I am a weird sports editor.
When it comes to viewing sports on television in my free time, you can call me a casual fan at best. The only sport I truly dedicate time to outside of the workplace is college football, and that is usually only if Oklahoma or Oklahoma State are playing.
There are exceptions, of course, but I mostly like to focus on building my Funko POP! collection and binge watching "Scooby-Doo" cartoons with my wife when I’m not covering high school sports in Rogers County.
This also means I haven’t seen a lot of the classic sports movies people love.
“The Express”, “The Sandlot”, “Coach Carter”, “Rudy”, “Hoosiers”, the “Creed” franchise, “Moneyball”, “Invincible” and all but the fourth installment of the “Rocky” franchise are pieces of cinema I have somehow never seen.
Please don’t take my sports fan card.
However, there is one film that has always stuck out as my favorite sports movie, and that is ‘Bend It Like Beckham’.
This is an inspirational soccer movie that my sister and I watched countless times while growing up in the early 2000s, and if you read my column from a few weeks back about my family heritage and my obsession with the Panini World Cup sticker albums, you can probably guess why.
Soccer is in my family’s blood, plain and simple.
The story revolves around British Indian teenager Jesminder “Jess” Bhamra who wants to be like her hero David Beckham and play professional soccer, but she keeps getting thwarted by her family and its desires for her life.
This is foreshadowed in the opening scene as Bhamra dreams she is in a match in which she scores the game-winning goal on an assist from Beckham himself. The scene then cuts to a TV studio where a trio of commentators tout Bhamra as the “answer to England’s prayers.”
However, her overbearing mother is also in studio and responds by saying she shouldn’t be playing futbol because she is a girl.
A common theme through the movie is “Indian women don’t play futbol”, which is an ideal Bhamra, whose bedroom is covered with Beckham posters and jerseys, had to deal with for the entirety of the film.
I can somewhat relate to her struggles, though mine weren’t nearly as severe.
I began playing football when I was eight years old, but my love to play the game began dwindling during my sophomore year of high school. That is when I started sharing time between football and cross-country.
My playtime obviously took a hit, and when it came time for the annual parent-player meeting before the summer break heading into my junior year, I decided I’d rather focus on running.
Deciding was the easy part. Telling my parents was an entirely different obstacle.
In the Green family, playing football was simply expected. My dad played at Carl Albert from 1982-1985, my uncle Terry was a walk-on at OSU and my other uncle Rod was a star at Choctaw High School.
It was more than just a game; it was a lifestyle. Playing at Carl Albert intensified that fact even more.
I couldn’t even get the words out until my mother and I were about to walk out the door and head to the meeting. She was shocked by the revelation and immediately called my dad, who was at work.
He thought I was quitting, and though it looked like that on the surface, that wasn’t my mindset. I just wanted to focus my efforts on something that I could control as an individual.
Because football has so many players, there is always someone to blame when something doesn’t go as planned. In running, though, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Although he ultimately supported my decision, my dad gave me a hard time about moving on from football. Like Bhamra’s parents’ view of “Indian women don’t play futbol”, I was living the “Greens don’t quit” narrative.
However, I was blessed by the fact I didn’t have to sneak around to do what I desired. Bhamra did, scheming several lies to continue competing with the local women’s soccer team.
After Bhamra was caught and reprimanded several times by her parents, her father eventually cracked and allowed her to play in a tournament final despite it being held during a family wedding.
Bhamra propelled her team to victory, scoring the game-winner when she managed to bend a free kick around a wall of defenders and into the net — just like Beckham.
Bhamra and her best friend/teammate Jules, who has a similar character arc, were rewarded full-ride soccer scholarships to Santa Clara University as a result, and her parents eventually conceded their controlling ways and allowed her to make the move from England to California.
This movie works so well because the character development allows us to see multiple prominent cultural and social issues that no teenagers should have to endure, regardless of race and heritage.
As the movie progresses, you intimately care about how Bhamra is going to overcome her helicopter parents. You desperately want her parents to accept her gifts because her potential as a soccer star is limitless.
If Jesminder Bhamra taught me anything, it is that if you care about your success more than anything else, you will be successful.
If you believe in yourself, you can make it happen.
Regardless of what others want for you, you can’t stroll or walk after your destiny.
You can’t even fix what happened in the past, but you can run after what is in front of you, which is your destiny.
Why not start today? When you’re doing something you love, things you thought were impossible suddenly become possible and surpassable.