Every now and again, I see a modern rendering of Jacob's dramatic wrestling match with an angel (or God, or Esau, or his "dark twin"...you pick). Consider, for example, a recent professional golf tournament. Playing on a ruptured ACL and two stress fractures in his leg, Tiger Woods endured 5 days and 91 holes of U.S. Open competition before claiming victory. Afterward, we learned of his injuries and that Woods will be unable to compete for the rest of the season because of them. Fans and journalists remain astonished, and the golfer has become the object of pious adoration. “The simple fact,” gushed one sportswriter, “is there are no words to explain satisfactorily what we saw . . . ; no ordinary measure of achievement by which to judge Tiger's [success]; and no way of really knowing just how much mental and physical agony he went through.”
Like Jacob, Woods struggled through a laborious competition despite a painful leg injury. But I saw the shadow of Jacob fall more directly over Woods’s unlikely challenger, Rocco Mediate, who one golf analyst remarked, “looks like the guy who cleans Tiger's swimming pool.” (Classy, eh?). By most standards, Mediate is an average professional golfer. He’s 45 years old, at the end of his career, has few wins to his credit, and suffers from a bad back. Nevertheless, Mediate nearly won. During the tournament, fans slowly grew enchanted with the unassuming golfer. And since his loss, Mediate's endeavor has reached legendary status. One sportswriter called him “the every man’s hero,” and another concluded, “Tiger may have won, but Mediate showed more control, character and guts than any Woods challenger in memory.”Campbell once remarked, “what you’re really looking for is an experience of life. And one of the experiences is a good fight.” What a sporting event can do, he continued, is showcase a “good fight,” contain the violence, and give people an exhilarating experience of life. No doubt, Mediate’s heroic accomplishment wasn’t defeating the giant, but rather standing up to him and fighting the good fight.