Tuesday’s Column: The Beckham Experiment (Chapter 3)

Photo by Brad Graverson
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This blog began two years ago, almost to the day David Beckham came to Southern California and the Galaxy.

So it was appropriate I should mark the anniversary Saturday standing on a sweltering El Segundo field dripping sweat awaiting the arrival of his Beckhamness (and, more significantly, the incomparable Zinedine Zidane).

The torrid media circus continued Monday, too, with Beckham’s first official Galaxy practice this season.

What’s left of the year must be very different than what we’ve seen so far from Beckham.

I spell it out in today’s column.

Given the title of this post I should acknowledge the book of the same name that’s officially released today written by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, arguably the best soccer writer in the nation (I know the San Diego Union-Tribune’s similarly excellent Mark Ziegler might argue that point, for instance).

I sat down Sunday night to read the book and finished Monday just as I was preparing to write today’s column.

It’s a good read, as we say in the business, and clicks right along. In fact, it gets better as it progresses, since Wahl early on has to explain about American soccer and Beckham for the non-soccer fan and things do get a little bogged down for those of us who are first and foremost fans of the sport. In fact, that’s the most annoying aspect of the book (at one point Wahl explains the beauty and significance of a bicycle kick, for example), but it’s also understandable given soccer’s relatively small audience).

Its central theme – that there was no on the field leadership and no one knew just who was in charge of what off it either – isn’t particularly surprising to anyone who has followed the Galaxy and Beckham soap opera the last couple of years.

It’s the details that are most interesting, for example, the role Beckham’s personal manager Terry Byrne (and best friend, although how many people have their “best friend” on their payroll, too?) played in the whole circus. (And who knew Joe Cannon’s dad was a Vegas lounge singer?).

Most striking to me though, especially in the wake of recent revelations about Michael Jackson, was the bubble Beckham also lives in and has created for himself.

That enables him to say things like “I never wanted to leave MLS and the Galaxy for good” and actually believe it. Beckham may never have uttered those words publicly, but it’s clear that’s what he and his advisers wanted.

Similarly, I’m sure he believes he’s “committed” to MLS, even though his actions more than suggest otherwise.

Nuggets in the book include AEG President Leiweike understanding how “make or break” this season is, despite Beckham’s disclosure Monday that he doesn’t see this year the same way (there’s that bubble thing again).

Full disclosure: I’m not in the book, although several questions I asked at press conferences were, including Beckham’s now infamous response to one (at least among the very small group of reporters that regularly follow the Galaxy): “You always ask negative questions.”

My favorite part is actually really trivial: the way Wahl describes Galaxy striker Alan Gordon:

“Gordo, as his teammates called him, may have been making only $30,870 a year compared to Beckham’s $6.5 million, but he wasn’t starstruck by anyone in Los Angeles, and his own good looks – flowing dark hair, chiseled jaw, deep SoCal tan – combined with a subversive sense of humor helped him to pull in men and women alike.”

Men and women alike? Hmmm.

Does that tell me more about Gordo than I wanted to know or more about Wahl?

Anyway, check out the book. I recommend it.

Update II
Almost forgot.

I wasn’t the only person to enjoy the book; so did the Commish, who finished reading it on the plane on his Kindle just before chatting with reporters Saturday. He quoted the old adage about there being no such thing as bad publicity for MLS and observed there’s not been too many books written about the league (actually, I think it may be the first).

“I thought it was a fair articulation of what’s been going on the past couple of years,” Don Garber said. “I’m not embarrassed about it at all. … It talks about what happened without making judgments, without sensationalizing.”

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group soccer columnist and blogger Nick Green writes at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!