David Beckham will play his last game for Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Cup Final against Houston on December 1 in Los Angeles.
In 2007, he rolled into soccer town with a show. Beckham brought the big top to a little circus. Major League Soccer needed a new act, someone who could crack celebrity’s whip and park the audience in the soccer tent for gasps of excitement.
Roll Up! Roll Up! Come See the English Lion Bend It! The seats quickly filled. The clowns in the paparazzi kept the circus on the covers of the tabloids – Beckham – fame’s iconic acrobat. His image flew in various states of undress, hints of his latest fragrance passing over his fans, dropping purchases of all-things-Beckham, kids wearing his #23 jersey among the new converts. The top hats of Major League Soccer thanked him. As they should. Their league expanded to nineteen teams. No longer a little circus.
Not everyone was happy with the ticket to the Beckham show. The Galaxy fans turned on him when he considered closing the tent and moving back to Europe half way through the run. The fans of rival teams excoriated him. Fewer players have endured such heaps of boos and abuse. He became the ringmaster with a target on his back. His skin had to be thick. No doubt, money and fame made it easier to endure.
Consider this. Kids imagine being like someone. And who can deny that a chunk of America’s soccer playing youth imagine being Beckham. Flighting a free kick into the back of the net is tried on suburban soccer fields every weekend.
It was the Beckham show. And now the ring will be empty.
Roll Up! Roll Up! Who’s Next?
Read Alan Black’s soccer column every week in the Friday print edition of the San Chronicle.
The Beckhams will not be setting up their French court much to the chagrin of Paris society.
The French elites had been predicting which side of the Seine the Court of Beckham would be established. Existentialists in cafes debated whether this important choice would determine whether he played in left or right midfield for Paris St.Germain, the club he was destined for. Couture houses were giddy with the prospect of a new saturnine era of shadow with the popular designer, Mrs. Beckham, set to ring the runways with her moody cuts. Would the Beckhams be at the opening night of the Opera? Would Becks become the latest motif for post-modernist lectures at La Sorbonne? French comedians were polishing off jokes about l’escargot and Beckham’s pace. Mais, non!
The ticker reports that Beckham has decided to go into the sunset boulevard of his playing career in Los Angeles. The immigration lawyers at the LA Galaxy may now be filing for the work visa extension, perhaps even green cards will be in the post for the Beckhams. Citizenship could come later, then a run for governor, or perhaps a reality show – Down With The Becks- or the lure of the silver screen. A small role in the next Sherlock Holmes could surely be arranged. And with Los Angeles just so bright, Mrs. Beckham may finally break out a smile for the cameras, adding more sparkles to the white heat of Los Angeles. It’s a diamond possibility.
The good news for US soccer fans is that Beckham has more to offer as a player. Last season, he played some of his best soccer in his long career. He will wish to exit on a high. And hanging up his boots playing in America is an endorsement for Major League Soccer. More brand players will follow his legacy. Aspiring American kids will see him as a great example of what it means to be a dedicated professional in a major league, par excellence. Should it all be true, it is a good day for American soccer. Surf and sun has won. The French court has lost.
(above: La Galaxy fans give Beckham the news…Go Away!)
Beckham’s return to Los Angeles was met by a galaxy of boos. Expect to see Beckham playing for anyone in the Premier League within three months. It was an important moment for American soccer. Finally, there was enough pride to say, We don’t need no foreigner to make our soccer worthy. The moment will be looked back upon as the day American soccer grew up.
Beckham’s ego is so massive it can’t fit inside his haircut but the club has to take the blame for signing him. It was never a soccer decision. Branding should be left to boots and shirts, not players. The American game is maturing fast, fans follow the national team, and see victory. Understandably, the hostility from the American media forces the MLS to sell candy but those days are ending.
USA soccer boss, Alexi Lalas, announced that David Beckham will be booed on his return to LA Galaxy. This is an important moment of maturation for American soccer. It proves the fans at the Galaxy believe that their club is bigger than “the man.” Many Galaxy fans don’t want Becks back. His slow play is much more suited for the snail’s pace of Italian football. Not that American soccer is fast but it is played in a more open style than the fossilised Calcio. Like most people his age, Beckham is slowing down. It’s little surprise that he wants to lounge around on the field in fashionable Milan. The freeway lane changes of Los Angeles are too much for old Becks. Galaxy fans: boo him until he goes away. American soccer no longer needs a slow giant to shake it awake.
I’m watching the San Jose Earthquakes versus the Hollywood Galaxy from the Oakland Coliseum. The camera shots are steep, like the stadium seats. Oakland is a mean place with a mean sun. And it is illuminating this possible fact – Becks is balding at the crown. And to make matters worse, his scalp is burned. You can’t come from suburban London to California without the 50Factor screen. Becks’ advisers should take care of his head, or the dermatologist will be calling with the bad news. And a call to the Hair Club For Men is also in order. Maybe an endorsement deal is in the offing.
Becks is adding his golden signature to the black marker. Not that he is in a hurry these days to get around anyone on the field but apparently he is up for more autographs. Sharpie has signed Becks to its global campaign to become the pen of choice for the famed. The permanent marker scores – maybe it will rub off on Becks goal tally. But like all pens, it runs dry. When a Sharpie dies, and these days leaving the cap off for more than ten minutes can be fatal for its future, a cry of “Damn and Blast,” is likely followed up by a throw of the Sharpie at the trash can, that usually misses, like much of Becks’ free-kicks these days. More stains on the landfill.
I went to a MLS game on Saturday, a clash between the San Jose Earthquakes and the LA Galaxy, with the brightest star in the universe, the supernova David Beckham in shorts. Most in the huge crowd were there to see him, and he was quite effective in leaving the impression that he will retire and join a Ramblers Society, a weird cult in England composed of people who like to take leisurely walks around wide open spaces. MLS means Major League Stroll. Becks, to give him his alcoholic moniker, made no tackles during the game, and I wondered if he had a no-tackle clause in his contract. And then I flashed back to an image I had seen of Becks two days ago, a shocking, homo-erotic photograph of Becks in underwear, showing his tackle. His body had been painted by the photoshop folks who designed the bodies of the actors in the movie 300. Legs wide open, it was cock-a-doodle do.
This coming Thursday, Becks will be in San Francisco, and I am planning a blag, fueled by Heineken. With my new book Kick the Balls in hand, I plan to worm my way through security and get a photo with Becks holding my book. Stand by for the result and photograph on Friday, if I’m not tackled by security and thrown in jail.