ESPN UK: David Beckham’s very LA Story


If you have 47 minutes to kill and you want to know how David Beckham single handedly transformed MLS from deadbeat to drumbeat. No I kid. Actually, Beckham’s legacy is mixed. He did not quite match Alexi Lalas’s hyperbole of saviour of football. But he isn’t also quite the write off.
Americans didn’t abandon their sporting interests in droves to take to an imported sport because of Beckham other than an initial spike out of curiosity. And attendances with him as a marquee name have flat-lined in the MLS for some time now. It took the Galaxy five years to win the MLS so we can dispel the instant impact argument.
His contribution has been felt more at a player level. What he did was to make the MLS a respectable league for a number of well known footballers with some treads left seeking an after life. He was the first to take advantage of the asynchronous MLS season to seek the now trendy short term loan to the bigger European leagues. Donovan, Thierry Henry, and Robbie Keane have benefited from that exposure immensely.
There have been unintended consequences too with the relatively huge DP salaries driving the need to improve the salaries of the rest of the league to avoid the “class warfare” label. Beckham’s unique DP status also improved player potability giving the club more independence to exercise that clause and in lieu going to draft picks and trades.

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6 comments on “ESPN UK: David Beckham’s very LA Story
  1. Look at the Galaxy and MLS’ “brand” recognition and the media attention they get around the world – and I mean everywhere – since Beckham joined: from zero to total. Its not a coincidence that Galaxy started going on Asian tours off-season the second they got Becks, they wanted him in no small part because he is so popular in those markets (and they obviously weren’t getting invited before).
    A personal thing about the documentary – I cannot abide Grant Wahl. I think he is a whinger with a chip on his shoulder (about what who knows) who betrayed his “friend” Landon Donovan by including things in his book that Donovan thought were said between the two of them. Donovan obviously regrets having said them and to whom – speaking to a journalist is never off record. But worse is his terrible portrayal of Beckham as the root of all the club’s ills his first two years with them (the club that was second from the bottom of the table when he arrived). I was embarrassed whilst reading his silly book as read like a particularly catty gossip rag and I couldn’t believe it was lapped up in the states.
    The fact that throughout his book and again in this piece Wahl keeps referring to Terry Byrne as Becks’ “best friend” makes me cringe. What are they, school boys? Whatever he thinks of how the man did his job, he did have have a job along with a title. Its not as if Becks had asked one of his mates up from the pub and told him to muck in. There is no mention of the fact that Beckham’s people may have gotten involved because Galaxy management seemed to have lost the plot in that first season. They handled the media terribly and they played their most expensive signing whilst severely injured. If someone had been looking out for Beckham AND the teams’ interests, instead of that day’s till contents, they wouldn’t have gotten off to such a terrible start.
    Btw, tht man who Wahl continues to condescendingly identify as simply the “best friend” is currently partnered with Cobi Jones, probably the best player in US soccer and certainly LA Galaxy’s history, as well as Eric Cantona, to bring another MLS franchise and youth academy to NYC. I’m pretty sure those two are better qualified to judge a football professional than Mr Wahl.
    Otherwise, some interesting perspectives were on offer.

  2. Nina, point(s) taken. You correctly point out the arrival of Beckham to the Galaxy was ineptly handled by Alexi Lalas and Tim Leiweke – everyone expected nothing short of an instant impact. A title in the first year, huge attendances for all times to come, soccer beating out the American sports. Beckham has had to fight all that hype and those injuries. But he did not help too with his bad timing- one eye constantly out on the English national team, his Milan short term loans when the Galaxy needed him to focus on the domestic season. And Wahl’s gossip did damage him but Donovan knew what he was doing spilling all to a journalist who was writing a book about Beckham. That is what sold so many copies and put Wahl on the map. It’s par for the course. Love Cobi Jones, though – Mr Galaxy and one the most outstanding talents in US soccer history. Yes, here is hoping the NY Cosmos becomes reality.

  3. Thank you for the reply. Yes, you are probably right about Donovan. I was putting all the blame on Wahl because I was so surprised by his book. I had enjoyed his football coverage in the past and didn’t expect the tattle. He seemed to have been speaking for a school of American fans – and local sportswriters and bloggers (present company excluded) – who appear to be in a seething frenzy of American Soccer v European Football and do anything to fan a flame of resentment. He lost all my respect at that point.
    It was a tough thing for MLS fans to handle the national team involvement but Becks had not expected to be considered again, and many US fans didn’t know his history, probably didn’t know what that meant to him, or how deeply involved he had been for so long. Beckham’s P.R. people might have seen the need to present his side better, but that’s often no use anywhere and as often backfires – club v country is a historic dispute and this was just a more intense version if you think about it. I’m certainly anxious when my players go on international duty as they so frequently return injured or with knocks. But I’m still proud to watch them – maybe if it had been USA duty…?
    Regarding Milan, on the one hand, and this is not to demean US fans, but I don’t think they understood how loans spells and transfers work in the rest of the world (although MLS players soon caught on). Beyond that, they had a point, one that would have been made by any fans. However there was an explicit lack of acknowledgement that players are only human and that the draw of any athlete to the highest level of their competition is a great one, something many don’t realize they’d miss once they step out. (See Scholes’ return). Having mentioned the second Manchester United player, I should say I’m a Liverpool fan so I was surprised to be so interested in how Beckham fared in the US. It may have been because I was living here, and we all know him from the England set-up. In any case, most fans of football did enjoy seeing him do well once again with and against the talent he was surrounded by at Milan, whether we sympathized with the Galaxy fan point of view or not. You only go through once, and for athletes that part of their lives is not the longest run. Sometimes we should sympathize or at least see the point, not a point of view that makes me popular at home, btw! And you will notice that Galaxy and MLS fans more than sympathized when it was Donovan’s turn to go to Everton a couple of months later.
    And yes, Cobi is one of a handful of non LFC players I have always loved. Fantastic and always seemed to be a lovely lad. Best luck to him!

  4. Just a bit of perspective. Here in San Francisco, quite an international mix of soccer fans, coaching, playing amateur level, and the like. Very rarely do MLS games or players come up in conversation, there’s simply no interest.

  5. Nina, I think the American soccer vs European football issue is quite relevant but there is an explanation because soccer in this country has to compete for attention with sports like the NFL, NBA, and the MLB that dwarf it in terms of following, money, and media exposure. So soccer is that scrappy underdog that nips around your ankle. Beckham’s transfer was seen as a serious first shot to reverse that imbalance. And here he was eying a England spot and looking at AC Milan as a legitimate stepping stone rather than MLS. It was Fabio Capello who said his chances for selection were slim if he continued to play in the MLS. I think it got a lot of people including Wahl and Donovan upset.

  6. As an LA Galaxy fan, after four long years he finally conviced me of his dedication to his team last year. All in all he has helped the MLS. Nice website. Check mine out at 1donttreadonus.blogspot.com
    It is a blog dedicated to the US National team, MLS and Yanks abroad.
    –JP

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