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.

Updated:
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!
  • Ben

    I’m gonna get an ebook of it.

    Is there anything from Klein, Cobi or Alexi in it without giving stuff away?

    Nick replies: All three are in the book and Lalas’ comments especially are among its highlights. More proof (if it were needed) that Lalas is far better at being a commentator than he ever was at being a GM

  • Nell

    Great article, Nick. You nailed it.

    How Garber and Beckham and his people can say he’s committed to MLS and keep a straight face – much less look in the mirror – is absolutely mind-boggling.

  • mbar

    Hey Nick,

    I have to hand it to you that your article in the Breeze today might be your finest work yet.

    Great article!

  • Studs Up

    Nick be different. Stop covering this yahoo. You make fun of Wahl’s take on Flash Gordon (fr Mexican tv commentators) but you must have a crush on Becks too with all the pictures you’ve splattered on your blog. Even a never seen before close up of any one on this blog. C’mon fess up. You’re in love.

  • The Wolf

    Fine column this time around Nick. That Alan Gordon excerpt and your subtle implication is hilarious.

    As far as the G’s go: Any updates on Franklin’s progress?
    What’s the deal with Kovalenko’s injury?

    Nick replies: Kovalenko has a left calf contusion. He did not make the trip to New York today. Franklin is off his crutches and doing rehab work; he has not rejoined the team for any drills yet. The timeline remains the same for him as the team reported May 27 – four to six months out. So he’s at least two months away, maybe more.

  • Beaten

    David Beckham is 1-part soccer player, 2-parts businessman and 3-parts Megalomaniac. Anyone who thinks that he is returning to Los Angeles to seriously concentrate on playing soccer is delusional.

    People need to remember that soccer players like Beckham know that the contracts that they signed are not worth the paper that they’re printed on. As soon as the next best thing comes along they’ll start playing the part of the victim and look for ways to get out of their contracts.

    Beckham’s excuse was that he needed to “stay fit” during the MLS off season. It’s kind of funny that he’s sporting an ice pack on his foot during his first day back in LA. So I guess he was fit while he was playing in Milan, but now that he is back with the Galaxy hes got a bad leg?

    Fortunately, I dropped my season tickets to the Galaxy the minute that they announced the AC Milan transfer deal. Never have I seen such an outrageous trick played on a teams fans.

    And while it’s easy to blame David Beckham, the real responsibility for this fiasco rests squarely with Tim Leiwicke and AEG.

    I think that they have been completely complicit in being “played” by Team Beckham, and they have abused their loyal fans by offering them a measly 10% refund and promises of better days ahead.

    Why should anybody believe anything that these guys say?

  • Joseph D’Hippolito

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

    Nick, being “committed” to anything doesn’t necessarily have to mean a heart-and-soul committment. Beckham is committed to the Galaxy the way a man and a woman in a loveless marriage that has long since gone South are committed to each other. It is a technical committment, not a passionate one.

  • Joseph D’Hippolito

    One more thing:

    “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.”

    Is this Garber’s way of getting back at Leiweke/AEG/Anschutz for making the whole Beckham “experiment” a bleeding cock-up — and for turning Garber into their stooge?