Spend it like Beckham

Posted by Andy Durham on January 13, 2007 at 11:52 am under Uncategorized | Read the First Comment

   Soccer has always coveted America, but Lady Liberty has always spurned the advances.

 
   Sure out kids play the game in droves then all go to the real football game afterwards. Of course the biggest problem the sport has seen in this country is the perception that it is only played by the elite much along the lines of lacrosse and polo, or among immigrants who bought a love of the game with them. Plus the sports plate in this country has always been piled high with offerings for the consumer to gorge on so unlike most of the world we have more than one sport to follow. As for those who have a passion for watching the game in this country they are well served by modern technology that has allowed the American fan to follow the international game as never before.

 
  Yet soccer still covets America, alas Lady Liberty continues to spurn the advance.

 

   Sports in this country rides of a rhythm with the changes of the seasons, and even though it gets harder to tell when one sport season ends and another begins this sports fan in this country still grooves with that vibe. Time and time again over the last four decades the world soccer machinery has tried to turn this into a soccer nation, time and time again the efforts have fallen flat on its face.

 
  Still soccer covets America.

 
   Occasionally soccer in this country gets a temporary foothold when there is nothing else really to follow. Pele during the 70’s, the world cup in 1994, even the first woman’s world cup in 1999 caught the imagination of the American public for the amount of time they were on our TV screens or in our newspapers. And all occurred during the dregs of the summer months which have always been the bottom of the barrel time of the year for sports in this country. Then en masse the American mindset turns to whatever is next on the sports calendar.

 
  Still soccer covets America.

 
  And now in a move that smacks of desperation for MLS David Beckham is coming to America to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy as he signed a deal for five years with a potential value of one quarter of a billion dollars. Upon hearing this, my first thoughts were of Pele when he was with the New York Cosmos during the 1970’s. If you have not seen it, I advise checking out the documentary ‘Once In A Lifetime’ which does an excellent job of recapping that era, plus it has a cool soundtrack.

 
 The similarities are striking. A bored, aging player well past his prime coming to a country that for the most part only knows him by reputation claiming to be on a mission to convert the masses, when in reality it is just for the ridiculous deal that they get for coming to this country. This would be like Brett Favre leaving the Packers to go play for the Barcelona Dragons.

 
   However unlike Pele or Brett Favre, Beckham does not have anywhere near the game or the natural charisma that Pele had in abundance. Sports agents in this country must be licking their chops to get deals for their clients in sports that actually have a following in this country. If you thought salaries were out of control before, to steal a line from Bachman Turner Overdrive, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

 
   As for the effect that Beckham has on the game in this country I expect it to be among the same lines as Pele’s, just not anywhere near as memorable. Sure this will mean some great crowds and lots of headlines for games in which Beckham plays. Yet every other game on the MLS docket will look the same, like the cleaning crew taking a break. Nothing looks worse than lots of empty seats and this is something MLS has always suffered from. In reality MLS does not do badly, the attendance figures, television ratings and quality of play are of a sport that serves a distinct niche in this country. And they have stayed in business by following a frugal business plan, which now goes by the wayside as the rules have changed.

 
  Sure MLS wants to grow but David Beckham and his B-grade pop star wife however are not what this sport needs in the long run. Yes, it will look good on Sports Center seeing Tom Cruise enjoying the game from his luxury suite (after all his is on Beck’s speed dial) and the tabloid press will have a field day. At the end of the day though this sport will not see any growth and it may be the same fate will befall MLS that the NASL saw, a sport financially broken. As the old adage goes, those who fail to heed histories lessons are doomed to repeat them.

 
  Still soccer covets America.


  • Greg said,

    In 30 to 40 years soccer will be the #1 sport in America and Spanish will be the #1 language of America, the money people in America are starting to buy teams and take notice of the sport.