“It is always darkest before dawn
when your world is weary,
when all is dark,
where dreams die and fade away,
and all of life is stark,
take heart in gentle love,
for she waits in the wings,
and where she walks,
fairies dance and angels sing,
though you cannot see her,
she weaves a silken touch,
leaving foot prints in the sand,
sprinkling spells and such,
lighting the dampened corridors,
the dark corners of your mind,
leaving you breathless,
bewildered by her kind,
goodness glints in her eyes,
hope is in her arms,
and all you’ve ever dreamed of,
rest sweetly in her charms.” – J Blagojevic
By Rich Lindbloom
Do you have a favorite sports moment, one that warms the cockles of your heart? A moment you wish you could experience over and over again? A moment which dissipates like the wind that Jesus so aptly described in his conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:8; “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” The bottom line- the moment is brief and can’t be captured.
Perhaps if you are over 105 you can remember the moment when the Cubs won a world series. Maybe it was the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” certainly that is a hard one to top-the ultimate hockey war dance, as my brother John put it! I suppose the knuckleheads in St. Louis will be discussing TJ Oshie’s 4 shoot out goals in the USA/Russia game for awhile. Was it Kaner’s heat seeking missile in 2010 that slipped by Michael Leighton in OT? Was it watching “Sweetness,” Walter Payton pat someone on the butt, even helping them up after a huge hit – what a contrast to the modern day warriors who stand gaping and gloating over their opponent?
Could it be the 1990/91 Bulls championship over the Lakers, and even more so their victory over known thugs Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman in the Conference Finals? How about the moment when you see your son score his first goal in a tournament, after recording nothing but lumps and bruises the entire season? Jackie Robinson’s over the shoulder catch or theft of home? The Babe pointing towards Waveland Avenue? Can any of you recall the Japanese gymnast in the 1976 Olympics, Shun Fujimoto, who landed a dismount off of the rings with a fractured patella? Japan narrowly edged Russia for the gold that year as a result of his incredible courage. Something tells me he might make a good hockey player!
One of my favorite moments was the night I saw Keith Magnuson’s #3 hoisted to the rafters. If you were never privileged enough to watch Maggie play, you just wouldn’t understand. Something very special, in addition to a small piece of my heart, was hung in the rafters that night.
But how about you; what’s your favorite moment? I’d love to hear about them, but I would hazard a guess to say they could not top the one I’m about to relate. While surprisingly it doesn’t involve hockey, it does occur where events are contested on frozen pond. It’s a sport that in many ways resembles synchronized swimming on top of the water. For whatever reason, I find myself inexplicably intrigued by both of these events.
Now I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve gone light in the loafers. I have never had a poster of any figure skater hanging on my bedroom wall. Although I must say, The Battle of the Brian’s, in their striking military outfits, had me on the edge of the couch. But it was another event on the ice, one where they wear those funny skates with teeth in them, that I’m about to recall.
The sport of Ice Dance was perfectly described in an article by Ron Judd of the Seattle Times in 2006. It is a hysterical, close up look at this competition. Do yourself a favor and Google his piece – it’s a gem.
“It is an art form that mirrors every facet of the miracle of a man and a woman coming together to become one. The courtship. The Union. The poetic symmetry. The complete and unmitigated contempt when your partner drops you like a sack of dog chow in front of a half a billion people at the Olympics.”
Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio were among the favorites among the contestants in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. They were nearing the end of the original dance portion of the contest when Margaglio lost an edge, purportedly on a sequin from another skater’s costume. I cannot describe what happened after the inauspicious fall any where near as well as Judd did. In his words;
“Seconds later, the Italians, bronze medalists in Salt Lake City, scrambled to their feet, finished their routine ad stood at center ice, preparing to paste on those cheesecake smiles and bow to the crowd. Except Barbara wasn’t quite ready to make happy yet. She was glowering at Maurizio with that special look reserved for guys who forget anniversaries, back the car over their mothers-in-law or misplace kids at the airport. For what seemed like an eternity, she stood there at center ice, glowering first at the ground, then at him, her eyes boring holes into his skull and out the other side.”
As William Congreve noted, “Hell hath no fury like an ice dancer dropped.”
