As I watched Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber compete in the finals at Wimbledon this morning, I was thrilled not only by their athleticism and skill but perhaps even more by the powerful symbolism of the event.
In a world where racial animosity seems to be at its historic peak, the two women presented a stark contrast in appearance but they were twins in talent and will.
Serena won this one. It was Angelique who won the last time they faced each other – in the finals of the Australian Open. The next time they meet, either might win. Both are magnificent champions.
And they gave a magnificent display of grace, skill, power and resolve today.
After this morning’s match, as I watched them hug each other with mutual admiration and obvious affection, I thought of the white policemen in America shooting black men with so little compunction and the black veteran who struck back in misdirected rage, killing those innocent officers in Dallas.
I thought of the demagogues who seek power by inciting racial hatred, of the resurgence of the KKK that Donald Trump has inspired, and of the xenophobic plague infecting Britain and Europe in the wake of racial and religious conflicts in the Mideast and elsewhere.
These are the thoughts that could bring despair. But like a beacon of hope in a sea of darkness, there is the fellowship of sports. The sisterhood and brotherhood that come from the shared pursuit of physical excellence and consummate skill.
Sports can bring out the best in us humans – the generous admiration of an opponent’s performance even when we lose, for example.
As Rudyard Kipling described it:
There is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth, when two strong men stand face to face though they come from the ends of the earth!
Or – as in the match I just watched – two strong women.