Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. More fans, money, participants and countries than other sports; earning soccer its’ title, “the world’s game”. No matter how Americans doth protest, others in the world understand the term “football” to reference soccer. I will not – hear me out – I will not refer to soccer as football in this musing, hoping to sooth the insanely unconvinced American football fan to continue reading, so soccer it is.
“The FIFA World Cup, which is held every four years, in alternating countries, is amongst the most viewed sporting events on television. Approximately 3.2 billion people watched at least part of the 2010 World Cup coverage on TV. FIFA, which is the governing body of [soccer] and the World Cup organizer, generated more than 700 million U.S. dollars in revenue from broadcasting rights from the event in 2010.” American professional football is not the only sport which should take note. ESPN in its Annual Sports’ Poll determined “soccer was America’s second-most popular sport for those aged 12-24, ahead of [the] NBA, MLB and college football.”
So that I do not digress – soccer’s popularity is not why I muse. The game’s popularity is discussed in order to provide context of a culturally misused soccer idiom, “bending it like Beckman.” The phase is certainly a reference to the talents of the former great, David Beckham; describing a method of kicking a ball. I muse to contend its current usage and meaning is inadequate, a woeful misuse of words for an otherwise wonderfully descriptive word-play. I firmly believe, this is an area where a tortured American mind may be of use.
When John Miller pretended to be John Miller, he was undermined when the reporter for the Washington Post recognized his erstwhile as his erstwhile – Trump – bragging about his sexual prowess, wealth and virtue. Maybe Trump’s wealth removed him from the activities of the average American youth of his generation, before caller-id, the alternate universe of party-lines and land-lines. Making prank phones to friends, strangers, businesses, practicing voices, sometimes successful, most times not, participating, while unknowingly developing a sixth-sense (seventh-sense for some), the ability to detect false voices immediately. A generation which grew up watching Candid Camera, instilled with a suspecting nature, not wanting to be tricked by friends, family, strangers. Moving the curtains back, examining the vase on the table, looking for the camera. In 2003, the show, Punk’d, a reality television series, aired on MTV, arrived on the scene. A themed show evolving around the practical joke, with hidden camera included, borrowing from Candid Camera. The show worked because the producers were able to target a generation who did not know about Candid Camera, whose sixth-sense had not yet evolved, preying on the unsuspecting.
The reporter for the Washington Post probably didn’t grow up wealthy (my best guess), watched Candid Camera every Sunday evening, and was part of a generation imbued with conspiracy-theorists, tricksters, and Cold War angst. On more than one occasion she pulled the curtain back looking for a camera. On the occasions John Miller called she immediately recognized his voice, playing along, steeled and ready, with no intention of being pranked by John Miller or Donald Trump. Trump knew none of this; his was a different world, isolated by wealth and servants. He also didn’t view his conduct as being a prank. He was then, and remains still, obsessed with himself; bragging, bragging, bragging, as he is wont to do. Once placed under oath, John Miller – excuse me – Donald Trump confessed, admitting to bending it like Beckham, attempting to deceive, slicing the ball, allowing it to curve, attempting to score by deception.
We fail when we use the less than apt-metaphors, allowing the purveyors of words and stories – writers, reporters, actors, news show hosts, even comics – to cheapen the language by failing to couple their words with an appropriate smile, grimace, raised eye-bow, followed by questioning whether John Miller “‘Bent it like Beckham’, you tell me; thank you goodnight!”
In April 2015, Business Insider reported that “Scientists are skeptical about the secret blood test that has made Elizabeth Holmes a billionaire.” The company, Theranos, “a company founded by Stanford sophomore Elizabeth Holmes in the fall of 2003 (she dropped out a few months later) has generated a lot of buzz for developing a revolutionary approach to the blood test.” Promising faster, cheaper blood tests, by using less blood, “upending [and invading] the branch of medicine that provides the data used in roughly 70% of medical decisions.” The Business Insider’s article discussed the failure of Theranos to publish peer-review studies comparing it tests to others, or even allowing independent experts to publicly assess its labs. On May 18, 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported, “Theranos Inc. has told federal health regulators that the company voided two years of results from its Edison blood-testing devices, according to a person familiar with the matter. … But Theranos has now told regulators that it threw out all Edison test results from 2014 and 2015. The company has told the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that it has issued tens of thousands of corrected blood-test reports to doctors and patients, voiding some results and revising others, according to the person familiar with the matter.”
