“If you can meet Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;”
You enter Centre Court at Wimbledon from the locker rooms by walking through a tunnel and then through a door leading out to the court. Above that door are those words emblazoned on the overhead.
I don’t know this from personal experience. I mean, I’ve never played on Centre Court at Wimbledon, YET … just in case you might have wondered.
Those words come from Runyard Kipling’s 1899 poem entitled, “If.” I’ve copied the entire poem at the end of this newsletter.
I first came across the poem when I was in junior high. I discovered that poets can also be men of action. Prior to that, I thought the only place for poetry was on a Hallmark card, full of sappy, maudlin, sentimentalism or in a teen-aged girl’s diary. I learned that poetry can deal with both the brutal and the sublime, the tranquility of the Grand Canyon as well as the chaos of war.
“If,” along with “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson and “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen, had a profound effect on me as a teenager. (I’ve written about my discovery of poetry in “Transitive Verbs” from January 27 of this year.)
So this isn’t about poetry. It’s about the message of the poem.
The drama that unfolded at Wimbledon last week, at least so far — the tournament is still going on — didn’t occur on Centre Court where the championship is played. History was made in the first round on lowly court 18, of the 19 courts at Wimbledon. Court 18 isn’t where you’ll find the well known marquee players. The venue is small and has no lights. Tickets for that first round match were plentiful. You could imagine that people showed up wanting tickets to one of the matches that included at least one well known tennis great, only to discover that those matches were sold out.
“OK, what have you got left?” the disappointed Wimbledon spectator asked.
“Well, we’ve got plenty of tickets for court 18,” said the ticket seller.
“Court 18??? Who’s playing there?”
“John Isner and Nicolas Mahut.”
“Who?? Never heard of ‘em. That’s it? Nothing else? Well … whatever … I’ll take one.” said the spectator, dejectedly.
But oh … what a sweet and fortuitous turn of events that was! Those unlikely, and mostly unwanted, tickets became the Golden Tickets of the tournament. The Golden Tickets of tennis history.
Everything changed on court 18.
You’d have to be living in a cave not to know what happened in that match. It became the greatest tennis match in history. (Well, that might be debatable.) But there is no debating that it became the longest match in tennis history. It took three days of play to finish it and in the process just about every tennis record in the books was shattered … obliterated!
I started watching it on the first day in the fourth set. If you’re not a tennis player, the men play the best of 5 sets at Wimbledon. It’s not uncommon for a men’s match to take 2 or possibly 3 hours to play. At the point that I started watching, the set count was even, 2 sets each and was already beyond 4 hours long. What followed defies description.
You don’t have to be a tennis fan to understand that what happened in that match was beyond the imagination of anything a tennis fan could have imagined. More than anyone could have conceived. Sports writers and sports announcers have tried in vain to describe it. I heard sports announcers trying to come up with analogies from other sports to give the non-tennis fans a sense of what that match was like. One commentator said that it was like a major league baseball game going 90 innings. Another said it was like a college basketball game going 12 overtimes.
The thing about singles tennis is that it’s just you and the other player. There’s no team. There are no substitutions. No time outs. No half time. No ties. No pep talks, strategizing, or help from your coach. Nothing stops play except in the case of an injury or a rare bathroom break. Or in the case of this match, darkness caused the match to be suspended … twice!
And in the case of Wimbledon, there is no 5th set tiebreaker. You play on.
Anyone who knows the game will tell you that tennis is a mental sport. It requires concentration, focus, and patience. Physically it requires execution, stamina, skill and athleticism. All of those things have a shelf life in a match, a point at which those things degrade and evaporate. After a couple of hours, that’s about it. Beyond that, things fall apart. Fatigue, distractions, cramps, impatience, anger, frustration, mental weakness, personality, weather and a whole host of other variables effect the way a player executes.
