Thursday, January 11, 2007


David Beckham signs for LA Galaxy, and for the first time in its history, Major League Soccer is genuine, top-of-the-fold (as we increasingly archaic journalists say) news. While the media pops its gourd over what Bexx brings to the table as a celebrity and glitz magnet, expect extreme teeth-gnashing in the American soccersphere: is splashing out $250M to an over-the-hill free-kick specialist worth it for a league built on the cheap? is Beckham more or less ridiculous and pitiable than Landon Donovan, his putative clubmate; what-oh-what does this say about The Game in America...?

The American soccer community (Anglophone division) is woefully dependent on English football culture as its model. (This blog is no exception). The British press loves nothing more than to excoriate Beckham (or anyone else who has tasted success but occasionally has an off week), so it's hardly surprising that a lot of fans over here don't really rate the man any more. His struggles at Real Madrid (which is, perceptive fans will note, Real Fucking Madrid) caused him to drop in just about everyone's estimation. So is this a coup or a fuck-up on a continental scale?

A few bottom-line truths from the Eleven Devils Expert Department:

—If you step back from the blather, hype and anti-hype, all D. Beckham has done in his career is: score (and create) tanker-loads of goals and win a bunch of trophies with the two biggest clubs in the world; play in three World Cups (the only Englishman to do so); and establish himself as one of the most famous practicioners of his art in the world. Only in England could someone with that CV end up a tabloid whipping-boy.

—If you don't think he's still capable of tearing MLS apart, you haven't watched the league.

—Provided he doesn't blow his ACL in his first season, he will be worth every penny to everyone involved. Adidas, MLS and the Galaxy will sell merchandise as fast as they can uncrate it. Venues across the league will sell out for his first few visits. If only one lookie-loo in 20 becomes an MLS season ticket holder, MLS will consider the investment wise.

—What do you bet that MLS Commissioner Don Garber received at least one call from a prospective expansion-club investor today?

—What do you bet MLS will schedule one of Beckham's first away games with the Galaxy in either Kansas City or Salt Lake, where the league is fighting uphill battles for publicly funded stadiums? (Sorry: stadia.)

Does hype have a lot to do with this signing? Yes. Does that make it a bad idea? Not necessarily.


Lynda said...

I agree with this post 100%--this is a fantastic thing for MLS (which the Guardian helpfully referred to as "the MSL" the other day, the bastards) and for American soccer. Even the local TV news channels have been doing stories on this! Frustratingly, I've seen lots of people online who aren't letting the fact that they are utterly ill-informed get in the way of belligerently mouthing such opinions as: this is what ruined the NASL (utterly different business models), Becks obviously doesn't care about playing soccer anymore (right, because he was getting so much playing time at Real Madrid this year), Americans don't care about soccer and never will (which is why MLS has been growing each year since its inception), etc. etc.

I also keep finding myself in this kind of weird position of defending Becks (well, mentally, anyway--it's not like your man on the street is getting all het up about the issue and picking fights with me), a player I am pretty neutral towards but agree has been unfairly pilloried in the press.

Also, LA was MADE for Posh and Becks, especially now that we know they're all tight with "wise man" Tom Cruise.

Zach Dundas said...

The whole Beckham/Cruise connection really sets the table for some disturbing shit, doesn't it?

I love how high and mighty the British press gets about soccer in the States when they can't even manage to get the top flight's name right. I'm going to start calling their league the Premiership of Barclaycardistan in retaliation.

Lynda said...

I really started to notice how snotty they were about American soccer after you first pointed it out on your blog. It's like somebody talking trash about your relatives: yeah, sure, we may suck, but that's for us to say!

It's weird...I don't know why their stories are so riddled with inaccuracies or why a soccer-loving American becomes an object for ridicule. I try to imagine a parallel situation in which, say, an American baseball fan meets a European who also likes American baseball and instead of enjoying a conversation about their mutual passion, immediately begins to deride and belittle the guy and question his commitment to the sport. It's just bizarre!

Zach Dundas said...

I am a huge Anglophile, so their flaws really pain me. But I think I'm slowly figuring out the twisted British psychology behind it all. See, I think they realize, even if only subconsciously, that they're no longer that much better than us on the field. We went out at the exact same stage in '02, and they only made it as far as they did in '06 because they had such an easy draw. Would they have survived the Czechs, Italians and Ghananians? I doubt it.