For me, it’s hard to hear the word ‘image’ without thinking of Andre Agassi. For those of you who don’t know, Andre Agassi was one of the greatest tennis players of the 1990’s and 2000’s (if not one of the greatest players ever). Beyond his play, he was known for his style and charisma, which prompted this commercial for Canon:
It was in this commercial that Andre made the line “image is everything” famous. It truly was, and is, a transcendent line. Just google that term and see how many companies use it as their tagline or even in their company name.
We all want to be seen as something, to portray ourselves in
a certain way. Sports plays into that. We want to be known as a good player at our sport of choice. We want to be known as the parent of a talented athlete. We want to be known as a fan of the winning team. It goes on and on. Sports becomes part of our identity.
Part of Andre Agassi’s image was not just being a good tennis player though. His identity was also found in how he looked. He wore bright colors. He often would take his shirt off. He wore an assortment of headbands. This was all part of an “image’ he wanted to portray. The most important of all of these though was his long, flowing hair. It was unique. It made him stand out.
Now, imagine what would happen if he were to lose the “crown jewel” of his image. Well, that’s exactly what happened.
Former Wimbledon champion Andre Agassi wore a lion mane-style wig during the 1990s to hide his baldness.
‘Every morning I would get up and find another piece of my identity on the pillow, in the wash basin, down the plughole.
In the French open in 1990, he was in the final, his first in a Grand Slam tournament.
‘Then a fiasco happened,’ he said. ‘The evening before the match, I stood under the shower and felt my wig suddenly fall apart.
‘Probably I used the wrong hair rinse. I panicked and called my brother Philly into the room.
‘”It’s a total disaster!” I said to him. He looked at it and said he could clamp it with hair clips.
‘It took 20 clips. “Do you think it will hold?” I asked. “Just don’t move so much,” he said.
‘Of course I could have played without my hairpiece, but what would all the journalists have written if they knew that all the time I was really wearing a wig?
‘During the warming-up training before play I prayed. Not for victory, but that my hairpiece would not fall off.
With each leap, I imagine it falling into the sand.
‘I imagine millions of spectators move closer to their TV sets, their eyes widening and, in dozens of dialects and languages, ask how Andre Agassi’s hair has fallen from his head.’
He lost the final against Andres Gomez from Ecuador.
Agassi lost because he was too concerned about being found out. His image was that important to him. What an unbelievable story.
You might be surprised to hear that I would agree with Andre though. I do believe image is everything. I remembered this story of Andre Agassi this week as I was reading Jonathan Dodson’s book, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, and came across this section:
We discipline ourselves to lose weight, or climb the vocational ladder, learn new techniques, make moral decisions, or strive to be in the know, all to gain the images we so desperately want. We fight and scrap to obtain our desired perception. Why? Because we believe that being perceived a certain way will make us truly happy. We fight with whatever it takes—money, time, sacrifice, overworking, and the occasional white lie. In doing so, we believe a lie. We express faith in what is false. We rely on the unreliable. Only after we realize our tendency to build our identity on things that are untrue and unreliable can we begin to sink our identity into what is truly reliable. Nobility and beauty travel along the lines of truth.
Christianity is about image. It affirms that we were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26–28), disfigured in our fall with Adam (Rom. 5:12–21), and are in desperate need of renewal. This image constitutes our essential dignity as human beings. It is an imprint of the Creator’s divine nature, which includes our ability to rule and relate. Apart from the redeeming work of God to restore our image, we rule and relate in very distorted ways. We rule over instead of for one another, and we relate out of a distorted sense of what will truly make us happy. As a result, we treat God and others with contempt and disregard. The good news is that God wants to restore our image in Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10). He promises a restored image in Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). He holds up the image of Jesus as most glorious, and through the gospel, opens our eyes to his never-ending beauty (2 Cor. 4:6).
Image is everything…because it’s God’s image that we were created in and this image God desires to be known throughout the world. I hope you will remember this the next time you find yourself concerned with your own image.