There’s a great article in today’s Globe and Mail on the Bilodeau family, by Ian Brown. It picks up the heartwarming story already familiar to us about how oldest son Frederic, who has cerebral palsy, inspires his brother Alexandre, Canada’s first gold medallist of the current Olympic games. But Brown pushes a little deeper — not to undo the inspiration, but to give it greater nuance, greater complexity. He asks, for example, if Alexandre also inspires Frederic. And he gives Frederic, now something of a celebrity himself, a presence for readers that includes but is greater than his disease.
I always enjoy Ian Brown’s writing, and here I appreciate — and also marvel a little — at how directly he pushes into Frederic’s reality, more boldly than many journalists might, I think. I’m guessing this is because Brown has a son with severe disabilities and is not, therefore, uneasy or afraid of him. I haven’t yet read Brown’s book, The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Search for His Disabled Son, which recently won both the Charles Taylor Prize and British Columbia’s National Award, but I remember the compelling honesty of the series in the Globe that became the book. (A good review of it here.)
Today’s story also reveals how much Alexandre’s win is affecting the family. The change doesn’t feel entirely good. The father, Serge, insisted two nights after the win that they have a meal as a family again. He didn’t want to let the media “steal Alex from us.” But, of course, he’s already been taken. When the family arrived at the hotel to eat, hundreds of people were there, clamouring for Alexandre’s autograph.
It makes me wish we could all just leave him alone now; he has his medal; we Canadians have ours. But as soon as I write this, I realize the irony. I’m feeling quite free to discuss him and his family, as if, in fact, they belong to all of us. This too is part of the complexity of sports.
Speaking of which, I’d like to draw attention to a comment by Leona written to my earlier post, reacting to Christopher Hitchens’ cynical view of sports. Comments add a welcome and unique dynamic to a blog, but I want to highlight this one in particular. It counters Hitchens’ grumpiness with a personal witness to the sporting event featured in the movie Invictus. Leona and her husband were living in South Africa at the time. Invictus is a good movie, and so is her story.