Peter Colt is on his last legs. Well, his last tennis legs anyway. He’s giving up after one more year at Wimbledon, expecting to bow out in the first round. But it doesn’t happen. Incredibly he wins, and wins again. And yet again. Till he finds himself in the final. He’s like a new man, a player inspired now. It might have something to do with him falling for top tennis star Lizzie Bradbury…
There is a moment, on men’s finals day when Peter walks out of his hotel lift to find all of the hotel staff lined up to applaud him and wish him the best for the match. It’s a lovely moment, everyone wanting to share in this good time, loaded with hope and possibility. It lifts Peter’s spirits. I remember watching this film before Andy Murray had ever won Wimbledon, it all seemed a bit of a dream come true, even if it was just on the big screen. I grew up watching Bjorn Borg win year after year. Wimbledon was the only tournament we ever saw so I never saw him lose, no matter how hard the matches were, till 1981. He lost in the final that year to one John McEnroe – and I was devastated, I just didn’t think it was possible.
‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same…’ These lines from Kipling’s poem are quoted on Wimbledon’s centre court. A reminder that neither of these is enough to satisfy our deep human longings.
We can’t all win all the time. In fact life is fraught with failure and difficulties. But it’s great to share sometimes in the good news of others. It feels as if we have another chance too. Thinking about it now, in a strange kind of way, Peter Colt coming out of that lift reminds me of a carpenter from Nazareth riding into town (on a colt, no less!) and folks turning out in their droves to see him. Lining up to applaud and cheer and wish him the best ion his journey to change things. Folks had hoped then for a triumphant display of power and skill. What they got looked all wrong. Jesus lost. Ended up looking like the failure. No final big serve to win the match. But in his losing he sided with all the rest of us when our lives get upended. When we fall of the track yet again. When we sit heartbroken and disappointed. Jesus losing on that cross ushered in another age. An age of profound help for all of us, for a universe in pain. Not a quick fix or cheap solution, but a way to know the presence and friendship of God in every moment of loss and gain, every cheer, sob, smile and call for help. He is on our side.