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  • Reverend James Squire

Nobody Is Going To Hit You As Hard As Life

Photo by Hermes Rivera

We have all heard the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover. I had that experience of judging others before I had the whole story. It started a couple of weeks ago when we were visiting close friends who we have known since child birth classes. He is a self-made man who has a thriving bonds business. His wife is a PH.D. in education. We have spent just about every New Year’s Eve with them. During a recent visit, his wife said that we should watch a video streaming called simply Beckham. I resisted the request and told her that he and Beckham’s wife, Posh Spice, embody for me those people have been blessed to have an easy life and enjoy a luxurious life style. My friend’s wife pushed harder and said, “It is not what you think it is.” I know nothing about soccer where David Beckham was regarded at one time as one of the best in the world. He played for Manchester United, Real Madrid, and LA Galaxy. His wife was a member of the famous Spice Girls’ Singing Group.

I don’t know where they got the film as it begins with Beckham as a young lad and a passion for the sport of soccer. His whole life was a struggle of one kind or another. In one of the most important matches, he kicked another player in an attempt to get him back for a hard but legal hit that he had received from the player. Beckham is thrown out of the game. His team had to play one man down because of his actions. Manchester United lost and for a long period of time he was the focus of bad press and outrageous comments from the large crowds that attend soccer matches. The one thing that he depended on when things were tough was his whole family, wife and kids, who as well were ridiculed for the longest time for his error in judgment.

Posh Spice is depicted as a fantastic mother and wife in the documentary with David’s purpose in life is playing soccer. But fame and being one of the best soccer players in the world takes him away from his family for long periods of time. When he is home, he is the loving family man. If I asked the guys in my Ethics class who were on the soccer team if they would trade places with Beckham, I don’t know how they would reply. They always respond in ways that are not predictable. If I were still teaching, I would show this documentary in ethics class because he goes through many difficult ethical decisions. His family time became less and less.

Toward the end of the video, he states that he would gladly give all the fame back, if he could have spent more time with his wife and children. Throughout the documentary he offers commentary on his decisions and where his life went off the tracks. It turns out that Beckham is a person of great depth. At every point Posh Spice and his kids provide him with the emotional and spiritual air he needs to breathe. They are his joy and real purpose in his driven life as he struggles to deal with the fame of life on the soccer field as one of the greatest to play the game.

It is a bit of a small world experience that I watched another documentary recently called Sly, The Life of Sylvestro Stallone. What I knew was that he wrote Rocky in three short days. Then he played the lead as we all know. Those macho movies that Sly starred in such as Rambo, Rocky 1,2,3,4,5,6, and one with Bruce Willis seemed to indicate that he was so limited in his thinking, but they followed the same pattern of his tough guy theme. The truth is that he didn’t write the movie in three days. He was not born in South Philly. He was born in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. He had a difficult relationship with his father. Sly loved polo and was very skilled at it. One day his father, also a polo player, were on opposite teams of their match. At one point his father struck him in the back with a polo stick. Sly loved horses and polo, but after that event he never played polo again.

So, there was another side of him that was more genteel. He secretly wanted to write and be the star in a movie that had a real sense of purpose. Sly even wrote and starred in a comedy that was not well received. He was stereotyped as a Rocky or Rambo.

But he married and had children. All of the dedication to his career took him away from his wife and kids. He discovered in the process of living that he wished he had made different choices. His happiness was with his family. At the end of the documentary, he describes all that was lacking in his life putting his family second and seeking meaning and money doing movies that really didn’t help anyone except for a jolt of macho man. His son died when he was 36 of an undiagnosed heart ailment. Sly does not mention him in the documentary. My sense of things is that it was too difficult for him to do. You will see in the documentary someone you know by his exterior picture, but you will see as well what was going on inside of him. You will expect to find a man who is inarticulate instead of one capable of deep regret and the ability to express that.

One of Sly’s lines in the documentary is, “You, me, nobody is going to hit you as hard as life.” It is followed by, “It is about how you get up and keep moving forward. How much can you take and keep moving forward?”

What many don’t know is that he was in some of those fight scenes in Rocky and took a beating. After one shoot, he had to spend over nine days in an ICU.

I showed a video to my ethics students describing Beck Weathers reflection after he survived a terrible series of conditions climbing Mount Everest. The climb was captured in the book, Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer. Beck Weathers with no nose and missing figures from frostbite states that he was looking for meaning and purpose by climbing peaks the world over. His final line in his documentary is, “I was looking for purpose the world over, and it was in my own backyard all the time. It was my wife, Peach, and my children. It was the memory of them that kept me going. I am scarred from that climb, but I would not allow them to fix those parts of me that were damaged, because I want to remember every day what is truly at the center of my heart. It was my family. I traded my face and hands for the awareness of the importance of my family and it is a bargain.”

I always ask my students and, there have been thousands, “Who has shaped your values more than anything or anyone else? It could be a family member like a grandfather.” The response is always “my parents or family.” Family is the center of our hearts whether it is good or bad. In my youth I played football and when I was attempting to learn how to box from a gifted boxer who was my neighbor, Mushy Mushlanka, in his gym in his garage, I thought that all of that was hard hitting. Little did I know what life would serve up to me…

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