Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why I Love The Movie "Cool Runnings"

As we begin the Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi, the Jamaican bobsled team has been in the news due to the fact that their luggage was lost, which also contained part of the bobsled! Many years ago, my bride and I went to see "Cool Runnings", and it immediately became one of my all time favorite movies. While primarily billed as a comedy, it has some VERY powerful messages to tell. Albeit with comedic and dramatic adaption, the characters and the story are real.

If you've never seen the movie, here's a quick plot synopsis, with Spoiler Alert: The primary character is Derice Bannock, the son of a champion Olympic sprinter who is himself seeking to win Olympic gold in Track. During the official qualification trials, another sprinter trips Derice and a third runner, removing them all from contention in the Summer Olympics that year. Desperate to become an Olympian, Derice tracks down Irv Blitzer, a former US bobsledder who was disqualified and disgraced for cheating and has moved to Jamaica in shame and self-imposed exile. Blitzer had unsuccessfully tried to convince Ben Bannock to compete as a bobsledder, based on the idea that four fast sprinters should make excellent pushers, and thus champion sledders. Derice coerces his best friend to help him, and they eventually convince Irv to train them, IF they can find two more members for the team. Of course, the two other members wind up being the guy who tripped Derice and the third runner. No one on the team is happy, most of them have some reason to hate the other, and Irv doesn't believe that they can even make it as a team. After many, many, many hilarious training escapades, the team winds up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for the Winter Olympics..without even having a sled with which to compete. Irv buys an old training sled from his former US pals, and they paint it with the Jamaican colors and name it "Cool Runnings", which is said to mean "peace(ful) be the journey". Derice develops an admiration for the Swiss team, who have a watch-like precision in everything they do on the course. Far from home and in front of recognized world-class athletes, the team struggles to fit in, and to overcome their fears and nervousness. The first time they try a practice run, the sled winds up going down the course without them, as they fail to mount properly! During their first competition run, the team fumbles, largely due to Derice trying to imitate the Swiss, but manages to complete the run, landing them in last place. Overnight, the team fights over whether they came as themselves, or someone else, particularly the Swiss. On their second day, the team shows up in full Jamaican flair and not only competes successfully, but does so well that they are actually in contention for a medal. During a heart-to-heart between Derice and Irv, Derice asks why Irv cheated. Irv tells him that he did so because winning was everything to him, and that if Derice isn't enough without a gold medal, he'll never be enough with one. When they take the course on the third and final day, they are ready, sure and prepared to compete, and hopefully win. The team absolutely aces the pushoff, and is on track to win the gold when disaster strikes. One of the nuts on their old, rickety sled comes loose, and they lose control and suffer a horrendous crash, sliding to a stop within sight of the finish line. After determining that they are all okay, they pick the sled up, put it on their shoulders and carry it across the line, because Derice has to finish the race. As they observe what is happening, several of the competitors who had previously picked on and harassed the team begin scattered applause, which turns into a full standing ovation from the crowd, competitors and even the judges as the movie ends. When the lights came up in the theater, my bride was astonished to see tears streaming down my face. Not a lone tear, but a full on gusher. As Larry The Cucumber says, "I laughed, I cried, it moved me, Bob".

As a Christian, there are many, many truths that can be gleaned from this story:
1) You might not wind up running the race that you prepared for and thought you would run. Several of the Apostles were fishermen, one was a tax collector, and Paul was a Pharisee.
2) You might not like everyone on your team. One of the Apostles was Simon the Zealot. Zealots were a nationalistic political group that hated the occupiers and collaborators. Another of the Apostles was Matthew, who was a tax collector for the occupying Romans. Imagine a Tea Party activist and an IRS 501(c)(4) application inspector playing on the same softball team.
3) You might not run your race in an environment that you would choose. Paul was a Jew's Jew, who would up preaching salvation to the pagans and barbarians of the world.
4) You have to run your own race in your own way, without worrying about other runners. Peter asked Jesus what would happen to John, to which Jesus reminded him "follow ME".
5) You might not have the best and newest equipment to run with. David went into battle carrying only a sling and five stones...and the presence and protection of Almighty God.
6) Your contentment cannot come from your circumstances or even your results, but instead from the fact that you are precious to Jesus, and that you are working diligently to follow Him. The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:12&13 that contentment comes from relying on Jesus.
7) You may not win according to the standards and measures of the world, but you have to finish your race. Paul himself speaks of this in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. Jesus rewards those who finish their race, not those who run the fastest, best, or most attractively.

I encourage you to watch this film! It's funny, it's entertaining, and it is indeed a moving picture. Then share with me your insights into Cool Runnings!