Another Beckham No Show

By Paul Gardner

The latest in the tedious series of non-events that make up David Beckham's contribution to American soccer took place last week in New Jersey's Giants Stadium.

The return (yet again, and possibly not for the last time) of Beckham. The Red Bulls were as hospitable as you would expect a team with a 2-13-4 record to be - they offered little in the way of serious opposition to the Galaxy.

All in all, a cozy little evening. I say "little" because the mere mention of the name Beckham is supposed to ensure a huge crowd - yet only 23,238 officially turned up. (I emphasize the "officially" in case Beckham is listening. His statements about his involvement in MLS get sillier and sillier each time he opens his mouth, and he has now let it be known that he only reads "authorized" books - meaning that he won't read Grant Wahl's "The Beckham Experiment" - the book that paints him in rather less then heroic colors).

Now 23,238 is, frankly, a pretty pathetic turnout for a super star. Especially when you recall that the first time Beckham played here, in 2007, he drew over 66,000. So over 40,000 area fans have discovered that watching Beckham play soccer is no big deal. Last Thursday those 40,000 fans stayed home.

Of the 23,238 who did turn up, maybe 10,000 were there because of Beckham. And of those 10,000, it is legitimate to wonder how many of them have any interest whatever in the sport of soccer.

Beckham attracts a whole bunch of fringe groupies, and he must by now be accustomed to being greeted by the same sort of high-pitched shrieks, squeals and swoonings that used to greet the Beatles.

We got plenty of that at Giants Stadium - but we also got something rather different. A steady chorus of boos for Beckham - whenever he played the ball, especially when he took corner kicks, and climaxing with a pretty impressive volume of abuse when he was substituted out at the 70th minute.

I wonder if that will worry Beckham? I suppose not. It has become apparent, from the series of fatuous statements that he keeps repeating about his commitment to the Galaxy, and how he delights in his role as an "ambassador" for MLS, that Beckham simply does not understand what is going on.

He does not understand because he can see no further than his own ego, or his own advisors, allow. Playing only a few games for the Galaxy is fine with him, because his absence was all in a good cause - meaning that it benefitted David Beckham.

And this obtuseness is scheduled to continue. What matters to Beckham is next year's World Cup and his place on the England team that, we can safely assume, will take part in it. That, plus turning out for AC Milan, a much more fashionable club than the Galaxy, part of a much more fashionable league than MLS.

If Beckham has his way - and who's to stop him? - he will miss most of the 2010 MLS season playing for Milan and for England. This is an odd sort of commitment - but Beckham apparently sees nothing wrong. He says that he doesn't feel the need to apologize to anyone.

Beckham, it seems, doesn't do apologies. One of the real low-spots in Wahl's "Beckham Experiment" book comes when last season's Galaxy, on the verge of elimination from the playoffs but still with a slim mathematical chance of survival, traveled to Houston for the game that would either do them in or keep them alive. Beckham, who was the club captain, was suspended for the game ... and so simply did not bother to turn up, preferring to spend the time in England endorsing a food product and then returning direct to Los Angeles. Apology? Forget it.

Did he even bother to turn up the other night at Giants Stadium? What did he do during his 70 minutes on the field? Where was the Beckham magic? Let's see, my notes show that his first touch, after 8 seconds, was a long ball forward that went straight to a Red Bull defender. There followed an unremarkable throw-in, a midfield pass that went directly to Albert Celades of the Red Bulls, and after that, a foul. Then we got two Beckham free kicks - one was headed away by the Red Bulls' Luke Sassano, the other didn't even make it over the wall. A mighty cross-field ball, right to left, came to earth yards away from any Galaxy player, then a cross went straight to Red Bull goalkeeper Danny Cepero. While all that futility was going on, the Galaxy had scored three goals, without Beckham having played a significant part in any of them.

A very ordinary performance - heck, the Galaxy might as well have signed any old Premier League midfielder. But coming from the league's highest-paid, most ballyhooed, and certainly most self-centered player, it was an eminently boo-able performance.

It leaves you wondering what goes on in Beckham's head. How difficult would it be to offer an apology to the Galaxy fans for his repeated absences (and for their increased season-ticket prices)? Why not do that? It's certainly good PR, and Beckham employs people to make sure he keeps his image in order.

But not in this case. Making fools of American sports fans can hardly be his intention, but that's what he is doing. So which is it? Is the guy simply too arrogant, or is he too thick, to understand that people would react badly to his barely concealed contempt for American soccer and his blatant selfishness?

9 comments about "Another Beckham No Show".
  1. Shelley Steinhorst, July 20, 2009 at 9:32 a.m.