Only the greatest of champions can keep it together for more than a few hours. But in the case of John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, they kept it together and played unbelievable tennis for over 11 hours, stretching over three days! I kept waiting for the wheels to fall off. I kept waiting for the sheer pressure, weight, and enormity of the event to take its toll on those guys. Someone was going to start making mistakes. But none of that happened. The match became a reality separate from the tournament itself. And they played remarkable and exemplary tennis right up to the final point.
I was beside myself when the match was finally over! I could barely contain my emotion! I jumped to my feet along with everyone at court 18! It was absolutely the most phenomenal thing I’d ever seen in sports.
I’m pretty sure that Kipling didn’t have tennis in mind when he wrote “If.” He probably didn’t think about a three day tennis match as he wrote that poem. But you’d be hard pressed to find many better examples of the inspiration of that poem, all played out on an international stage.
I found that poem among my grandfather’s papers after he died. If my grandfather, my “Big Dad,” had saved that poem then it must have been important, I reasoned. So I determined to try to conduct my life according to those words. I’ve struggled and faltered, been inconsistent and disappointed in myself when I’ve failed to live accordingly. But always that poem has served as a beacon of what I should strive for, a reflection of what a man should be.
And though the poem is intended to give a young man a vision of what being a man means, I think it applies to all of us who desire to be the best version of ourselves, our idealized self, the highest reflection of our humanity, the “better angels of our nature.”
I hope the poem will be that for you today, a beacon of what we can strive to become. Living to the fullest, one day at a time. Not waiting until the weekend to engage life!
And I hope the folks at Wimbledon will possess the wisdom to have those words painted above the player’s entrance to Court 18.
I want to take this opportunity to thank each of you who donated money or bought items in the silent auction. Our fundraising efforts allowed me to send Tabitha over $2200.00!
“THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Oh my gosh, I am in tears! Tears of Joy, just got the Fedex letter with my card and checks….You guys are the most amazing group of folks I have the pleasure of being surrounded by in spirit. Many many thanks, hugs and kisses to the bootcamp gang!
She is doing great and recovery is on track! She told me that she’ll be able to pay off the ambulance fees and make a payment toward her hospital bills!
Thank you everyone! You truly ARE an amazing group of folks!
JULY 4th WEEKEND
There will be no evening workout on Friday, July 2.
There will one workout on Monday, July 5th at 7 AM!
I’ve been asked to consider teaching a low cost self defense class on an upcoming, but as yet undetermined, Saturday morning. I’d be willing if there’s interest. Email me or let me know on the Quarterdeck if you’d be interested.
WANT TO LOSE 15 POUNDS BY THE END OF JULY?
Take Shape For Life is the BEST weight loss program I know of. If you’d like to lose weight talk to me. This is the program I used to lose the almost 30 pounds I gained after knee surgery. Let me help you!
You can also go to www.combatchallenge.tsfl.com/
If you’d like more information, we’ll have an informal get together of everyone in the program on Thursday night at 7 PM at Panera Bread. Feel free to come and ask questions or just learn about Take Shape For Life.
BOGA tomorrow at CUMC @ 0530. BOGA is one half hard core boot camp fitness and one half power yoga … BO-GA!
TUESDAY & THURSDAY EVENING CLASS
The Tuesday and Thursday evening classes meet at St. Agnes’ track. These are cardio (walking/jogging/running) workouts and they begin at 5:45 PM.
St. Agnes is at the corner of Walnut Grove and Mendenhall.
Should the St. Agnes track be occupied or the field being used, making the track unavailable to us, we’ll go to St. Mary’s track, at Walnut Grove and Perkins.
A calendar has been added to the official USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP website.
For you visual learners, you’ll find this an easy way to glance at the week or month and see where the workouts will be, if there’s a venue change.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master,
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
What would you do if money were not an issue, fear were not a factor, and failure were not an option?
To your optimum health and fitness!
SEE YOU ON THE QUARTERDECK!
Sergeant Major Tony Ludlow
USMC Fitness BOOT CAMP, Commanding
Mailing address: 4888 Southern Ave., Memphis, TN 38117
Cell Phone: 901-644-0145