Posh and Becks are Headed to LA

Saturday, January 13, 2007
Well, at least they'll be the Americans' problem and not mine. Did that sound snarky? If it did, it was intentional. I don't like them. Sure, I've never met them and they might be very nice people but I have my doubts. Plus, he used to play for Manchester United, a team I've hated for years. In case you're totally oblivious to the "news of the century"*, David Beckham has signed a deal with the LA Galaxy soccer team (NOTE: In order to avoid confusing some of my fellow North Americans, I have chosen to use the term "soccer" instead of "football". I apologize to the rest of the world for our ignorance).

Can someone tell me what he and his former Spice Girl wife are going to do with $250 millionUS (approx £128million)? It's not like either of them need the money. Certainly not that kind of money. She's a former, successful popstar, he's a world famous sports icon. To me, this amount of money is simply obscene. Think of all the good things that could be done with even a quarter of that money! You could feed, clothe, educate, medicate, etc....a HUGE number of people who otherwise wouldn't have access to these necessities. It could go towards finding a cure for cancer, alzheimers, MS, or even the common cold. It could build homeless shelters, start school lunch programs for the underpriviledged, open a library.... you get the idea. There I go again, off on a tangent...perhaps I have adult ADHD. Ooooh, another cause that could benefit from more money.

There seems to be some confusion regarding his departure from Real Madrid as well. When the story first began to appear, I was reading articles which stated that the club wasn't going to renew his contract and were releasing him. Then, he was still in talks with Real Madrid and possibly staying. Now suddenly it's "his decision" to leave the club and accept an offer with the Galaxy. Methinks someone has some top quality spin doctors working for them. I tend to think that his injury in the World Cup and his somewhat lackluster performance over the past few years might have been a big factor in the whole fiasco.

I've never been a Beckham fan. Truth be told I really didn't know who he was until the movie with his name in the title came out. However, I'll admit that he's a good player. You notice I didn't say he was a great player or one of the game's best. Perhaps in his heyday (funny...he's only 31) he was a great player. Now, not so much. The act of being a celebrity seems to be higher on the Beckhams' list of priorities. Sure, he's been a boost for the increase in soccer's popularity in North America (although it's still highly lacking in the fan support it gets in the rest of the world). He's a great choice to be the "face" of soccer, especially over here where it's all about the money and the beautiful people. I'm sure that he and Posh will fit in perfectly in the silicone enhanced world that is Los Angeles.

My big concern is that this whole fiasco is going to end up badly for soccer in North America. It'll be great for the first little while. There will be a huge amount of interest in Beckham's arrival and ticket sales will increase. On the Galaxy's website, they're telling fans to "Be a Part of History". Please. Perhaps you'll even see an increase in kids signing up to play soccer. However, unless Becks can perform like he used to, and there are people who can compete with him at the same level, it won't last. Oh, yeah, there's also the possiblity of him reinjuring himself and not being able to play. Money well wasted. Let's face it, chances are the players on the teams in the MLS are not of the same calibre as those that play professionally in Europe.

Soccer has never really caught on over here. It's a shame really because it is a great game although I'll admit that there is still a lot of aspects to it that I don't get. The offside rule, for example, despite Krista's great explanation during the World Cup, continues to remain just out of my grasp and the number of leagues, tournaments, etc in the UK alone could make anyone go mental. There's something, though, about the game that just doesn't seem to ring true for most North Americans. Sure there are a lot of individual players who manage to stand out over the years (including Beckham and the great Pele), but it's very much a team game. There isn't as much opportunity for individual glory. You might be the guy (or gal) that kicks the ball past the goaltender and win the game but you wouldn't have been able to do it without the rest of the team blocking, passing, and setting you up. Over here, it's very much about the individual, even in team sports. Face it, we're selfish. We want the glory for ourselves, not the "team".

I hope that this does turn out to be beneficial for soccer in North America. In my opinion, it's a great sport, especially for kids. It teaches them teamwork, provides them with a great form of exercise, and it's much cheaper for the parents (no, it's not always about the money). You need a pair of soccer cleats, shorts, and some socks. Maybe a pair of gloves if you're the goaltender. That's it. Compare this to hockey. Pads, sticks, pucks, skates, jersey, protective cup, helmet, tape, not to mention the cost of joining a team/league/camp/lessons.

Soccer has certainly seen a bit of a boost in popularity over here but it still doesn't begin to come close to what it's like in the rest of the world. There are plenty of local leagues for both women and men, indoors and out. Even Edmonton had it's own indoor semi-pro soccer team...for about half a season before they folded or moved. I guess only time will tell. Perhaps I'm completely wrong and this will be the beginning of North American teams being able to compete on the same level as their counterparts in the rest of the world. I have my doubts but I'm willing to admit it if it turns out I'm wrong. The MLS has a whopping 13 teams - naturally, I'll be cheering for the only Canadian team in the league despite the fact that they're based in Toronto. For soccer, I'm willing to put my ingrained anti-Torontonian feelings aside. Hopefully we'll also start seeing the MLS games broadcast of Sportsnet's Soccer Central alongside EPL games.

Now it's up to you, Becks. Prove me wrong.

*Considering the press this story is getting, you'd think it was the biggest thing since sliced bread.


Krista said...

I think it would be hard to curb the momentum that soccer/football has already gained in North America, even if one wash-up fails to live up to his expectations. Yes, the calibre of players in the MLS certainly doesn't compare to that of the European teams, but I think the mere fact that Beckham will get people out to see soccer in the first place will be sufficient enough. They will go to see him and then fall in love with the game.

Additionally, I think soccer's apparent lesser popularity is due in part to the fact that the majority of its following is in the younger generations. I'd say that within the next ten years you're going to see a) an even more increase in the popularity in soccer here, and b) an increase in the calibre of players coming out of North America. My sister, currently eleven years old, plays for a club team (the highest level possible for her age group) and these kids are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Jaw-droppingly astounding. Their technical and tactical expertise would rival that of any adult team in the higher divisions. And they haven't even hit their teens.

While I agree that the basic "team-y" nature of soccer is putting off the North American crowd, I still think our collective desire for elitism and individual glory is going to get the so-called ball rolling. The strive to make superstars is going to increase the general skill level of our players.

So, I guess I'm saying that its just a matter of time....

Gardenia said...

Spice girl looks a bit anorexic to me and over-tanned. It is obscene how much sports stars get paid. But that goes to say something about society's priorities. Don't know much about socker, but I sure would rather have my kids playing that than football and basketball, and have their bodies ruined. Soccer seems much more humane (other than wild fans.)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Good rant!

This is not so much about money, I think, as it is about ego. I think it's pretty telling that Beckham has signed up with an LA team - short commute to Hollywood. Plus Posh is trying to make a singing comeback.

Some people do not know how to bow out of the limelight gracefully.

Wandering Coyote said...

I cannot believe how much he's getting paid! I cannot belive a soccer team in the US has that much money to squander. I heard on the CBC that soccer players in the US make peanuts. This would feel very awkward if it were me.

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