The last movie that really touched me was … was … wait a minute: A movie that touched me? How far back can I go? College? Childhood? Does “Bambi” count?
I don’t go to movies to be touched. I go for the entertainment. A comedy takes me away from my cares; a romance … uh … I don’t do romance movies; “The Godfather” makes me check the back seat to make sure Luca Brasi isn’t lurking.
But crying at a movie?
Last week, I saw the trailer for “Invictus,” a story of the 1995 World Cup rugby tournament played in South Africa, a country just recovering from the scourge of apartheid.
The country’s president, Nelson Mandela, a black man, saw the World Cup as a way to unite his country, to show that whites and blacks were meant to be equal partners, not haughty oppressors and bedraggled oppressed.
The title, “Invictus,” is taken from a short poem by the same name, written by British poet William Ernest Henley. A testimonial to self-reliance and fortitude in the face of peril, the poem features the oft-quoted line, “My head is bloody but unbowed.”
That’s rugby, a sport that demands the unity Mandela sought and the spirit of bouncing back even when blood is streaming, either literally or figuratively, from a gash in the forehead.
As a metaphor for the triumph of will, rugby nobly represents how a community — whether a nation or a state, a city or a neighborhood — can triumph if the focus is on the team and on the value of talent rather than on the cancer of ignorance.
Yes, I played rugby. I love it. But even if “Invictus” were about how a game of contract bridge brought a nation together, I think I would have shed tears to realize the miracle teamwork can bring about.
During apartheid, rugby was seen as the white man’s game, while soccer was the favored sport of the black majority. “Invictus” is not just another sports movie; it is about leadership and taking a meaningful, perhaps even nation-changing, risk.
Jay Patel, a local Springs’ community leader who is from South Africa said, “I look forward to seeing this movie because it shows just how pivotal a role the South African rugby team had on the smooth transition of power from the minority white Afrikaners to the majority black people.”
The Springboks played the New Zealand national team in the final game.
I watched it on TV. The energy and emotion in that stadium leaped from the screen. Both blacks and whites were chanting, “Nel-son! Nel-son!”
Such unity is what Colorado Springs needs. It doesn’t happen by accident; it requires Mandela-like leadership, the eagerness to embrace meaningful risks.
Admit it, you thought this was going to be another of my columns championing a rugby stadium, and that’s still my dream. But that’s not why I’m writing today.
I’m writing so that the spirit, if not every detail, of “Invictus” can make a difference in the lives of those who live here and care about progress and the setting aside of differences so that the achievements can soar.
The Springboks won that 1995 championship game, and the white captain, Pienaar, accepted the trophy from the black president, Mandela. Not so long before, Pienaar would have had the legal right to treat Mandela as an inferior.
No wonder the movie is called “Invictus.” The poem’s last lines are: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
Which means two things: First, I’m going to see “Invictus” as soon as it hits town, and second, I’m not giving up on that rugby stadium.
Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.