SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

If I Can't Have Him, He's No Good

Real Madrid is benching David Beckham now that he's signed a contract with the L.A. Galaxy for next year and the four seasons after that.

On the one hand, I agree with the decision. When you're a coach, you're trying to build teamwork and comradery. When you have someone in your midst who obviously doesn't want to be there, you probably won't want him around. My guess is that's the way the best coaches think, but the practical reality is that players and coaches are free to move around after their contracts expired. Had Real Madrid really wanted to keep Beckham, they could have paid him dearly for the privilege.

But the thing is, they didn't want him.

Truth be told, David Beckham is on the downside of his career. He no longer is one of the world's premier players. One of the U.S. goalies (I think it was Brad Friedel, but it might have been Kasey Keller) was asked to fill in the following sentence: "David Beckham is. . .." To which the goalie replied, "A poseur." English soccer fans lamented that Beckham no longer had the stamina that he once did, and that he was kept in the lineup for the "set pieces," which, for the uninitiated, are free kicks and corner kicks.

That's right, Becks is no longer one of the best in England, let alone the world.

And if you didn't know much about soccer, you'd have to assume that anyway. Which world class players in their right minds would play in the U.S., which is a "B" League at best and which does not play host to the world's best players? Let's face it, the best players in the world play in the top leagues in England, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. They don't play for the L.A. Galaxy.

A friend of mine once had this to say about U.S. soccer in light of all of the comments about how many kids play it versus play baseball (where the soccer fans contend that soccer will somehow appear on the roster of the top sports in the United States, supplanting one of the big three). "Soccer is a sport on the rise in this country, and it always will be." To him and many others, making professional soccer more popular is a Sisyphian exercise. Even with Beckham, the Lords of U.S. Soccer won't push their proverbial rock up to the top of the hill anytime soon. Sure, he might draw some fans because of his past accomplishments and the star power, but he will not transform the U.S. into a soccer nation anytime soon. And before people get too giddy about the comparison to Major League Baseball, that league is doing, well, quite fine, thank you very much. Attendance is great despite the steroids scandal and despite the fact that "more kids play soccer than baseball."

I wish the Beckhams well in Los Angeles, and I wish pro soccer well in the United States. I just don't think that the Beckham investment will work.

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