This was distributed by the Associated Press. Quite the ripping.
By Ian O’Connor
The Record (Hackensack N.J.)
HOBOKEN, N.J. — Instead of walking into a news conference wearing his Allen Iverson tattoos and outdated Miami Vice stubble, David Beckham would have looked better in polka-dot pajamas, floppy shoes and a big red nose.
The guy is a clown of the first order.
He arrived two years ago pledging to change the culture of American soccer, and he’s had the same impact on the sport that Brian Bosworth had on the American film industry.
Beckham has run nothing more than a shell game, appointing himself an ambassador for U.S. soccer in one breath, and booking his reservations across the pond in the next.
He’ll play for the Los Angeles Galaxy in Giants Stadium on Thursday night, provided he doesn’t loan himself out to a European superpower between now and then.
And if you’re a Red Bulls ticket holder in the habit of jeering the villains of the day, the
A-Rods and Mannys and the like, then you would be well within your rights to let ol’ Becks have it.
The Englishman swears he wants to be here.
He wants to be here as much as Ed Whitson wanted to be in the Bronx.
“I am here to play for this team,” Beckham said. “I am contracted to play for this team, and at the moment, that’s the most important thing to me.”
At the moment. It’s Beckham’s favorite expression, his default position when the subject turns to his commitment, or lack thereof.
“I’m an honest person,” he said. “If I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t.”
His nose keeps growing longer than the list of perks in his contract.
Beckham signed a deal with the Galaxy reportedly worth up to a quarter-billion dollars, much of it invested in his “It” factor and smile. He was introduced as this generation’s Pele, the priceless import who was going to make Americans love their corner kicks as much as they love their monstrous home runs and alley-oop dunks.
Only Pele’s generosity of spirit, his pure eagerness to spread the sport’s gospel, left him a beloved figure in the States. His Cosmos practically made a home locker room out of Studio 54, but they never lost sight of the mission.
They needed to win games. They needed to fill Giants Stadium. They needed to convince a baseball-football-basketball public that soccer was worthy of its
affection and time.
Beckham? It’s clear he always was more interested in growing his brand rather than growing the game. He wanted to go Hollywood, hang with his buddy, Tom Cruise, and get his handsome face on the “Today” show and “Entertainment Tonight.”
“If he didn’t have this look,” Andranik Eskandarian, the former Cosmo, once told me, “maybe nobody would care.”
Becks is Anna Kournikova in a jockstrap.
Of more consequence, after two MLS seasons defined by injuries and defeats, Beckham up and quit on his team. He jumped to AC Milan, swore he’d return in March, then tried to wash the Galaxy out of his life for good.
He only returned this month because he had no choice.
“The club offered me a chance to stay on,” Beckham said of Milan. “If you asked any player in any league in the world, if given the chance to finish the season and spend a little bit more time with one of the biggest clubs in the world, they wouldn’t turn that down.”
But what about his ambassadorship to the U.S.?
What about his promises to the Galaxy?
What about his integrity as a man?
What about his plan to loan himself back to Milan next year to prepare for England’s World Cup bid, leaving the Galaxy high and dry one more time?
“I’m not going to sit here and say it’s ideal or it’s perfect,” Beckham said, “because at the end of the day it’s great for myself. But for the Galaxy and the guys, it’s tough when you lose any player.”
Especially when that player is your captain.
Beckham wrestled the captaincy away from Landon Donovan, a back-room move that guaranteed the tense standoff to come. In the new book, “The Beckham Experiment,” authored by Grant Wahl, Beckham is painted by Donovan as a distant and distracted teammate, an impotent leader, a cheapskate and a slacker.
The English and American stars recently sat down and buried the hatchet in each other’s backs.
Donovan isn’t sorry about what he said, and deep down he probably isn’t sorry he said it for public consumption, either.
He was the only Galaxy player who had the credibility to take the fight to Becks, and surely earned major locker-room points for landing the heavy punches.
As it is, the disconnect between the tycoon and the faceless teammates making less than $13,000 a year won’t be helped by Beckham’s next disappearing act.
Asked at the W Hotel news conference whether he would go through this again in 2010, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena stumbled and bumbled his way through a non-answer.
The coach can’t possibly win this game. When Beckham kept referring to Arena as “the manager,” it hardly sounded as endearing as Derek Jeter’s references to “Mr. Torre.”
Perhaps that’s for good reason. Donovan said in Wahl’s book that Beckham believes the MLS is “a joke.”
No sweat. Right-minded American sports fans think Beckham’s a joke, too.
He’s got Posh Spice as a wife and Angelina Jolie as a modeling partner, and he’s sold a ton of jerseys for the home team. But his arrival in the States hasn’t quite matched the Beatles’ touchdown at Shea.
Beckham never was the world’s best player and, at 34, isn’t even close now. He’s known as a visionary playmaker with average speed. He’s deadly on crossing passes, but he’s not much with his left foot, or with his head.
It would be nice if he won a few MLS games for his trouble.
Until then, Beckham can continue to pledge his allegiance to American soccer while he plots his next great escape.
“At the moment, all I’m focusing on is the Galaxy,” he said.
At the moment.
Beckham’s tired act deserves a title.
To live and lie in L.A.