I Hate Beckham for Making Me Write This

“What I am saying is that the [David Beckham] media blitz is going to bring new meaning to the term overkill.”
- Ives Galarcep, Soccer by Ives, 07.13.07

That’s precisely what has me feeling a bit of ambivalence about adding to the frenzy - and that goes double with Posh in tow, who, the more I see of her, gives the impression that we’ve imported a second Paris Hilton...as if the first one wasn’t enough (I mean, look at her hamming in the damned silly photo on Galarcep’s post; I’m embarrassed for her). ESPN’s “front page” alone (which, sadly, will be gone by the end of the weekend at the latest) carries an image sufficiently over-the-top to tip my lunch “over-the-top” of my throat.

There’s good stuff and bad being written about Beckham’s arrival, some welcoming, some worried, and all shades of opinion in between. I’ll spare you from the jottings of soccer-hating meatheads, who predict this will be still another flash in the pan; they won’t admit defeat if the MLS Players’ Union bought the goddamn NFL and made them grounds-keepers at the local soccer-specific. But a guy named John Smallwood wrote an intelligent deflation of the Beckham hype for the Philadelphia Enquirer; contrary opinions defending Beckham the player, as well as Beckham the commodity, are pretty easy to come by, though. Hell, you can even find man-on-the-street quotes saying Beckham will be the Galaxy’s best player after Landon Donovan - which is just classic. I love my country sometimes.

With all the things being written, I have to confess that it was Frank Dell’Appa’s column for ESPN that provided the inspiration for me joining this orgy of speculation. His piece contained two of the more subtly novel talking points I’ve seen in all this; maybe that kind of clarity results when people keep asking you about what you think of Beckham's arrival. First, from the business perspective, Dell’Appa writes:

“Several high-powered potential investors are watching MLS closely, and some will be in Commerce City when the MLS All-Star team meets Celtic on Thursday. Their names are not Tom Cruise, but these are people whose transactions are found in the financial sections of newspapers, the ones who make most of their moves behind the scenes. And they are intrigued by MLS' possibilities.”

We all know about the people looking into buying Chicago, but it's the choice of the word “several” that catches the eye in that it implies still more people are looking. The news on the Chicago sale is interesting enough (are they investing to make home money or merely diversifying for shits-and-giggles?), but hints of wider interest are something else again. Without names being attached to teams, Dell’Appa’s assertion just kind of hangs there, to be sure, but that kind of talk gets one daydreaming.

But it was something Dell’Appa said about Beckham the player that really struck me, something I hadn’t, in all the months of thinking and reading about this, properly considered:

“And if Beckham stumbles, unable to cruise through an MLS opponent's tough tackling, barbed-wire midfield, it could reflect well on the league's level of play. Either way, people will be watching the league, analyzing it, regarding U.S. soccer on its own terms.”

For all the scenarios I considered in which Beckham flopped, this little upside never occurred to me. Beckham flopping could actually be a good thing? Well, don’t that beat all...

What do I think of all this? As someone who has followed soccer in the States since the early 1990s, I can safely say the scale and - this is crucial - the durability of the Beckham hype is like nothing I’ve seen before; the only thing that came close was the warm, fuzzy, yet brief embrace of the U.S. Women’s after the 1999 Women’s World Cup. I have to say that I don’t know that I like all this attention. Maybe it’s only because we have to hear Rob Stone say “Beckham” twelve times a minute, as he did in last night’s Primetime game; that was fucking ridiculous and I sincerely hope it never happens again. Then again, maybe it’s only because all this attention and all this hoopla surrounds just one player; maybe if the elevated chatter talked about the league, or even soccer, as a whole, I wouldn’t mind so much.

Whatever I think, it’s happening. And it’s not like I’m going to stop watching to get away from the hype. I mean, I’m going to watch the (damned) World Series of Soccer, whoops, Football next weekend just to see what Beckham looks like. So, try as I may, I’m clearly not immune. Off we go into the Wild Brit Yonder, right?

Finally - and I feel like an a-hole for burying this, ‘cause it made me laugh out loud when I read it - Laurie, from the inimitable LA Galaxy Offside, wrote up her thoughts after taking in the televised screening of Beckham’s Big Reveal. It’s full of good stuff - so, do go read the whole thing - but none of them topped this passage, which described the comments offered by LA Galaxy GM Alexi Lalas:

“– Lalas thanks the team, the “Galaxy family.” Because hell, yeah, I know I sell off my kids and buy new ones when they start to bore me.”

And, with that, I’ll anxiously wait to see what Beckham can do on Major League Soccer’s fields.


Anonymous said...

After all of the hoopla from today’s Beckham media blitz, here is the
reality of this situation:
Beckham has ONE meaningful prize still unclaimed: The World Cup.
He can coast in that MLS league and no one will notice- and he will
remain a star- thus saving himself for England call-ups.

And the MLS Fans won’t even notice Beckham playing at half-pace, as they seem to embrace mediocrity anyway.

And the FA isn’t stupid… they KNOW this is what he will be doing.
It’s all being handled with a nod and a wink.

Like him or not, Beckham’s a winner. He proved it this srping with
Madrid. And in LA, he has no one nearly like a Capello or a Sir Alex breathing down his neck.

His wife will be happy here, as I am sure the Brits are all sick of
her by now. This really was a brilliant move for him.

He could very well get that one elusive prize, if England can finally
get their act together (and it looks like they are) for 2010.

The Manly Ferry said...

Intriguing theory...but counting on England "getting their act together" is like counting on rain the desert. I think that's the hole in the theory. And you're not showing much knowledge of MLS, either: the pace of the game isn't what will get Beckham; it's the hard fouls and the uneven officiating that will leave him exposed to it. If Beckham thinks he's getting an easy retirement, he's going to understand the folly of that M.O. on the first over-eager tackle by an underpaid developmental player looking to "make an impact."

My advice to Beckham: go into your first game like they tell little guys go into prison. Make a reckless challenge, ideally one that draws blood, and get sent off - that's the rough equivalent of punching the first guy you see in the face, right?

Laurie said...

Ha! Thanks for the link. (Which for some reason my WordPress page doesn't show. You have no idea how much it thrills yet annoys me when I find links to my stuff I should have known about but didn't. But I digress.)

I write these posts and never know if anybody actually reads them, so thanks.

And the "Happy Family" line was by far my favorite as well. :-)

Braden said...

I'm sorry, but have we all forgotten the past three years of Beckham's career? You know, when he disappeared on the pitch and could only be found taking the occasional free kick. Or when Ferguson pretty much pushed him out of Man U in favor of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer because his work rate had declined. I don't doubt that Beckham will have a positive impact off the field, but will his play on the field make LA competitive? The designated player rule is the best thing MLS has done since founding the league, but let's hope some MLS team can get someone better than Beckham. (Full Disclosure: I'm a Man City fan.)