You know something extraordinary happened when tennis was the lead story on SportsCenter.
Yesterday’s Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was the first one I have seen “live” in the 19 years I have been preaching full time. I’m usually at church while “Breakfast At Wimbledon” is on. But this year, rain delays pushed the finish back to the late afternoon, U.S. time. So I was able to finish preaching in the morning and then watch the match live from London when I got home.
If I only get to see something every 19 years, it better be good. And this one was. Even though I wanted Federer to win. There were enough moments of high drama, shifts of momentum, and demonstrations of incomprehensible skill to last me another 19 years.
What is it about sporting events that draws us in like that? After all, I don’t like or play golf — yet I watched most of this year’s U.S. Open where Tiger Woods won on a bum knee. Why are we riveted to those kinds of occasions?
I believe it’s because sports competition magnifies those qualities that are hidden in most of us: courage and fear, strength and weakness, honor and deceit, innovation and predictability. For better and for worse, athletes’ inner selves get put on display when they compete.
Yesterday, there was a whole lot of “better” and not much “worse.”
What gets exposed when you enter into competition?