The other day I was at some giant box store buying some Chinese product and there was a little kid in an LA Galaxy shirt. Sandy blond hair, little square glasses, white LA Galaxy shirt. Now, in my imagination, the back of the shirt said “Donovan,” and I started imagining this little kid idolizing team USA’s captain and LA Galaxy mainstay Landon Donovan and I thought “that’s nice.” When he turned around I saw not Donovan or one of the other LA Galaxy players but “Beckham” and I actually laughed, out loud, derisively.
I hadn’t really thought of Beckham since the end of the season when he was “earning” his 100th cap for the England team and his face was all over the papers and now here was his name emblazoned on some unfortunate kid’s shirt.
Beckham, he’s like a cold sore, he’s always around when you don’t want him.
Beckham and that shirt encapsulate everything that’s wrong with world football; huge salaries, selfishness, mercenary players, the lure of the national team, media manipulation, lies, deceit, and ultimately, the way sport can both uplift and destroy a kids dreams.
Beckham and his flotilla of photographers docked in Los Angeles last year and like the first Europeans who “discovered” America, he promised to bring us enlightenment. He was going to “bring soccer to America” he said. In essence he wanted to convert us from our backwards religion where we worship 500 lb behemoths who carry the football to the world’s religion, proper football.
Though he still called it soccer, which in retrospect was a blatant clue.
Before the ink was even dry on his multi-multi-million dollar contract the shirts were flying off the store shelves and Americans embraced Beckham, the savior of American Soccer. We bought the hype, and who could blame us? He and his media machine are master manipulators. So, for what seemed like an endless summer I, being the local “soccer guy,” was bombarded with questions about Beckham.
“You must be excited.” Uhhh, not as much as I am that Arsenal signed Aaron Ramsey.
“What do you think, will the Galaxy win the league?” Beckham’s past his prime and never did defend well on the wing, he will be a liability on that team defensively, though they will probably get better from set plays.
“His contract is huge but the Galaxy seem to think they’ll recover the money, how?” HA! If I understand his contract, Beckham gets part of the gate receipts. THE GATE. This isn’t about business, this is a spectacle and Beckham is the rock star. He’s made a mockery of the so called “salary cap” in the MLS and pretty much insulted all of the decent players who work hard in the league and get paid a regular wage.
I’ll admit that I watched the first few matches, I mean “games,” and sure enough the cracks showed right away: he didn’t defend, he got stepped on by the big talentless defenders in the MLS, he was pretty much constantly frustrated with his teammates (who, to be fair, aren’t used to putting together more than 2 or 3 passes) and the comical announcers kept wondering why he hadn’t scored 30 odd goals in his first game. So, as he hobbled on and off the plastic pitches and the Galaxy started coming apart at the seams everyone started questioning the sanity of this experiment.
Then the England National Team had to go and hire someone with a spine and Beckham’s well orchestrated set play in America was dismantled. Capello basically said
American Football is shit and no one playing in the MLS will make this team. No one, not even Golden Balls. Oh and I don’t give two fucks if he’s approaching his 100th cap, I want to win something.
So, Beckham used the fact that the MLS starts and stops their season so that they don’t conflict with the more important sports in America (like college football, Olympic skeet shooting, and the World Series of Poker) and he orchestrated a “loan” move to AC Milan, where decrepit old pervert Silvio Berlusconi was assembling a hodge podge of washed up has-beens. All so that he could get his 100th cap.
It worked. Hooray for international football. David Beckham is now the most capped outfield player in England history. They should make a movie about it.
Having successfully gotten all he wanted he now returns to his club and the response has been, well, less than enthusiastic. Landon Donovan has this to say:
My sense is that David’s clearly frustrated, that he’s unhappy and, honestly, that he thinks it’s a joke. I also kind of feel (he has taken the team) for granted. I don’t see dedication or commitment to this team, and that’s troubling.
Let’s say he does stay here for three more years. I’m not going to spend the next three years of my life doing it this way. This is fucking miserable. I don’t want to have soccer be this way.
What do you expect? I can’t imagine an Arsenal player doing the same thing, hell, we boo guys who make bad passes, could you imagine the response that a lazy, selfish, pretty boy rich kid would get if he orchestrated a loan deal that took him away from the team for half the season, so he could earn some personal milestone in international football?
So, what has David Beckham taught us ignorant Americans about football? That the club doesn’t matter, so long as you get your caps. That you can get a huge paycheck and put in a half assed work rate. That you can screw your “teammates,” so long as you get your caps. That American soccer sucks so bad that it doesn’t rate as even decent practice for international games. That salary caps are a joke. And that in the end all that matters is one man’s ego.
Welcome back, Dave.