January 11, 2007
Or so it would seem, given that the struggling league now appears in every headline in every newspaper in every country on every continent. Moving the world's greatest celebrity to Hollywood is a no-brainer, and MLS deserves all the credit for making it happen. But to suggest that Mr. Spice is going to play the role of American Soccer Messiah couldn't be further from the truth. Rather, the quarter-billion dollar deal to bring David Beckham to the States is likely to save...none other than David Beckham.
Let there be no mistake: David Beckham the soccer player cannot be saved. He fell last summer, following England's defeat in the World Cup...and he can't get up. His self-imposed demotion from the national captaincy, along with his humiliating removal from the roster altogether, signaled a career decline that outpaced even the Real debacle.
One would have thought that Beckham's failure to win a Champions League title in Madrid , while playing alongside the likes of Zidane and Figo, amounted to career suicide. But the image of England's great captain crying before the world media after watching his side lose to Portugal—
That one takes the cake.
And yet most Americans don't know about any of this. All they know, in fact, is that David Beckham is "really, really big."
They made a movie about him—and he was barely even in it. How many A-list Hollywood actors can say that?
Major domestic tabloids have informed Americans that they really should care about Beckham. In fact, People and Us Weekly have made it mandatory: Every American housewife must know David Beckham's face, even if her husband has never watched a minute of soccer.
But will Becks be able to cash in his chips?
To put it another way:
A washed-up Britney Spears gets paid half a million bucks to do New Year's Eve countdowns in Las Vegas . Can an English soccer player do the same?
In coming to America , David Beckham enters a ripe market. All he has to do is find anything, any miniscule excuse to appear in a newspaper—his good looks, billion-dollar name, and cuckold wife will do the rest. Given the quality of the soccer played in the United States , he should have no trouble posting a few multi-goal games. That ought to about do the trick.
And as for Major League Soccer? They're the ones who cut the check in order to make this happen, after all—how do they stand to benefit?
Well, they won't gain any more international respect, that's for sure. Everyone outside of America knows that Beckham is a has-been. They won't see a major increase in quality of play, as Beckham is only one man. Stadiums will fill up once each season as Beckham makes his tour around the league—but that won't pay back even a fraction of his outrageous signing fee. In the end, MLS will succeed for the same boring reasons everyone always cites: a growing Hispanic population, a media looking for the "next big thing," etc. etc. etc.
The real winner here is David Beckham—and whoever gets paid to be his American publicist. Nobody in Los Angeles knows that lucky man or woman's name...yet.
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