Quantum leaps

By Chuck Sigars | Aug 01, 2012

In Wes Anderson’s film “Moonrise Kingdom,” two married people, played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. They could be looking for cracks, although at this point in their marriage they’ve got plenty of those.

McDormand offers an apology, sounding specific but then wandering into “whatever has caused you pain” territory, and then adds, “We’re all we’ve got.”

This is an excellent thing to say, I think.

To which Murray’s character replies, “That’s not enough.”

Which is also an excellent thing to say.

My wife and I saw this movie as part of an extra-long weekend celebration of our 29th wedding anniversary, and we loved it. Would you love it? How would I know?

I also know nothing about marriage. Having only had the one, you see. If you forced me into a corner with threats of violence or green leafy vegetables, as fun as that sounds, demanding advice on marriage, I could probably give you some general nonsense about keeping lines of communication open and how to properly load a dishwasher, but I’d really rather not.

I have absolutely no idea what makes a good marriage, and there’s no reason I should.

But I do understand the sentiment above, that ultimately it’s the two of you against the world, and at the same time that your needs can’t possibly be completely met by that one other person. That’s my experience, anyway; your results may differ.

After dinner and “Moonrise Kingdom,” we watched the Olympics, something we’ve squeezed into our 29 years (wait, let me use my fingers) eight times now, or 16, depending on how you count (and how much you like figure skating).

It feels familiar, in other words, as do our individual Olympics habits. I’m restless, walking around, keeping the TV on in the background, stopping to catch a spectacular dismount or close 400-meter individual medley. My wife, on the other hand, will marathon watch. Including the actual marathon. We are a team, then, minus the Ralph Lauren wardrobes.

And we know what to expect from each other. I know I will hear screaming from the other room when gymnastics are on. She knows I’m biding my time now, waiting for the runners and jumpers, track and field, my favorite part.

She also knows – as some of you may – that at some point I will have to talk about the Greatest Moment In Sports History.

This is that time. By the way. In case you have something to do.

Bob Beamon was the favorite in the long jump, by a little, in 1968 at the Mexico City summer Olympics. He’d had a good year, and it seemed like his time, although there was plenty of fierce competition. Still, he’d won 23 of 24 meets that year, had jumped a personal best of 27 feet 4 inches, and actually momentarily set the world record (27 ft., 6.5 in.) before having it declared ineligible due to wind speed. He was ready for something to happen.

Something did. Something that intrigues me still, 44 years later. Something that feels inexplicable, mystical, maybe magical.

I think sometimes the long jump is the purest individual sport, with an open ending, no finish line and no apparatus. Run, jump, and see where you land. Speed and strength, grace and balance, talent and something else, maybe. Something that Bob Beamon had that day.

In a sport in which records are moved an inch or two at a time, on his first jump of the day, Bob Beamon broke the world record by nearly 2 feet.

He took off in 1968 and landed in 1991, when his leap of 29 ft., 2.5 in. (8.90 meters) was finally broken. He never came close again, and no one of his generation did either. Even in the thin air of Mexico City, no other athlete traveled through time.

As I say, my wife understands. She understands my fascination with this particular sports moment, and how I can launch into endless monologues on other moments of human achievement, athletic or cerebral. Moments of endurance, or survival, or inspiration. It could be Bob Beamon, or Einstein, or Jeff Bezos. It could be Sally Ride.

And she knows why. She knows I’m intrigued by the idea that what is likely to happen in this life is far less interesting than what could, what is possible, what is never ruled out.

As in two young people committing themselves to time travel, 29 years ago. We were impossibly young, I think now, with really no idea of what would come or who we would be. It is worth celebrating.

And if you put me back in that corner, force me to generalize about long relationships, this is what I will say: Sometimes you just jump.

And sometimes the air is thin, and gravity gets distracted, and there’s an open ending. Grace and balance play their parts, and then you look back and marvel at how far you’ve come, and who was with you.

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