Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Bench It Like Beckham
America, if you actually were to begin with, you can stop cheering now -- or at the very least looking on with a modicum of fascination.
Sure you've seen the good looks, the chiseled physique, the designer wardrobe, the rumors of a conversion to Scientology and his almost-lifelike wife, Stepford Spice. And you've no doubt heard about his legendary prowess on the pitch (that's a "soccer field" for you neophytes).
But that was just the excellent work of the starfucking media and a PR/hype machine that's second to none.
Now however, less than a week after his extravagant coming out party -- the one that might eventually rival the mass flagellation sure to greet the returning Christ-child -- the man behind the sequined curtain has made his first appearance.
The real David Beckham has finally arrived.
For the record, I had really hoped that he wouldn't; I had really hoped that this time would be different.
I had really hoped that this time, Beckham wouldn't be such a, well, pussy.
Yesterday, the coach of Becks's adopted team, the L.A. Galaxy, announced that his shiny new star midfielder was complaining of a sore ankle and therefore might not make his scheduled debut this coming Saturday against London powerhouse Chelsea (who, by the way, is guaranteed to kick the Galaxy's collective ass all over the field with or without Beckham in the lineup).
The game is sold out. It'll be carried live on ESPN. It's the latest, and possible biggest "big chance" for soccer in America -- and Becks may be sitting it out.
Understand, I take nothing away from Beckham's substantial talents: He's far and away the best place kicker in the game -- having an almost supernatural control over the ball -- and on the field he's much more of a team player than anyone would expect from such a high-profile, brand-name star (although I still contend that he wouldn't be the star he is today were it not for Ryan Giggs playing the Pippen to his Jordan all those years at Man United). But it's tough to forget -- and avoid drawing comparisons to present events -- the apparent ease with which he pulled himself out of a crucial match in last year's World Cup.
I'm talking about England vs. Portugal.
Team Captain Beckham complained of an upset stomach and wound up sitting on the sidelines while England went down in flames -- with incorrigible thug Wayne Rooney brutally stomping on fellow Premier Leaguer Ricardo Carvalho and squaring off with his own EPL teammate Christiano Ronaldo, and the Brits eventually losing 3-1 in a heartbreaking penalty kick shootout. Beckham was said to be near tears following the loss, but it was tough to feel sorry for him (the rest of the team was a different story) simply because it seemed almost a given that it should've taken nothing less than a sucking chest wound to keep him out of a game in which the stakes were so high.
And now, once again -- even after an exceptional climax to his career with Réal Madrid -- he's making it clear that he may be ready to opt out of a pivotal match. He cut his first practice with the Galaxy shamefully short yesterday, which seems suspect when you consider that the aforementioned final game with La Liga was almost a month ago to the day.
And that Beckham didn't even arrive in the United States until last Thursday -- which happened to be twelve days into the official start of his contract.
It's pretty much understood that the Galaxy isn't paying for Becks's ability to play as much as for his ability to fill stadium seats; L.A. in general wants "Beckham Inc." more than "Beckham PFA." Still, Beckhamania already may not be enough to bring soccer into the mainstream into the United States -- God knows everything else has failed miserably -- but it surely won't be if the man with the magic feet doesn't put them on the pitch when it counts most.