Quick. Name a soccer player. David Beckham’s name is generally the first name that comes to mind to the average American followed by Ronaldinho in most cases. Sometimes Pele will be named, but for the most part, its Beckham.
Becks has been playing with the LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer for almost a year now, and needless to say, he has made an impact with that team, as they sit in first place, in large part because of his play (also thanks to the play of Landon Donovan, who is despised by his own countrymen, but that’s for another day).
But can anyone remember the quotes of made about Beckham as he sat next to a glowing Alexi Lalas on the day he was introduced to America as the Galaxy’s new superstar?
“David Beckham will have a greater impact on soccer in America than any athlete has ever had on a sport globally.” â€” Timothy J. Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, the owners of the Galaxy.
Nearly a year later, how is this progression going?
To be honest, I took part in Beckhamania last summer, when the Galaxy came to face my hometown DC United on a rainy August evening. But since then, I personally have become less interested in what he brings to the table when it comes to his play on the pitch, because I know the guy can still bring it.
Now I’ve become more concerned about what Beckham is actually doing to raise the profile in America. He has had some camps, made appearances, and taught Snoop Dogg’s kids how to take free kicks, but what has that really done?
I’ve been disappointed with the Beckham agenda so far. His arrival peaked interest in his first few months here, but since then, he has just been a player, at least in the eyes of myself, and people I’ve talked to. His teammates like him, and his opponents seem to hate him, due to the number of hard and unnecessary tackles during his time in America. But he has yet to raise the profile of soccer here in the way that we hoped he would. Ask your kid…who would he rather be. Tom Brady…or David Beckham? Most kids will say Brady. Beckham, for all of his exposure, is getting the wrong kind of exposure.
I wrote at this time last year that Beckham would be a walking billboard. I was wrong. Beckham is what I wanted him to be, a player first and foremost. I did not take into account that as a player playing in MLS, that would not be enough. His time here has bene great, and I am happy to see him playing, and playing well. The fact that he is still earning callups to the English National Team are not only a sign of his great play, but of the overall quality of MLS. The English press can say what it wants about MLS, but the play has improved since the league’s inception over 10 years ago.
I’m afraid that it will not be possible for David Beckham to raise the profile of American soccer here by himself. Much like Pele in the 1970’s, he doesn’t have the support, nor the Gatorade, needed to climb the mountain and put soccer on the same summit as football and baseball.
There’s only one way for soccer in America to raise its profile, and that lies with the US National Team. Sunil Gulati knows it, Bob Bradley knows it, and we as fans know it. Americans love their winners. Look at the 3 major sports in America. All of them have winners that people look up to. In football, Brett Farve, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. Baseball, Derek Jeter, The Boston Red Sox. Basketball: Michael Jordan, arguably the ultimate winner. US Soccer needs to win something, and something big. The opportunity is here though. Beijing awaits.
Ah, the Olympics. The time when the world comes together, and they compete against each other in the name of competition. In a time where politics dominates the world, the Olympics are a great reminder of what is good in this world. For Americans, the Olympics are a time to show what we can do. What better way to raise the profile of American soccer than to win the gold at the Olympics? A gold medal win would draw attention to the US Soccer program. It would be the best thing to happen to US soccer in a very long time. Is it possible? You better believe it. The US will send one of the strongest squads its ever sent, and I like their chances. But that’s for another day too.
The fact of the matter is, US soccer’s profile is still where it was when Beckham signed a year ago. It won’t change because of Beckham, because Beckham can’t do it by himself. The responsibility of raising US soccer’s profile lies with the US and the US alone.