Tuesday, August 7, 2007

On Mr. Golden Balls

People seem to have plenty to say about the recent addition of David Beckham to the American sports scene. Journalists, such as Tony Kornheiser of ESPN's PTI and the Washington Post, have been critical of the fact that he has the most lucrative contract in sports, and has yet to appear in a single MLS game (he showed his face against Chelsea though).

Kornheiser makes the claim that Beckham is basically conning the American public, saying:

"I have no patience for this guy. The guy is a fraud right now. He's a fraud. He's taking money under false pretenses. He's not playing. And who's being cheated? The people who bought the tickets. ... When he's ready to play, sell the tickets. .... He's a fraud. He's a fraud."

Now, I don't necessarily agree with Kornheiser's sentiment. If Beckham has a legitimate injury them I'd rather him sit out these games than risk aggravating it and turning a somewhat benign ankle injury into something that is career threatening. If this were baseball, I'd say that even with a bum ankle, he could pinch hit or he could DH, but it's not. David Beckham plays midfield, which means he's liable to run five miles or more over the course of a game, all the while changing directions and avoiding the errant tackles of opposing defenders. Basically, I'd liken it to (because I know all you non-soccer buffs out their love cross sport references) him being a SS or 2B in baseball, and ranging to make a double play non-stop for 90 minutes. Except that instead of running just 10 or so feet, each play he has to run 30 yards at full speed and every single play, there is a guy trying to slide into him. If that isn't a recipe for diaster on a bum ankle, I don't know what is.

However, I also disagree that David Beckham is going to be the savior of soccer in America. Kornheiser is right in that people going to Galaxy games aren't paying to watch soccer, they are paying to see David Beckham. I was looking for tickets to a Revolution game on Stubhub, and was presented with this sight:

Consider that for certain family games, you can get 4 corner tickets, 4 sodas and 4 hot dogs for 60 dollars at list price and you will see how that's even more ludicrous. People don't want to watch soccer, they want to see Posh or a chance to snap a photo of Becks. In that respect, aren't the fans still getting what they paid for? (Actually no, because he doesn't accompany the team on road trips. Who likes flying when you have an ankle injury?)

Maybe people will pay to see David Beckham and then realized upon attending the game that they actually enjoy the experience. I know I've converted a bunch of people into liking basketball in this exact fashion. But soccer isn't flashy like basketball or explosive like football or a national pasttime like baseball. People who aren't already familiar with the nuances don't just watch a game and become hooked. David Beckham will draw a crowd, but he won't instill love of the beautiful game.


I don't know if it's just for me, but I've realized that after I blockquote something, the smaller line spacing stays with the entire post. I don't know why this is, but I don't like it. Comment or e-mail me with suggestions if you have any.