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Face To Face With The Agony Of Defeat

If you’re over a certain age and watched ABC’s Wide World of Sports, you’re certain to remember the opening footage of a ski jumper tumbling down the ramp as the narrator’s voice proclaims “…and the agony of defeat.” 

It’s an iconic sports clip in television history. If you would like to see it scan the QR code. You’ll appreciate the throwback to sport legends of that era and the grainy TV quality pre HD.

Last month our family was traveling in Slovenia. Our tour guide asked, “Do you know who the most famous Slovenian is?” He gave us a hint when he bellowed out “The thrill of victory…” and I finished with “and the agony of defeat!”

He was referring to Vinko Bogataj. He is the fateful jumper that millions watched tumbling down the ski ramp, over and over, each and every week on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

I told our guide “I’ve seen that fall hundreds of times.” 

He said, “Well, he’s a friend of mine, would you like to meet him?”

Next thing I know, we are in a quaint alpine village, under a grapevine pergola, meeting Vinko and his wife. They were so welcoming and broke out a bottle of wine served with cheese and crackers. I love Slovenian hospitality.

In case you’re wondering, Vinko miraculously survived the fall and was ready to jump again on that same day. Thank goodness the event officials would not let him.

If Vinko had won a gold medal that day, he certainly would have enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame.

The irony is, however, ABC’s opening for Wide World of Sports made him even more famous. Having seen him fall 100’s of times, I wanted to meet him. Apparently so do thousands of other people. That fall made him a  celebrity and now he makes appearances all over the world. Here we are 50 years later, and he recently threw the first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirates game and is scheduled to attend a ski jumping event in Boston. 

We all have our moments in life where things don’t go as planned. This just goes to show that even after a huge fall, literally in this case, you can still have Good Things Happen.

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