Thanks For the Own Goal!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Vision Quest - Ever Hear of Pele?

I made reference to it months ago, but finally I want to present one of the least remembered chill scenes in a sports movie. Vision Quest was a movie that most 30-somethings who had HBO in the 80s rememeber as that Matthew Modine wrestling movie with Madonna that came on 9 billion times.

It was a sports formula movie (though a pretty decent one), but what nobody seems to remember (an internet search reveals nothing) is there's this one gem of a scene near the climax. It's a couple hours before the Big Moment, the night Modine wrestles undefeated, unchallenged Shute. Modine is a strong wrestler, but he has to drop in weight class to get into the right division for Shute. He's been training all year. Meanwhile, Shute trains by doing stadiums with a tree on his shoulders. Shute isn't evil, but he's totally badass.

Anyhow, Modine works part time after school as a room service delivery guy at this hotel in Spokane or wherever they are (it's western Washington State). The cook, Elmo, is his friend. Between orders, they arm wrestle and talk shit. Right before the big match, Modine goes to the hotel to see Elmo. Elmo isn't working that day. Modine goes to his room to see what happened. As you read the text, imagine Elmo telling this story, his eyes have glazed a little bit and he's just back in the past, remembering, until he shakes himself out at the end.

E - “Hey! Come on in, kid! I’m getting dressed.”
M - “I was at the hotel. They, um, told me you took the night off. I thought you were sick or something.”
E - “Course I took the night off. Dummy. Isn’t this the night you wrestle Shute?”
M - “You took the night off for that?”
E - “Yeah. Shaved, got a haircut and everything.”
M - “You never took a night off to see me wrestle before. They’ll dock you for that.”
E - “Hey kid, money ain’t everything.”
M - “It’s not that big a deal, Elmo… I mean it’s six lousy minutes on the mat if that.”
E - (Pauses, considers.) “Ever hear of Pele?”
M - “Yeah he’s a soccer player.”
E - “A very famous soccer player. (continues dressing) Was in the room here one day. I’m watching the Mexican channel on TV. I don’t know nothin’ about Pele. I’m watching what this guy can do with a ball and his feet. Next thing I know he… jumps up in the air and… flips into a somersault… kicks the ball in. Upside down and backwards. I mean the goddamn goalie never knew what the fuck hit him.…
"Pele gets excited and he… rips off his jersey… starts running around the stadium waving around it over his head.… Everybody’s screaming in Spanish.
“I’m here sitting alone in my room. I start crying. Yeah, that’s right, I started crying. Because another human being… a species which I happen to belong to… kick a ball… (chokes up) lift himself… while the rest of us sat there as human beings, up to a better place to be if only for a minute.
"Lemme tell you, kid, it was pretty goddamn glorious.
"It ain’t the six minutes. It’s what happens in that six minutes.
(Shakes off the force of the memory. Goes back to tying tie.)
"Anyway, that’s why I’m getting dressed up… and giving up a night’s pay for this function.”

All cynicism about sports and life aside, this is a pretty eloquent argument for what keeps us interested - in both sports and the world. It's a fantastic scene. The actor giving the description is just blue collar and hard edge enough that it really works. My favorite line is 'Everybody's screaming in Spanish.' Just captures the image perfectly. For all the coldness and jadedness in the world - and there is a ton - the random possibility to be caught off guard by our fellow humans and inspired is still real, and magic.

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