While I wasn’t blown away by Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, it is certainly a movie worth seeing with a story worth sharing. Morgan Freeman gives an outstanding performance as Nelson Mandela (how many people can say they’ve played both God and the former President of South Africa), and it was interesting to discover how rugby helped shape the development of an important republic in the nineties.
I’ve always been interested in the power of sport, and how competitive spirit can influence more than just those on the field or court. Invictus celebrates the transcendent nature of athletics, by showing how the South African national team’s performance in the 1995 Rugby World Cup tangibly altered the political and social landscape of the republic, while reflecting the values of their courageous leader.
Watching this film, I was reminded of other similarly influential sports teams depicted on film (both fictional, and real). Some squads which came to mind were Cool Runnings’ Jamaican Bobsled Team, and Gordon Bombay’s U.S. Junior Olympic Hockey Team (Mighty Ducks II). I also thought about real life teams, like the 2001 New York Yankees (post- 9/11 World Series run), 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team (shocking upset over the Soviet Union), and the 2006-2007 post-Katrina New Orleans Saints. These teams, like the South African rugby unit, demonstrated that perseverance over athletic adversity can inspire others to confront the more significant conflicts and obstacles they are facing.
Recently, I’ve learned firsthand how athletics can change people’s lives. Throughout my fall semester at Syracuse University, I’ve volunteered at the local Boys & Girls Club with an organization named Move Along. This organization strives to provide recreational athletic opportunities and resources to children and adults with disabilities. My friends and I have actively participated in coaching youth wheelchair basketball, and it has been incredibly rewarding to see how this sport profoundly helps the participants and their families.
Sports can teach you valuable lessons. They can show you how to work together with others, and how to strive towards reaching your potential. Most importantly, however, they remind us that playing or watching a game can often the best thing to do when things get too serious.