***Warning Possible Spoilers Ahead for the Movie Eddy the Eagle***
There are so many things that can make one want to give up or just try to get by. Some will even succeed without ever really trying or giving it their best because of a fear of failure. But then there are those who will overcome huge obstacles and disappointments and give it their all; even if they don’t win gold at the Olympics, they triumph because they leave everything they’ve got on the mountain. So it is with the movie Eddie the Eagle, which is inspired by the story of English ski jumper and Olympian Eddie Edwards.
Starring Taron Egerton as “Eddie” and Hugh Jackman as his coach “Bronson Peary,” the film provides an inspirational tale of a young man whom most people discounted and avoided, but who would not give up. In fact, proving the naysayers, cynics and mockers wrong motivated Eddie to push through various imposing physical and existential challenges to compete as a ski jumper for Great Britain in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.
From the movie portrayal, Eddie never aimed to be the best at the sport, but simply to compete in the Olympics. Ski jumping provided him that opportunity, as Britain did not have any Olympian ski jumpers at the time. Finally able to reach the minimum jump length arbitrarily set by the British Olympic Committee (to try and keep him from performing), Eddie got his chance to represent his country. He did not disappoint, as he became a fan favorite.
So many people are suckers for the underdog, especially one with an indomitable spirit whose love for the game is awe-inspiring, right? Or maybe such fans are not suckers. Perhaps they can see right through the insurmountable egos, pretense, and love of fame (and everything else that goes with it) that surround athletics today rather than the love of the sport. Purists are hard to come by; perhaps such fans are searching for a golden heart and are thrilled when they find it in the Games. Perhaps inspiring figures like Eddie Edwards give them hope that they, too, should keep competing in the game of life—just for the love of it.
The preceding reflection brings us to the question in the title of this post: “What keeps you going?” The movie quotes the founder of the modern Olympic games, Pierre de Coubertin: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” The film and statement are a far cry from what often comes across as the focus of sports today—looking good, winning at all cost (“winning is everything”), no matter how much it costs our humanity. After all, many who pay to watch or those who sponsor want to be associated with winners, not losers.
Does success keep you going? The fear of failure? The love of the game of life? As a Christian, I am struck by the Bible’s own “Eddie the Eagle,” the Apostle Paul, whose overwhelming suffering could have easily led him to give up. But he pressed on to the end. Though some would consider him a loser in that he was sawn in two or decapitated under the Roman Emperor Nero, Paul writes from his Roman prison cell not long before his ‘demise’: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8; ESV). Even when facing death from a Roman prison cell, Paul’s spirit soared, just like Eddie Edwards soared. No one could imprison their hope and longing and love for the game of life. They fought well to the end.
Regardless of your faith commitments and your life circumstances, what keeps you going? We need more Eddie Edwards today—those who will not allow the seemingly self-fulfilling prophecies of this or that court of opinion from keeping them down. Such heroic individuals lift our spirits. Let your spirit soar, and lift us up with you.