Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Real Legacy of David Beckham to Soccer in America

The Real Legacy of David Beckham in America

By: Jim Paglia
Just before the public announcement was made that David Beckham was coming to America to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS, I predicted his impact as a guest columnist in Soccer America and my views were reprinted by a reporter for the New York Times. Much of what I wrote has come to pass:
He proved he still has world-class skills;
He only enhanced his already astonishing celebrity and has expanded his endorsement across a wide variety of products sold in the US;
His first visit to each MLS city drew phenomenal record crowds;
Future visits didn’t draw anywhere near as well;
He was largely, singlehandedly responsible for the huge increases in MLS merchandise sales;
The Galaxy record is no better as a result of his presence;
His soccer camps got a big boost;
Aside from publicity, his impact on the professional game in this country is the equivalent of his wife Victoria announcing she was reuniting the Spice Girls. (I had no way of knowing that only days after this story first appeared, she did indeed announce the Spice Girls were launching a limited engagement world tour in selected cities. Apparently, they selected the wrong cities, because the tour was cut short due to lack of ticket sales.)

However, despite what appears at first glance to be my rather “spot on” assessment his impact to the game in America, I must admit I really couldn’t anticipate what I now believe will be his greatest legacy to the sport in this country.

Beckham has reinforced the notion among some self-serving coaches, administrators, parents and at times, players that it’s perfectly alright to walk out on your team and your commitment if a better offer comes along.

It’s well documented that I am not a fan of MLS, but the embarrassment caused to that league by the Beckham debacle is of little concern to me. It should have been no surprise to Beckham or anyone else that the caliber of play in MLS is well below the standards at which he has played most of his life. He had to be aware he wasn’t going to gain international match readiness playing against the likes of the Columbus Crew.

For all the obvious good his presence has done to promote interest in the sport among young players, I worry that Beckham’s greatest legacy will serve to demonstrate to generations of players who follow that individual self-interests outweigh commitment to a team and a club.

Before I go any further, let me be clear that I am a big fan of David Beckham, the player. He has been, and remains today, one of the most gifted set-piece players, and passers in the game. I’m thrilled to see him back in uniform for England. I even enjoy watching him play for AC Milan.

But I can’t help but wonder how many coaches, parents and players see his example as license to expand the already epidemic proportions of “hopping.” Coaches recruiting players to advance their own careers, parents living vicariously through their young children and praying for an unrealistic NCAA Division I scholarship, and players just looking for free snazzy warm-ups and gear, or a trip to Disney World; all conditions that are polluting the game. Sadly, Beckhams’s example, and ultimate legacy may be further opening the floodgates of this mentality.