After the quite awkward moment at center ice, the two would not meet again until the free dance portion of the competition almost a week later. That’s right; they had not practiced together for a week in an event that requires tremendous timing and coordination. Basically, you want to be in sync – and while no expert on the sport, taking a week off is probably not the best way to prepare for a five minute ice dance routine.
I you-tubed the British film of the event to relive the moment that has been etched upon my mind. The British broadcaster moments before their free dance segment of the competition half jokingly said they were somewhat surprised Margaglio showed up. Apparently the odds makers gave him a 50% chance of lacing them up that night.
I can vividly recall them cameras focused on them in the waiting area before they took to the ice. Seething with anger, neither contestant would even look at each other. They stormed by each other several times, faces writhing with scorn. Without a doubt, it was an “I spit on your grave,” moment.
The announcers were aghast and were wondering how the two fiery, feuding Italians could possibly skate together without inflicting physical damage upon each other. Many thought Ice Dancing was about to morph into Broadstreet Bullies hockey. Clearly, a Tonya Harding move seemed to be in the offing. No one would have been surprised if one, or both of the skaters went crashing head first into the boards.
As they took to the ice, they skated in different directions. Anyone watching that night was expecting a failure of epic proportions. Just prior to the start of their routine, Barbara gave Maurizio one more prolonged icy glare as if to say, “If you throw me into the boards, I will kill you.” They then, reluctantly, assumed their starting positions, a position that started out with Barbara lying parallel to the ice on Maurizio’s leg. This is just me thinking, but his leg was probably the last place in the world she wanted to be at that time. In a last moment of contempt for poor Maurizio, she angrily flips her skirt across her legs. The body language of both skaters suggested that this free dance was going to be very interesting, if not a monumental disaster.
When I told my friend Mike that it is always darkest before dawn once, he quipped “Actually, it’s always darkest before pitch black.” Pitch black is perhaps the best way to describe the nervous moment that the three time Olympians found themselves immersed in. The next five minutes were a hold your breath affair for anyone who had the courage to watch it. (I was actually thinking on one of those lifts where he swung her over his shoulder, Maurizio should have given Barbara a good spanking.)
However, it proved to be one of those moments in life that supersede winning or losing. It was something much bigger than that. I’m speculating, but I don’t think anyone watching that performance was not cheering them on. There was no Italian, American, Canadian or Russian jingoism at that moment. Rather, the crowd cheered for two human beings trying to fight through an unfortunate break and their reaction to it. Would they be able to overcome the effects of drinking and wallowing in their poisonous anger and contempt for a week?
Fortunately, they put in a solid performance or there may have been one less Italian in the world that night. They skated almost flawlessly, even if it wasn’t as exciting as a Torvill and Dean performance (clearly the bench mark of the Ice Dancing world.) It goes without saying, no one rested easy until the music stopped and Barbara collapsed to the ice, finally succumbing to the weight of an “ocean of emotion.” Her eyes pointed to the ice this time, she knelt in what appeared to be total exhaustion. A week of festering anger and contempt dissipated like the wind.
Margaglio reached down, took her by the hands and lifted her up. The ensuing, passionate, embrace at center ice sort of encapsulated all that is right in the human spirit. Barbara buried her face in his chest, clasping to the partner she so despised only minutes earlier – “taking heart in gentle love” as Blagojevic put it.
The audience of course cheered with robust enthusiasm. Fusar Poli and Margaglio started waving to the crowd, and blew kisses and waved and blew more kisses. Two very human skaters who only moments before could not stand to look at each other, held hands like two young lovers in spring. Looking at the smiles on their faces certainly surpassed any miraculous scores they could have attained to place them back in medal contention. They received good marks from the judges, although no one was keeping score at this moment. The moment of reconciliation and restoration far surpassed any medal they could have added to their dusty mantle.
Funny, I can’t recall who won this event. Hell, I have a hard time remembering who won last years Super Bowl. Yet, I’ll never forget the sixth place performance of the Italian Ice Dancing team of Fusar Poli/ Margaglio. Although they did not win a gold medal in this event, they were clearly the champions in the minds of any who were watching. As recorded in Genesis 2:24, the two skaters had “become one flesh,” if only for five minutes. My heart still roars its approval.
“One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness;
one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world’s
end somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune or fame.” – Willa Carter