An icon goes down: Beckham's American legacy in doubt

By Ridge Mahoney

Like it or not, David Beckham is still the only soccer player who moves the sports media needle in the United States.

News of his torn Achilles' tendon and probable absence from the World Cup emerged from a fierce blizzard of stuff Sunday, during which NBA, NHL and exhibition baseball news were submerged by the announcement and subsequent debate and analysis of which 65 men’s Division I basketball teams will duel for the national title, and which won’t.

Far more people were outraged by the exclusion of, say, Virginia Tech from the Big Dance than were crestfallen or – perversely -- thrilled by word of the Bad Achilles. Surely the prospect of England vs. USA in the World Cup on June 12 had exacerbated excitement and awareness of Beckham, yet in the three years-plus since his move to MLS and the Galaxy was announced, he's been the main icon of the sport in America.

It’s not right, and an insult to the masses people working their tails off at Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer and hundreds of other organizations to get the game more prominence in America, but star power trumps all else, as does a pop-star wife, eight-figure salary, and millions more in endorsements. And how lame did it look, for example, last year after Beckham clandestinely orchestrated a mega-luminous loan deal to AC Milan, for America’s best player to leverage his own, and ultimately feeble, stint at Bayern Munich?

The career of Landon Donovan, ironically, got a boost from Beckham, his teammate on the Galaxy and occasional debate foe regarding issues as diverse as leadership, commitment, professionalism, and dinner checks. In U.S. pop culture, he suddenly became the guy who played on the same team as DAVID BECKHAM, never mind he’d also represented his country at two World Cups, won several league titles, married an actress, etc.

Both went on loan to European clubs in the past few months; one unintentionally inflicted an injury to a probable World Cup opponent (Ashley Cole), and now the other will likely watch the event on crutches. It can be said that in the past 10 weeks, while on loan at Everton, Donovan eradicated much of the consternation and disdain aimed at him from European observers respectful of his talent yet unconvinced of his mettle. But not for a few more months can we know if a big-time club will shell out big bucks, in MLS terms at least, to buy up Donovan, and he can showcase his skills over there long-term.

Everton and manager David Moyes may have been the ideal setting for Donovan to showcase his abilities, as was Beckham’s arrangement at AC Milan. Yet Moyes has severely hedged about Everton paying for a transfer in the summer; he mentioned maybe Donovan could come again on loan next January, if he’s still with the Galaxy. At Everton, like most other places, times are tight.

According to reports, AC Milan will take Beckham back next year on loan assuming he can get back to fitness. If Beckham recovers in six months, he can play at the tail end of the MLS season, a problematic scenario at age 34, yet possible.

Beckham is a tough competitor, but in his own right, and on his own terms. His desire to play in a fourth World Cup prompted the loan move to Milan in the first place. That bold maneuver tainted the Galaxy and MLS as small-timers, and his often lackluster play cheapened both himself and his employers.

A better effort last season and a run to MLS Cup burnished his image as a player somewhat, but there’s still way more notoriety about the jersey he’s sold than what he’s done wearing it, and due to a cruel slice of bad luck, that might be his lasting legacy in America.

4 comments about "An icon goes down: Beckham's American legacy in doubt".
  1. Larry Rios, March 15, 2010 at 3:56 p.m.

    It is sad to see any player get injured especially without contact on the field. I however won't miss him here in the states. His play was mostly average, even at AC Milan where he was surrounded by more skillful players than those found on the Galaxy, his contribution was minimal, thus his position on the bench behind Sedorf.

  2. Marc Meyer, March 15, 2010 at 4:47 p.m.

    Beckham is a moron! A Media tease in a professional sport. This idiot was injured (not even from game play) Last season and he is pulling the same crap again. Grab a player form each team and put all of them in the spot light. PEOPLE WILL LISTEN. In his time im sure he was good but his time is up, get this bastard out of the MLS before you lose people, which is counter productive.

    In LA I watched an entire stadium Boo Ass Beckham walked on the field after being gone for so long. Hes a dirty player and its just to keep himself in the spotlight. player are intimated by his popularity not his skill. Let the Moron stay on AC Milan or whatever.

    This past season I was at a Fire home game and they were Playing LA Galaxy. It was 1-0 and Galaxy was winning, when a kid with his father turned to me, saying "The Fire are not playing well tonight are they?" I asked if he was an LA Fan, in which he responded "No I am not a fan of either team, i just came to watch Beckham." needless to say Beckham was out of the game with ANOTHER injury and the boy and his father got up and left before the 1st half was even over. Is America Full of "Media Brain Washed Morons" or what? if so, again put the damn spot light the skilled MLS Veterans that have 10+ MLS Play under them. There is Allot of good players out there that still just wanna play and and don't care about the spot light.

    SCREW BECKHAM, LEGACY MY ASS! Ya a legacy about turning Soccer into a sport where athletes are playing for money only and no heart, like the rest of the American Sports. Take some time to look at Soccer around the world and Look at the passion that is behind that. Lets Keep the Passion in MLS and get rid of that moron NOW.

  3. v m, March 17, 2010 at 4:13 p.m.

    hey marc meyer, maybe you and ridge mahoney should get married so you can sing that ol' song together over and over again "like all european players suck and how great our own". even though they lose to everyone but a few teams from carribean. you're basically calling millions of people and their kids who're watching beckham or work for mls morons just because you think you know something about soccer. england has far more soccer talent than us does and they would never give away a spot on their national team to someone who they think doesn't deserve it. let's just leave it at that. i'm not even gonna go into details that ac milan is far better club (in all aspects) than everton (9th place in epl) and that without beckham donovan would have never scored that many goals and would have never gone to everton (remember how he ran crying like a little girl from bayern?). i can go on and on but there is no way i can change your opinion since you decided to call half of the world morons. all i have left to say to you is will see it all in june. no europeans are gonna be on american team to "mess up" their "perfect" game!

  4. carlos da silva, March 17, 2010 at 7:06 p.m.

    The reason there is no true USA football stars is because the media here hasn't been able to give the quality of attention to this sport that we do in other countries. We are all at blame for this.

    You can blame the newscasters for this and the papers as well.

    Also, it doesn't help that the USA plays a different type of football than we do in Europe both on the pitch and off.

    1. Stop using the term Soccer, it's called football or European Football.
    2. Stop associating this sport with soccer moms.
    3. Stop allowing people to call this a sissies sport when we all know very well its a rugged demanding physical sport.
    4. Start demanding your local pub play all local and international matches and show up and support your pub by buying a pint and bringing your friends to those matches.. That is what makes football great out of the USA. It's a social sport.
    5. Lastly, stop expecting yourself or your kids to play Football as if it American football. It's a team sport and it;s not about scoring goals. The starts dont have to score goals. Reward all players. Example: Zidane, Figo, Giggs, Scholes, etc. THERE ARE NO quarterbacks and no running backs in this sport so stop rewarding that type of behavior or this sport will never evolve in the USA.

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