David Beckham: Good for U.S. Soccer? No.
Over the past decade, David Beckham’s name has been synonymous with soccer for casual fans and hooligans alike. Beckham’s done it all, from doubling as a male model, wedding Posh Spice, having a feature film named after him (in which he only appears through archived footage) and becoming one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Heroes and Icons.’ Now Beckham has garnered attention from Major League Soccer’s most ‘Hollywood’ team, the two-time MLS Cup winning L.A. Galaxy.
On the field he was the 1999 and 2001 FIFA Player of the Year and led Manchester United to major success in the FA Premier League in the late 1990s and early 2000. We are now in 2007, and Beckham will not even be out of his contract with Real Madrid until July of this year.
The 31-year-old is not past his prime; he is on the tail end of it. While he was once considered arguably the best soccer player in the world, die-hard fans can now name 10 better players.
So let’s not take this acquisition as something other than what it is. Beckham is not being brought over because he is the best soccer player in the world. Rather, he is the most marketable, and Tinseltown is where it matters most.
Still, this title doesn’t mean he deserves $250 million over five years as has been reported. That’s $90 for every second he is on the field. He’ll join Bill Gates and a few others in the exclusive ‘It’s-Not-Worth-My-Time-to-Pick-Up-a-$100-Bill’ Club.
Those who are becoming excited about Beckham’s arrival are casual sports fans. Die-hards know his career is going downhill, but the regular guy will go to one or two games. As will soccer moms pining to see David’s dreamy figure striding up and down the field. Heck, they may get the whole family out and show the kids what a true sports legend looks like.
The 400 percent price increase that the Galaxy announced for their season tickets (from $100 to $400 for the cheapest seats) once Beckham was signed won’t be enough to keep sports fans away from the Home Depot Center starting this summer. Well, at least for this year.
Sooner or later the novelty wears off. So unless Beckham direct-free-kicks the American sports culture right on its ear, the lucrative signing will have been a bust.
Here in the United States, yes, soccer is becoming more popular. It still has a ways to go though. Our culture wants frequent scoring in our sports. Soccer history isn’t nearly as prevalent here as other countries, where soccer is indeed life. Kids have been playing baseball here for three centuries and counting. Currently, Major League Baseball is playing second fiddle to the National Football League in popularity. Basketball comes in third place, and so I ask: When it is in season, could you really see the average sports fan talking about the Galaxy rather than the Lakers?
The only way this signing will be worth it is if Beckham turns soccer into our country’s most-embraced sport. Please, do not hold your breath on that one.