Borg/McEnroe - Understanding the Misunderstood

Borg/McEnroe (2018) absolutely blew me away. It held my all of my ADD-prone attention from beginning-to-end. Everything from the cinematography and editing, to the actors' performances; the biopic feels much more like a documentary.  The movie delves into the lives of two members within a community who are ostracized because of their individual personas conflicting with a level of "class," regardless of their exceeding professional results.

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We watch as two professional tennis players, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, climb their way up the 1980 Wimbledon tennis tournament bracket. On the surface, yes, we can all Google search "1980 Wimbledon," see the results and say to ourselves, “Oh, (insert name) wins. Don’t need to see that one!” (Not to mention there are tons of documentation on this specific sporting event.) The film is obviously much more than that.

McEnroe is notorious in American culture for having an explosive temper. One of the first things we see in his 1980 portrayal is a highlight reel of his on-court tantrums. Flashbacks explain how he's gotten to that point... Cue sympathy. Sculpted by family and off-court circumstances, it comes to our understanding that his temper is a form of hyper-focus he’s incapable of controlling. It’s his way of playing the game; a kind of superpower. However, it negatively effects his image. He is an athlete with a desire to win — like anybody else in his field — but his loose cannons prevent him from being likable because it makes him look like an asshole. He sacrifices likability for victory.

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The same is applicable to Borg as he disputes referees and trivializes his coach in younger years until his tennis club demands a change in behavior. He agrees to mask emotion in order to continue playing the sport, and it plunges him into borderline insanity. Cut to 1980, his prematch routine is ritualistic to the point of madness. Yet, after painstakingly teaching himself to channel his emotions, he becomes the greatest player of his time.

McEnroe obsesses over how Borg does what he does (Borg is a 4-time reigning Wimbledon champion at this point). Witnessing a televised interview of a stoic Borg, he acknowledges his own lack of control, “You know how many times I’ve tried to go into a match like that!?” It’s only until we understand who Borg is, when we realize he admires McEnroe and the freedom to play without an emotional filter.

Tennis is not just a game. It is life. However cliché that may sound with regard to sports movies, it’s never been more prevalent than in this one. Despite their different styles of play, the two players have an obsession to be the absolute best. However, in the world of Tennis, it's conform or die.

Passion links intensity and drive. We all have our own unique way of going about life, accomplishing a task, creating a work of art, making a movie, and even down to organizing clutter. Just because your own way of pursuing your dreams may be regarded as unconventional doesn't mean you're wrong, or that you stop trying. Apply yourself. Ignore the haters, do you and commit.

Also, go watch this movie!

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