the agony of defeat” with a skier who appeared in good form as he headed down the jump, but then, for no apparent reason, he tumbled head over heels off the side of the jump, bouncing off the supporting structure, and crashing through a light retaining fence near a crowd of stunned spectators before coming to a halt below.

Here’s the rest of the story. What viewers never knew was that Vinko Bogataj, the Yugoslavian skier in the clip, chose to fall rather than make the jump. He explained why he did it later: the ramp had become too fast, and when he was about half-way down the ramp, he knew that if he went ahead with the jump that he would land on the level ground, well beyond the safely sloping landing area. To land on the level ground could have been fatal, or could have snapped his spine like a twig, so he purposely aborted the jump. Thankfully, despite the intensity of the crash, the ski jumper suffered only a mild concussion.

It is likely that the crash would have remained obscure had a film crew from Wide World of Sports not been on hand to record the event and a producer decided to insert the footage of Bogataj’s tremendous tumble in the show’s opening video to coincide with the host Jim McKay’s narration of the words “…and the agony of defeat.”

The melodrama of the narration–which became a catchphrase in the U.S.–and the sympathetic pain of watching Bogataj wipe out week after week, transformed the uncredited ski jumper into an American icon of failure. Meanwhile, having retired to his quiet, private life in Slovenia, Vinko Bogataj was unaware of his celebrity and so was quite confused to be asked to attend the 20th anniversary celebration for Wide World of Sports in 1981. He was stunned when other, more famous athletes present, such as Muhammad Ali, asked him for his autograph.

Life has a way of forcing us to confront the reality that life will not all be the thrill of victory. It will have its share of the agony of defeat. Join us as we discover how we can respond as a follower of Christ to the “agony of defeat.”