Roger Federer and Ernest Borgnine, Lessons in Belief

This past Sunday marked a footnote in history for two very different, but extraordinary lives. Roger Federer won his 7th Wimbledon Championship, And Ernest Borgnine died. How are these men connected? In brief, belief.

For years I never saw the appeal of tennis. It was like human Pong. But not as exciting. But one day I came across a Wimbledon match and found myself getting drawn in. It wasn’t Pong. It was Chess. That was a long time ago, and I’ve been a fan ever since. There are few sports, if any that call on the combination of mental focus and physical endurance. These matches can last 5 hours! A few years ago one lasted three days! Roger Federer is considered by many who know the sport much better than I, the greatest to ever play the game. But he is 30 years old, almost 31. In tennis years that is your twilight, if not outright retirement.The last time Roger won Wimbledon was in 2009. I was in Maine on kind of a pilgrimage. I had been camping and really had no idea what day it was, or what was happening in the world. But I was starting to talk to the trees again so I thought I should go into town and find human interaction. I went into a bar at the dock for a lobster roll and a cup of chowder. On a TV behind the bar, I saw it was the Wimbledon Men’s Final. It was in the 5th set, featuring the familiar Roger Federer, playing Andy Roddick the Austin hometown hero.I watched as they headed to a 5th set tiebreak, and then deeply into it. The gist of a 5th set tiebreak is that whoever blinks first, wins. And neither was blinking. My lobster roll and chowder were long gone. I switched from coffee to beer to justify my seat. But everybody blinks, and in this case It was Andy. I never wanted to hug a man I didn’t know more than I did Andy that day. But, yet, again there was Roger in that familiar place of champion.That was the last time Roger won it. That is before he won it again on Sunday. In doing so he also reclaimed the rank of #1. All the experts said neither could be done. Roger could never reach the top again. His best days were behind him. -They were wrong. 

Ernest Borgnine achieved a similar and arguably even more amazing feat, he was a working actor for over 60 years. And he did it with a mug like a pug. Along the way Borgnine was in some of the all-time  classics in film history. He won an Oscar for Marty, a role he was born to play. I do not mean to be unkind when I say he had an unforgiving face for film. But it was the heart that glowed so brightly behind it that captured us.  He found something within himself, a belief. Something brighter, louder than the obstacles he faced. We are richer for it. Both for the career, and for the lessons. The world needs believers, the ones who defy the odds. Some would say that it’s cruel to give belief to those most certainly doomed to fail. But there will always be the ones who cannot hear doubt, who cannot see anything other than their singular dreams coming true. We all have teachers. The question is what are you being taught? And by who? Are you being taught by the people who say it can’t be done? Or are you being taught by those who do it anyway? Because it matters. Just ask Roger Federer.  



Published in: on July 11, 2012 at 8:15 AM  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Mark, although I didn’t follow the career of either one of these gentlemen, I still appreciated this blog post for the message. “The world needs believers,” indeed!

  2. Amen. Amen.

  3. What a wonderful expression of inspiration! So, unlikely yet a deep resonance within. A lovely message: No matter who you are or what you aspire to, have faith and perserverance. It shall be yours. Thank you for these uplifting thoughts for my morning!

  4. I love your message this week. Anytime anyone, myself most especially, tells me that I can’t ______, I should say, “really? How do we/I know until I try?” I might surprise myself with some pretty cool stuff, and I’d hate to miss that!

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