The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat

Vinko Bogataj probably isn’t a name you recognize. But for millions of people, Vinko is the symbol of all who have tried to do something and failed spectacularly. In 1970 the young Yugoslavian competed in a ski flying event where he hurled out of control off the end of the ramp, tumbling and flipping wildly, and crashed through a retaining fence near a crowd of spectators. Although he only suffered a mild concussion and broken ankle, a crew from the ABC Wide World of Sports recorded the event and ended up using the clip for many years in the show’s opening along with the words, “and the agony of defeat.”

Mr. Bogataj returned to Slovenia, lived a quiet life, and eventually retired from sports. Unknown to him, the clip and the catchphrase had transformed him into an icon of bad luck and misfortune. He was completely surprised when he was asked to attend the 20th anniversary celebration for the Wide World of Sports. There he received a standing ovation and was asked for his autograph by the boxer Muhammed Ali.

Why is that? I think it’s because while many people spend their lives chasing the dream of the “thrill of victory,” many more of us are all too familiar with the “agony of defeat.” At some point in time, in some arena of life, we can all identify with heartache and loss.

This Sunday we’ll look at some so-called “winners” and “losers” in the family of God. Hebrews 11:32 to 38 is one of the most powerful and disturbing passages in the Bible. As heartbreaking as it is to read and study this text, it’s essential we understand it. It will correct many of the misconceptions both Christians and non-Christians have about God and what a life of faith looks like.

If you plan to bring children into the service, I urge you to read this text ahead of time to determine whether you should. While it is full of glorious truth, it also contains graphic details that you need to know about ahead of time.

Heavy in heart, but strengthened by faith,