Spirituality of Pelé | ‘It was pretty !@$#%# glorious’

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Louden (Matthew Modine) and romantic interest Carla (Linda Fiorentino)Chicago | University of Toledo professor of Catholic studies Richard R. Gaillardetz, in an essay in U.S. Catholic proposing “a spirituality of sports” (“In the Spirit of the Game,” Dec 05), reminds us of the long-forgotten 1985 film Vision Quest and its brief discourse on football. The film features a high-school wrestler and his quest to drop two weight divisions to compete against a supposedly unbeatable opponent. On the night of the match, Louden, the wrestler (played by Matthew Modine), visits friend Elmo (J.C. Quinn); the two work together at a hotel. Seeking inspiration, Louden listens to Elmo tell him about Pelé. “I was in a room here one day,” says Elmo.

I’m watching a Mexican channel on TV. Now I don’t know nothin’ ’bout Pelé. I’m watchin’ 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 and, ah, kicks the ball in, upside down and backwards! … Pelé gets excited and rips off his jersey an’ starts running around the stadium waving it around over his head. Everybody’s screaming in Spanish. I’m here sitting alone in my room. I start cryin’. Yeah, that’s right, I start crying, ’cause another human being, of the species I happen to belong to, can kick a ball and lift himself and the rest of us sad-ass human beings up to a better place to be, if only for a minute. Let me tell ya, kid, it was pretty [expletive] glorious.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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