    In a blog entitled 'Soccer Talk', I expected more talk about soccer and less vitriol over one person. It was neither enjoyable to read, nor informative, almost none of the criticisms were backed up with any verifiable quotes. I just signed up for Soccer America and can't believe this is the level of jouralism - ranting about a fading European 'star' who obviously itsn't that intereted in American soccer anymore. Isn't there anything else to report on in the American soccer league?

  2. Steve Greene, July 20, 2009 at 10:13 a.m.

    IMO the article is relevant since Beckham just returned, the book is out, and the Donovan/Beckham mess has been so highlighted (generally at the expense of Donovan). Pointing out Beckham hasn't been all that good for soccer in the US is fine by me, mainly because I agree.
    The other side is, relying on any European star (fading or otherwise) seems a poor way to promote US soccer. To me it sends the message to our kids that try as you may, when we need a "good" player, we are going overseas to get them.

  3. Joseph Breault, July 20, 2009 at 10:33 a.m.

    You get what you tolerate and MLS Corp headquarters is desperate. Beckham obliged and has put on an MLS Dog and Pony Show. In watching Seattle vs Chelsea you can't blame him for not wanting to pay what would be League One football in England, but at the end of the day one has to question his ethics. Money is his ticket and keeping his "Spice Girl" satisfied.

  4. Dragos Axinte, July 20, 2009 at 10:43 a.m.

    I believe that David Beckham is an instrument of those around him, and he either (i) is too honest/simple a person to notice this or (ii) might feel an obligation to deliver economic and social success to the same people. It would take a very strong mind to overturn this and I do not think that he is capable of it on his own.

  5. Christopher Hughes, July 20, 2009 at 11:37 a.m.

    I agree with the article and found it interesting.

    As a new subscriber to Soccer America I agree with what the first poster said. I would like to see more content on International Soccer. It would also be nice to see a forum section to discuss articles and issues further. I have not received my first magazine and I guess that will determine if Soccer America is worth paying for. There are some very good sites that provide the same online information for free (no magazine).

  6. Thomas Hosier, July 20, 2009 at 12:02 p.m.

    Becks is not the persona needed to advance the soccer image in America. After all of the hype and hoopla he really hasn't produced on or off the field. The current boos are deserved and from all appearances Beckham's image in the USA could be all down hill from the is point forward.

    As for going overseas to get "a good player", funny thing is how many international teams are coming to America looking for "a good player."

  7. Gus Keri, July 20, 2009 at 12:39 p.m.

    To Shelley:
    Please, don't get discouraged by this article. Paul Gardner's column is one of the best columns about soccer in America. But I have to worn you that, although he is a British in origin, he hates everything British about soccer. And as you know, Beckham is a British. So, be prepared.

    Now, let's give beckham some credits here. Beckham, in two years, has brought to the American soccer what all the MLS and the American stars failed to do in the previous 12 years. A world wide attention that was not seen since the haydays of the NASL.

    From a soccer standpoint, Beckham probably would agree that with the exception of the tremendous financial benifit for both, him and the MLS and all the American soccer, he had made a bad decision. Actually, many people tend to forget that MLS got the best of this deal.

    Let's go back to he Fall of 2006. Beckham was kicked out of the English national team for good. Then, The Real Madrid's coach benched him for many weeks. Beckham felt that his future in the European top soccer getting slim, and he was getting depressed about it. At that exact moment, MLS came calling with a huge deals that will resurrect his professional career. He accepted it.

    Suddenly, fortune turned to his side again and he started getting playing time with Real Madrid and the frustrated English manager turned to him to rescue the national team. He became important again and the dream of playing for his national team in the world cup started to becoming true. What should he do now? How can he maintain high level soccer playing for the MLS with all the pressure from the new English team manager?

    Unfortunately, we see the money side of the story, only. What about the personal side of it?

  8. , July 21, 2009 at 11:20 a.m.

    Next, we need some coverage of the AC Milan Galaxy game, which didn't come close to filling the Home Depot Center, and during which Beckham was loudly booed, during practice, during the game and after. The report that a fan jumped onto the field is pure bogus; Beckham went over to the Riot Squad to call out the fans who had been giving him his due, and invited the guy onto the field--not, as his handlers apparently told him to say after the game, to "shake his hand,"--but rather with language that suggested that he was going to bash him. Kudos to the Galaxy fans for finally letting Beckham know what he's been worth to the the team. If he plays better angry, so be it.

  9. , July 21, 2009 at 11:22 a.m.

    P.S. Shelley: Soccer America is well worth the money--it comes out almost daily, and this story is of interest to many of us, including these two former Galaxy fans, if nothing else. It's not about Beckham; it's really about American fans and MLS. You will enjoy your subscription.

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