Sunday, January 20, 2008

VISION: Gentile Revolutionaries - vs. - Tub-thumpers!

"Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 'If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.'"
Luke 14:25-26 [25-35]
The 60s were noted for revolutionary hype; individuals and groups such as Angela Davis, The Chicago 7, Timothy Leary, and Yoko “Oh-no,” with their radical thought and behavior, seemed to dominate the day.

But for pure, undefiled, radical thought moved to action, no one could one-up Dick Fosbury in that tumultuous decade.

Fosbury, an Oregon State University student revolutionized track & field‘s high jump with a technique one writer called “at once simple and sublime.”

While the rest of the world was content to high-jump with a forward-facing straddle, called the "Western roll," Fosbury concluded a backward flop was better. He unveiled his radical technique at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Unfortunately, a black-gloved, black-power statement from the winner’s platform by two American athletes overshadowed his unveiling.

From a sweeping arc approach, the jumper propels his shoulders over the bar first, left followed by right … the rest follows — back, rump, calves, Nikes.

It didn't take long for the "Fosbury Flop" to revolutionize the high jump. The reasons for its abrupt success were simple: less of the jumper's body was exposed to the bar.

By flopping in a vertical line, a jumper limited the absolute length of bar cleared, a claim the straddle or scissors methods could not make. Arching the back after the shoulders cleared at a point on the bar improved a jumper’s odds of success, compared with the traditional stretching out horizontally over the length of the bar.

The flop also allowed jumpers to generate more approach speed, this made the high jump a much more watchable and dramatic event.

Fosbury was a true revolutionary in the 1960s, one who left something for others rather than one who took something away from others.

[Adapted from’s “the Forgotten Century” in “Flopping into history Dick Fosbury revolutionized high jump with technique that was simple and sublime” by John Crumpacker; Dec 10, 1999; Copyright (C) 1999 Pro Sports Xchange via News Digital Media, d/b/a]

In Merriam-Webster’s dictionary it says one who is a vociferous supporter (as in a cause) is a “tub-thumper.” They give the following as an example of its usage:

Aunt Lucille was a tub-thumper for temperance who never passed up an opportunity to sermonize fervently on the evils of the “demon drink” and the virtues of abstinence.

Now Dick Fosbury was not a tub-thumper. I was there! I remember very well his efforts to introduce his revolutionary “flop.” I also remember the celebrity, sports commentators who criticized the flop and Fosbury. I remember more than one “expert” saying, “Give it a couple of years and it will be a vague memory. It's so silly, who will want to do it?”

I was also at San Jose State (College in those days) when Tommy Smith and the other black runner represented our school at the Olympics in Mexico City. And I was there in front of my TV when the evening news showed their pictures, gloved fists raised in the air, heads bowed. In the best sense of the term, they were not tub-thumpers either.

I met Tommy Smith and remember Dick Fosbury, they were both gentle and soft-spoken young men. They were not obnoxious or even annoying in their zeal for what they believed in, they were simply revolutionaries. In many ways they had the paradoxical brick-in-velvet characteristic of Jesus. They knew what they believed in and were willing to stand up and be counted whatever the cost.

Oh how the Bride of Christ needs men of such conviction today, not tub-thumpers … just gentle, committed revolutionaries. Like Luther, Calvin, Moody, Tyndale, Wesley, and many others.

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