So, much of the sports universe -- meaning that portion not covered by the 50 stars on the American flag -- is atwitter by the prospect of soccer legend-pop culture superstar David Beckham launching his career in the New World with the MLS' Los Angeles Galaxy.
This is really going to be an interesting thing to watch. Beckham has been a crossover phenom his entire career with an appeal that transcends sports. There's anticipation in the sports business community that the guy is going to be a huge marketing hit -- athletic ability, good looks, terrific personality, celebrity wife (Victoria Beckham is a former Spice Girl). And in L.A., where there's no NFL team, a substantial soccer-friendly population and a built-in affinity for celebrities, Beckham is in the perfect spot. There was a big celebration today welcoming him to SoCal and his first game is an exhibition on July 21.
But we've been down the soccer-is-about-to-arrive road before. We've tried it in the past with superstar imports like Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, hoping to jumpstart soccer in America with superior talent. Then we switched primarily to homegrown talent, believing that American fans would better identify with American players even though the talent level wasn't up to international standards. We've tried regular outdoor soccer. We've tried high-scoring indoor soccer. And for three decades or so, the results have been the same. Soccer is still the eighth or ninth or lower spectator sport in this country.
Participation? That's another story. Soccer is probably single-handedly responsible for the plague known as minivans. Kids love playing it. The enthusiasm seems run through to high school. But ask the average American sports fan to pay for a ticket to a soccer game. Ask him to watch on TV if it doesn't involve the nationalism that infuses the World Cup.
So can this dandy from England via Spain change all that? I wish him and the game luck. But I suggest he cash all his paychecks quickly because history indicates otherwise.
Photo credit: Kevork Djansezian/AP