Spice Up Your Life
I figured the Loss Column should weigh in on the Beckham invasion since it’s been so grossly under-reported. Beckham is good for American Soccer in the same way Gorgeous George was good for pro-wrestling. Pretty boys are fun to hate, and when they wear sarongs and fauxhawks, they’re even more fun to hate. I will go see Beckham play vs. DC United Sept 8th to boo him and to hope that Ben Olsen spikes him in the calf. But I’m not sure why.
Why am I paying to go to a game in the interest of spite for someone I never met? Probably for the same reason I felt a sense of indignation when Paris Hilton got out of jail early. I hate and envy the famous, and like much of America, hope and pray for their downfall. Beckham is like Paris Hilton with talent. They’re both vacuous, good-looking (more in the case of Beckham than Paris) clothes horses who are famous for being famous. The only exception is that Beckham is a vacuous, good looking clothes horse who, at 32, can still take free kicks better than anyone in the world.
On second thought, maybe the Paris Hilton comparison is a bit harsh. Beckham is more like Jon Bon Jovi. Girls love him, most guys hate him, and the ones that don’t hate him won’t admit to loving him. They’re both good at what they do, and they look good doing it. While JBJ excels at radio-friendly pop goo, Beckham excels at free kicks. He doesn’t make dazzling runs or acrobatic bicycle kicks, he just takes free kicks. What’s amazing is that he’s done it well and for long enough to make him the most recognizable sports figure in the world.
Compared to past euro soccer giants who wound up in America, he doesn’t really measure up in talent or personality. He doesn’t have the charm and otherworldly skill of a Pele, he doesn’t have the loathsome sliminess and opportunistic goal hunger of a Giorgio Chinaglia, and he doesn’t have the poise, class, or leadership of a Franz Beckenbauer. He’s a one-note virtuoso with the personality of a hitching post who got swept up in the British tabloid hype machine which spread like a viral infection to the rest of the world. Now, like it or not, America is battling the infection and our media is doing it’s best to dump the vaccine down the sink.
According to some message boards and blogs, many Americans see the Beckham hype as an attempt to “force” soccer onto Americans. If soccer was really being forced on Americans, we’d see MLS highlights on Sportscenter. The Beckham madness isn’t about some global agenda to cram the world’s game down America’s throat. It’s not even about sport. It’s more about our fascination with fame.
It doesn’t matter what you’re famous for in America. It makes no difference whether you’re famous for taking out your competition by having them whacked in the knee or famous for marrying a wealthy, dying man 60+ years your senior. David Beckham is just some guy who plays a game most Americans don’t really care about, but he’s some guy who you recognize and about whom you have most likely already formed an opinion. You don’t have to love him or even respect him, you just have to recognize him. And in that respect, he’s already done more for the MLS in one weekend than any single player has in the league’s entire history.