Beckham is English for `Pele'
By David Whitley
The Orlando Sentinel
ORLANDO, Fla. - Before we address today's topic, a confession:
I hate David Beckham.
He's handsome as a tick, a great athlete, has a famously hot wife and makes more in a day than most blokes make in a century.
What's not to hate?
That said, I've been trying to keep an open mind about him coming to America. You may have missed last week's announcement, but it rattled the rest of the globe to its core.
"It's really been amazing," Don Garber said Wednesday morning.
He's the commissioner of Major League . . . Soccer. I'm always leery about using the S word, because most people either stop reading or start making jokes.
The Los Angeles Galaxy weren't joking when they signed the world's most famous player for $250 million over five years. The standard criticism followed.
It's Pele II. It only will inspire another generation of American kids to play soccer and then grow up to be NFL fans. Beckham can't bend it like he used to. He's as washed up as his wife, the lovely and talented Victoria "Posh" from the Spice Girls.
In short, unless Beckham gives every American $500, he never will save soccer in this country.
"This should not be perceived as a thing to save the sport," Garber said, "because the sport doesn't need to be saved."
What it needs is to be understood. My goal isn't to make you run out and buy season tickets to your nearest MLS team, much less a Spice Girls CD. It is simply to clarify a few things.
Fifty million a year?
Yes, it's obscene that anyone makes about half as much as Tiger Woods. But about 80 percent is in nonguaranteed endorsement and promotional deals.
Besides, it's not your money. Why should you care?
Becks is a shell of his former midfielder self.
This might matter if one out of 10 Americans knew what a midfielder is. Beckham is past his soccer prime at 31, but there are plenty of benders left. And even when they miss, he'll still be beautiful.
The MLS is making the same mistakes as the North American Soccer League.
The NASL imported Pele and other stars 30 years ago. Then Ronald Reagan sent in the National Guard to quell the soccer uprising. Or something like that.
The MLS has a much sounder financial plan. I won't bore you with details, but you'd much rather invest in a soccer team than an NHL team.
The MLS has an extensive developmental league.
It has four new TV contracts. About 17 million people in the United States watched last year's World Cup final.
Dozens of soccer fans are legally and illegally coming to America every minute. Unless a Minuteman shoots him at the border, Beckham soon will be joining them.
"It's part of the plan," Garber said. "It is not the plan."
Beckham, schmeckham. Soccer never will be as popular here as the NFL.
It also won't be as popular as the NBA, baseball or maybe even Texas Hold `Em. But critics always use the major sports as the benchmark of success. Anything less than American Idol ratings or 60,000 fans per game is labeled a failure.
"We can't convince those who don't believe," Garber said.
I believe soccer is not a threat to the Republic, and there is no reason not to wish it the best.
I also believe if this leads to a Spice Girls reunion tour, I'll really hate Beckham.