Month: January 2017

That guy has a name. Let’s learn it.


ABC’s Wide World of Sports theme song is second in my alphabetical iTunes songs (between The A-Team and The Adventures of Robin Hood). “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport,” announcer Jim McKay says over the fanfare music. “The thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat. The human drama of athletic competition. This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports.”

Imagine being immortalized in modern history as the one whose name pops up when somebody searches the internet for “the agony of defeat skier”. On the surface of it, I just cringe and feel for this fellow who lost his balance and “crashed and burned” before ever leaving the ramp on March 7, 1970 at a ski flying event in Oberstdorf, West Germany. Read more about the fall, the resulting injuries, and the contributing weather conditions here.

Even pun jokes have been made from the famous phrase in Jim McKay’s voiceover: “What happens after a long day of standing on the job?” “The agony of de feet.” yuk yuk

But, that’s just the opening chapter as the world views that now-famous failed ski jump. Don’t forget that other setback chapters have been followed by huge accomplishments! Peter’s denial that he knew and followed Jesus; Joseph’s abduction by his brothers; Naaman’s bad attitude about following the instructions of the man of God; Sarai laughing at the holy proclamation that she would give birth to the child of promise – all of these failures and misfortunes could have stayed “the agony of defeat,” but they didn’t.

The Karate Kid is the first movie example that jumped into my head on this topic – one of many. Movie after movie, book after book, has championed the underdog, the weakling, the unlikely, for not giving up but pushing through to success. Not everyone wins trophies as a testimony of success. No big deal. Trophies take up shelf space and collect dust. And, after all, as John Maxwell and others have said, success happens one day at a time, along the journey, not at the end of it. Success is in our habits, not in our recognitions.

Let’s learn the name of Mr. Vinko Bogataj of Slovenia (formerly Yugoslavia) instead of forever calling him “the agony of defeat guy.” Let’s respect him not out of sympathy over his famous fall which, because of the ABC TV show, made him “an American icon of bad luck and misfortune” for a long time before he was even aware of it. Let’s respect him not just because he has a place in athletic history, but mostly because he is a fellow human being who overcame a devastating moment during the pursuit of his goals and went on to become a ski instructor, respected artist, wood carver, forklift operator, husband, and father.

We mustn’t let the agony of our failures, sins, or persecution by evil people define us to others – nor, much more important, to ourselves. Don’t give up. Persevere. Press on toward the mark. Know that even if it takes until heaven, all of the pain is going to go away.

Today is a new day, and not just because we say so as positive thinking. “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”—Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”—2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Please share this post today with someone who is hurting or discouraged.