Thanking David Beckham (and Gurinder Chadha, Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra)

This post, which is not about soccer, begins at 6:45 p.m. on the Sunday preceding Thanksgiving, one hour and 15 minutes before David Beckham will don the Los Angeles Galaxy uniform for possibly the last time, trying to emphatically conclude an experiment, marred with record losing streaks, coaching changes, and superstar infighting between him and Landon Donovan, that had come so close to derailing as one of the sports world’s biggest busts just two years ago.

I might watch the game. I’m not sure. I’ve just been paying a lot more attention to Beckham the last few weeks, because I need to thank him.

About a month ago, as I melted onto my couch in a post-surgical haze, downing bowls of macaroni and cheese and chocolate chip-cookie-dough ice cream because my operated-upon mouth couldn’t handle anything sufficient, I decided to watch a movie.*God I love movies. I love hitting the OnDemand button on the remote and finding what HBO, Showtime and Skinemax have to offer. I would consider OnDemand the greatest invention since those L.A. Gear sneakers everyone wore as kids that lit up when you stepped on the ground. Partaking in said movie-watching activity doesn’t happen often enough, though, because of time constraints, but on this night, I had a perfect excuse. My newly-grafted gums made me feel like Kanye West when he recorded “Through The Wire.”

*Don’t worry this is not Diary of a Bad Movie Volume II. That will come in time!

There, on the list for movies on Skinemax, I saw Bend It Like Beckham. I had two distinct memories about this movie. I’ll start with the second one: I was at home for some type of holiday or break in college and my sister was watching a movie on the 13-inch Magnavox in our family room. “Oh, Bend It Like Beckham? That movie looks pretty sweet,” I said. She was actually watching The Darjeeling Limited.*

*Post script, I saw Owen Wilson at a bar two weeks ago. He was short. And yes, his nose was rather large.

First memory: Back during my early days of high school, I was a soccer-ignorant American. I read a review in The Kansas City Star for a movie I’d never seen a preview for with the name of a man I’d never heard of distinctly featured in the title. It was Bend It Like Beckham. It was one of those movies I wanted to see but knew I never would. Now I had my opportunity.

Bend It Like Beckham, directed by Gurinder Chadha, is about Jess (Parminder Nagra) and Jules (Keira Knightley). Set in London, Jules finds Jess, a Punjabi Indian, playing soccer in the park one day with a group of boys. She is awesome. She can dribble through tight spaces and has a gnarly curve on her shot. But there is a problem. Her strict, traditional family doesn’t let her wear shorts, let alone play soccer.

At the center of the movie is David Beckham. He never appears in the film, only as the figure on the posters adorning Jess’ wall and in the words of one of her best friends who says that she is so good at soccer she can bend it like Beckham. He is the inspiration driving Jess and Jules. They want to be just like him, and Jess sets out to do it.

I loved the movie; it was as good of a coming-of-age flick I’ve seen in years. Here’s what Robert Butler wrote in the final paragraph of his review (he gave the movie three stars out of four, realizing that something about the movie allowed it to rise above its standard story line):

Moreover, Nagra’s debut as Jess is the sort of Cinderella performance that sends audiences floating out of the theater on a fuzzy cloud of affection and good cheer.

The rest of this post will undoubtedly reek of sentiment, hope and change, and Chicken Soup for the Soul, but I don’t care. After all, it’s Thanksgiving.

Do you ever feel like life slips into a comfortable lull? Everything is good, but everything feels normal, static. You work hard, you have fun on the weekends and you may not even realize something is missing. I think this is particularly apt in the real world. In college, you are surrounded by youth and idealism, and you aim for a particular goal that you expect to finish. That isn’t necessarily the case once you graduate. Goals aren’t as clearly defined.

I needed a reminder, a pick-me-up. Bend It Like Beckham provided that. Jess achieves her dream, and more importantly she does it through unconventional means. I think that was what did it for me. I don’t want to travel the regular path, either.

Now, I’ve never wanted to work harder, and I’ve never wanted to achieve more, and I have more confidence than ever that everything I want to do is possible because of inspiration from a movie, a movie considered by many to be a chick-flick vehicle for promoting girl power. I feel like I CAN DO ANYTHING, and I hope, there is something out there, no matter how trivial or silly it may seem to everyone else, that motivates you to feel the same way every so often.

So, thank you David Beckham, thank you Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Gurinder Chadha. And Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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