I know and care little about soccer. But the lengths that occasional movie mogul Phil Anschutz went to lure David Beckham to his Los Angeles Galaxy team ($250 mil contract, $1 mil a week) caught my attention. Can Beckham and Posh Spice really become big U.S. celebs? Is the fact that they already have TomKat as pals a promising or pathetic start? Anyway, my LA Weekly colleague, deputy editor Joe Donnelly, went to Colgate on a soccer scholarship, so here are his informed thoughts: “All excited about David Beckham’s deal with the Galaxy? Yeah, me neither. If you’re old enough, you’ve seen this story play out before. Aging international star is lured to America in hopes of hoisting the world’s most popular sport onto the national stage here in the U.S. Last time it was the mid-70s and the hopes of the struggling North American Soccer League were hoisted onto Brazilian star Pelé’s shoulders. Sure, Pelé was basically retired and enjoying the good life in Rio, but big bucks and NYC’s bright lights lured him to the U.S. It worked for awhile. The NY Cosmos had a brief period of fame and success, winning titles throughout the late 70s and soccer here in America sold out stadiums for awhile. But then it faded away, like it always does and likely always will. Beckham’s not likely to succeed where Pelé ultimately couldn’t either — getting soccer to play on television. Why? First of all, Pelé was the greatest player to ever play the game and even in his mid-30s, as he was when he came here, could have run circles around Beckham, who is mostly hair and hype, not to mention a famous choker when the pressure’s on. Sure Beckham’s pretty, and it’s likely teenage girls and fans of the movie Bend It Like Beckham or the BBC America TV series Footballers’ Wives will tune in to see Beckham in shorts for awhile, but newsflash — chicks just don’t watch sports in significant numbers. Not even if Justin Timberlake was playing naked would they stick around after the novelty factor wears off. As for the guys? Beckham’s too metrosexual to be a sports hero here. Not since Broadway Joe Namath wore fur coats and pantyhose has there been an icon this androgynous. Who do we love? Guys like Brett Favre, Cal Ripken Jr., Allen Iverson — hardly pretty boys. Plus, soccer just doesn’t work on TV here. It demands too much from a viewer – patience, an understanding of the game’s nuances and strategies, and a tolerance for long, long stretches of scoreless-ness, and then, usually when you get up to go the bathroom, someone scores and the game’s over. The other problem is the MLS, the American soccer league, stinks. I’m not sure I couldn’t dust off my 20-year-old college cleats and make a team. Until the entire league gets better, one overrated marketing ploy isn’t likely to make a huge impact.”
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