A few years ago when I was a full-time sports reporter, I wrote a column extolling the virtues of sports movies. Over the holiday weekend, I had the opportunity to view another movie that not only peaked my interest in a sport I had otherwise not given two thoughts about, but also renewed my faith in humanity.
That’s saying a lot for a $4.99 pay per view movie!
The film I am referring to is Clint Eastwood’s newest masterpiece, “Invictus.” This 2009 movie chronicles South African President Nelson Mandela’s goal to bring peace and unity to a country divided by the recent fall of apartheid by rallying the nation to stand behind its national rugby team and their bid for a 1995 World Cup title.
Yes, peace through rugby, one of the roughest sports out there, next to crocodile wrestling.
The South African rugby team was seen as a symbol of apartheid and not very popular among the nation’s black citizens who were — rightly so — anxious to do away with any institution which reminded them of oppression they were subjected to for so many years.
Mandela, however, saw that destroying something that is in and of itself not a bad thing because of the connotations it invoked was not the way to unite a country. Instead, he reclaimed the team as a symbol of all of South African citizens — white and black alike. And in an ending that not even Hollywood would propose if it didn’t happen in real life, the South African rugby team defeated New Zealand — despite all predictions of failure — in front of a worldwide crowd on their home pitch (which is a rugby field). Talk about inspirational!
There is a reason why sports movies keep getting made. Sports are a perfect metaphor for the struggles that everyone faces within themselves and against the world. To prevail, an athlete has to find inner strength to succeed while being constantly bombarded with criticism by others. That sounds a lot like my everyday professional and personal life.
If rugby can bring blacks and whites of South Africa together after apartheid, maybe we should consider making athletics part of the job description for California legislators. If our state’s Democrats and Republicans had to rely on each other to prevail against the barbarians from Nevada on the gridiron, maybe they would be able to balance the budget within this decade.
Do not dismiss the power of sport!
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.