I believe Theranos’ mess could have been avoided if those suspecting Theranos’ claims early-on had requested the scientific-data and testing, then opened asked the rest of us whether the company was “bending it like Beckham.” Humor mixed with real-world consequences oft-times reveals the lie. A more deadly use of words; more telling than describing a method of kicking a ball by one of the game’s greats, reporting the facts, using cultural references to explain to the rest of us, “Bending it like Beckham, are they”?
I am not saying the metaphor should always describe a lie. To work, it has to be a double entendre (possessing a double meaning) – a lie sometimes, tongue-in-cheek other times. By way of example: “a new study has found that the health of an adult-male can be determined by the strength and flow of his pee”, tested by placing hidden cameras in roadside restrooms for a six month period (reminder: this is a fake report, the same utter nonsense your Uncle Bob says all the time). Of course, it is part true (old men pee more), the other part of the story’s line is designed to grab the listener’s leg and pulling as hard as possible (remember Uncle Bob also lies a lot). More importantly, one need not worry about the lawyers; humor is protected by the First Amendment, and “bending it like Beckham” is powerful, readily understood, more meaningful than April’s fools, in that the use of the phase is not confined to a once a year phenomenon, using words which are cross-cultural, attaching to the popularity of the world’s game.
Still don’t understand? Let me take a couple more stabs. Recently the New York Fire Department and New York Police Department played their annual football game for charity. This time the game was marred by violence – a brawl. A flat-out New York brawl; grown men and presumably women, flailing away – falling, falling, falling – over themselves, and others. Swearing, cursing – blessing, blessing, blessing (as only New Yorkers can) – their fellow professionals. Spewing testosterone (and estrogen), as they brawled; as the bees disperse pollen, as the birds scatter seeds, another wonderful spring day in New York. Our double-entendre now becomes a triple-entendre, much like a Swiss knife. The Fire Department publicist should arrange a press conference with Black Lives Matter (first slice), announcing that a portion of next year’s NYFD’s proceeds will go to Black Lives Matter (this could very well be the second slice, but I am going to assume NYPD understands the contributions are needed), followed by playing of a snippet of the fight (explaining the source is from Fire Department’s cameras), a brief explanation (“Maybe the police cameras weren’t working!”), laying blame at the feet of NYPD – sowing derision in all directions. Questioning why NYPD didn’t have body cameras (second slice), ridiculing any report blaming NYFD for the fight, describing NYPD’s accounts of the report as “bending it like Beckham.” The last reference is the third slice, using a soccer term to reference America’s game, heresy! Smiling, slicing, serving up truths and half-truths with raised brows; fielding only a few questions before escaping, leaving the stage with smiles intact. Oh yeah, the fight would be on, the point would be made, and next year’s event sold out in minutes, the American way. John Miller would be so proud.
My last stab at sanity – a friend of mine (Elisa) and I one day were discussing the lies our parents told us when we were children. Her attesting to the unique Mexican American experience, the lies told. Mine the African American experience. Laughter, smiles abounded, a shared experience – until Elisa so rudely interrupted me and my contribution to our modern day cultural exchange program! She explained not all African American parents told the lie about the existence of Santa Claus.
“My friend refused to tell that lie.”
“She said she couldn’t, just couldn’t.”
“She, Shirley, said ‘I was working two jobs and I didn’t want my children to believe a fat, White man was sliding down a non-existent chimney bearing gifts, gifts in which I worked too hard buying for them. I couldn’t do it. Just couldn’t.’”
You see my point? – You got to bend it like Beckham. Shirley did. Yes she did, achieving clarity in far fewer words.