Shame on all who derided David Beckham after his naive—but genuine—iconoclastic display at Old Trafford last week.
Then he donned a green-and-gold scarf, the symbol for the populist movement against the club's overleveraged, self-indulgent American owners.
Where's the malice?
Not within his intentions or action. But he was decried as being a "shameless self-promoter", always looking for the cameras. In truth, he's just a simple footballer, thrust into stardom for others' profit. He supports Man United when he plays on other teams. He loves Old Trafford. He always missed it. He's really not that complicated.
He was also accused of insincerity, as he distanced himself from the act afterwards, in mumbling, dulcet slang. But he shouldn't have have to inject himself politically into their movement to justify his support of it. Nor should you have to run for office to agree in some principle.
Given no evidence, sometimes editorial writers must adopt arbitrary stances to create a dramatic narrative. Some English opinion-makers elected to continue an onslaught of guilt-strking lampooning that's continued ceaselessly since Beckham's sending off against Argentina at World Cup 1998.
One cynic even questioned his ostensible, pining love for his father figure Alex Ferguson and Man United, suggesting—for nothing—Beckham, in fact, betrayed every club he left, fueled by greed and selfishness—the same motivators behind his green-and-gold tribute.
Hindsight bias is crippling when it is founded upon a general, arbitrary cynicism that manifests itself through, basically, practice and muscle memory—to continually offer nothing but negativity.
Such an approach might be more right than wrong, half the time, but journalists—especially editorialists—should strive for better than 50 percent accuracy. In fact, they shouldn't have to, because writing opinion for any media outlet—even a fading newspaper—should imply thoughtful precision, articulation, and depth.
It's simply lazy to join upon an anti-Beckham bandwagon, but lazier still when other arcs are equally—if not more—compelling, practical, and certainly more evident.
Regardless of whether you think he was a dullard, Beckham wasn't greedy or superficial. These presumably obvious traits were borne from lingering, mass-effect bitterness after his 1998 dismissal.
Through clearer windows than those of foggy pubs, the career of this simple footballer became far too complex for him to control. His good looks and ability cursed him to a life he would never be able to master.
When Beckham was sent off against Argentina at the World Cup, there were—literally—burning effigies in his likeness outside pubs in England. He became a national villain. He never lived it down.
Becks' error then was not slight, but it was wholly overexageratted, and any amount of bias cannot mask that, now 12 years past.
As an aside: Wayne Rooney was pivotally sent off in the 2006 World Cup knockout stages, but the anti-Rooney meme never caught on, there were no effigies.
But following Becks' leveling mistake, what—if not aghast humility—did he ever exude? What, if not nostalgia, contrite, and patriotism? Yes; he's that cheesy. But he's sincere, not superficial. And he's not greedy.
When he left United, he did so at Ferguson's behest, not for love of money. The departure was mutually beneficial: Becks continued good form—though not injury-free—in Madrid, and played with Zidane; United gave his jersey to Cristiano Ronaldo who arrived the same summer and ultimately became more marketable—and way better.
Beckham's venture into America, surely, was neither founded in his greed—perhaps that of others. If you want to find money-mongering, depraved characters, look past Beckham at AEG, who own his rights, the Galaxy's stadium, and entities in Manchester.
And sure, marrying Posh probably didn't help him: Who do you think wears the pants?
Yes, Beckham has been an unconscious observer to his star cruise across the skies. He always just wanted people to like him.
He's been made rich by it, sure; but he was already rich.
Who wasn't then? The people around him who are now. And—in spirit, at least—the writers who salaciously fueled the demographic for cynicism in English tabloids throughout his career.
And now, just days removed from that historical image of Beckham once again asking England and Old Trafford for forgiveness and endorphins, there is another image:
Achilles tendon torn, a forlorn Beckham was carried off the pitch in Italy on Sunday. He will now miss the World Cup; the dream to assuage his 12-year-long guilttrip is shattered, his England career cruelly ended before its natural death.
The acquiescent figure, who carried not only Man United, but the English Premier League into the forefront of global footballing consciousness, as its unwitting hood ornament, loses his final chance to win the hearts of even those bottom-dwelling sensationalists that've enjoyed slagging off his elite career.
Completely crestfallen, the mule everyone loved to kick is on his knees. But who will snivel? Where are the snarky articles about his greed and self-indulgence? "Where's Tom Cruise at?"
Beckham's career is over. There are no more editorials in the well. It deserves accurate accounting and perspective as it is written into history.
The Man United hero was very much a simpleton, and he had a big, dumb heart.
It's time for those lacking to find another good-looking Englishman (or Rooney) upon which to pen their feast.