Becks: Savior of Stateside Football

// July 11th, 2007

Are you ready for some football???

No, it’s not time for the new NFL season just yet. I’m talking about real football. Football, as in what everyone else on earth calls the sport we call soccer. After all, in American football, only the kicker actually puts his foot to the ball, and he’s typically regarded as the biggest pussy on the field.

The time for the arrival of England’s renowned brand/icon/right winger/midfielder David Beckham has finally come. Becks will debut for his new team, the L.A. Galaxy, on July 21st vs. Chelsea FC in a friendly match. There will be a ton of hype around this match for sure, as Becks will face off against his England teammates Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, and John Terry.

The MLS is hoping that Beckham’s move across the great pond after his trophy-winning years playing at Man U & Real Madrid, two of football’s most storied clubs, will bring them into the mainstream of US sports with a surge in fans, sponsorships, advertising, and attendance. In the short run, it definitely will, but in the long run, I wouldn’t count on it. In fact, part of me expects Becks’ wife Victoria’s aka Posh Spice new reality special, Victoria Beckham: Coming to America, to deliver higher ratings.

There are a few reasons why I don’t think Becks will have the impact the MLS hopes he will.

1) Football is just not really in our blood here in the US. Whereas football is the predominant sport worldwide and is played by children from a young age, we have baseball, American football, and basketball. Many football fans here in the states originally hail from Latin American countries, particularly Mexico. It’s why Chivas has an expansion team in the MLS.

2) Even if we wanted to like it, there’s not enough scoring in football. Football matches can end in 0-0 draws when they aren’t elimination matches. That would drive Americans insane. Scoring a goal in football is such a big deal that footballers & fans alike go absolutely crazy when one is scored. It takes great skill, poise, teamwork, and maybe even a little luck to score. Those magic moments, however, are what makes football the “beautiful game.” There are subtleties in football - in defense, in passing, in dribbling - that would be lost on the average American sports fan. As compared to the exciting offensive & defensive plays in American football, basketball, and even baseball, which can be downright boring at times, football doesn’t stand much of a chance.

3) Even if we began to appreciate skillful football, we had arguably the greatest footballer ever - Edson Arantes do Nascimento aka Pelé - play stateside for the NY Cosmos & it still didn’t really boost football as a sport here in the US. Granted, the MLS is a much more organized & superior league to the North American Soccer League (huh?) and we have an advanced infrastructure for professional football, but if the quality of play overall is not competitive enough, it won’t matter much. Beckham will easily be the best player in the league & there isn’t any other footballer in the MLS that is close to him. Our best American footballers like Brian McBride, Tim Howard, Claudio Reyna, Carlos Bocanegra, and DeMarcus Beasley go to play for European clubs That’s simply because club football in the English Premier League, Spanish Primera Liga, and Italian Serie A is the best in the world. The MLS is a minor league compared to them, and unless Beckham’s lucrative deal can attract other footballers either looking for lots of money or nearing retirement to join the MLS, it always will be.

4) More women might start watching MLS matches, but most sports fans are straight men (or at least pretend to be). Beckham is good-looking & all that & brings his star power to already star-heavy L.A., but since when did straight male fans get excited to watch a hot guy run around in his shorts? A classmate in my Business of Sports class totally said that Becks’ looks would attract more fans, male & female alike. I’m not so sure of that. It’s a tad gay, eh? He used Derek Jeter as an example, but the difference is that Jeter is not known for his looks so much as he is known for being a champion from the start of his career. He might act like a fancy lad when he’s up at the plate prancing around, but he also dives into the stands headfirst & comes through in the clutch, so we love him for that. Besides, he’s on the Yankees, so we would’ve been watching with or without him.

5) Given that football isn’t much appreciated stateside, what Beckham is best at is not exciting enough to drum up lots of excitement from would-be fans. Beckham is among the best free-kickers in the world & is an excellent deep passer. However, here in the states, we like scorers. In the NBA, Steve Nash or Jason Kidd might be the best pure passers, but we’re seeing a lot more Kobe, Vince Carter, T-Mac or Lebron on the highlight reel. Beckham not being a prolific goal scorer will make it tough to generate interest among the uninitiated.

A footballer with the tremendous skill of Ronaldinho or Cristiano Ronaldo could be the kind of spark the MLS is looking for. However, both make way too much money in Europe to even consider it.

Incidentally, Real Madrid actually would not buy Ronaldinho (they call it buying a player in European football - crazy Old World culture!) because he was deemed too ugly. Said former Real president Florentino Perez,

“How ugly is Ronaldinho?! There was no point buying him, it wasn’t worth it. He’s so ugly that he’d sink you as a brand. Between Ronaldinho and Beckham, I’d go for Beckham a hundred times. Just look how handsome Beckham is, the class he has, the image. The whole of Asia has fallen in love with us because of Beckham. Ronaldinho is too ugly.”

Well, with Beckham, los Galacticos only managed to win 1 Primera Liga title, and that was this season, when he was benched & injured for much of it. Ronaldinho went to Barcelona aka Barca where he won 2 Primera Liga titles, 1 Champions League title, 2 FIFA World Player of the Year Awards, and has passed Beckham as the world’s highest paid footballer. Madrid sold lots of jerseys, but Barca sold even more because everyone knows that the best way to make money in team sports is to win. If it’s the image that’s the thing then, you’ve got C.Ronaldo, who’s a metrosexual just like Becks, but an even better player.

Beckham

Ronaldinho

Cristiano Ronaldo

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  1. On July 12th, 2007 Anais said:

    I can’t believe you wrote an entire essay on Beckham. Actually I can.
    Unfortunatly, I think you’ll be the one in America to care. Oh no that’s not true. It’s you, Tom and Katie. I wonder which one of you will wear the biggest sunglasses…