Friday, August 31, 2007

Mr. Beckham Goes to Washington

I suppose it's been about 3 weeks, but I figured it's about time I post the two crappy pictures I took with my phone during David Beckham's debut MLS game against the DC United on August 9 in Washington. Our seats were officially in the nosebleeds, literally one row back from the top, but us Barra Bravas snuck down to the lower level after the usual halftime mosh pit in the concourse concluded.

DC United fans give Mr. Beckham a very warm welcome during his August 9 MLS debut.

Yeah, Beckham's hurt yet again, and that sucks for the MLS for a variety of reasons, none of which I feel like going on about, but mostly because despite how polarizing his arrival was, soccer's actually made SportsCenter pretty much every single night since he got here. Any publicity's good publicity, right? Well, not if he can't play. Soccer-haters like nothing more than something else underwhelming to complain about.

The recent injury also may threaten the possibility of other post-peak foreign soccer stars from following his lead, like CrazyHead Zidane, which would otherwise help buttress the league's skill level and overall attractability both for players and fans. Naturally, a foreign athlete's first loyalties lie with his home country and, after seeing Beckham disappear from the England team's beleaguered march toward the UEFA Euro Tournament, may not want to risk injury, not to mention enmity, by playing extra matches here in the States.

So does Beckham playing in the MLS really matter for soccer? Naysayers like to think that if Pelé's participation in the North American Soccer League (NASL) in the 1970's couldn't promote soccer beyond nichedom, an injured Beckham sure can't either. That may be true, but it's not the whole case. K-12 participation in formal soccer leagues has grown substantially since then, which carries with it the obvious assumption that interest in the sport has grown commensurately. How many of us had fathers who played soccer when they were a kid? Very few. In fact, the US Youth Soccer League, begun in 1974: the same year Pelé started playing in the NASL, has grown from 100,000 to 3,000,000 registered players; and this doesn't count the 800,000 coaches and volunteers or any bullshit like that. That's a 2,900% rise concomitant with the 41% rise in overall population.

Popularization of soccer in the U.S. has also benefited from the massive influx of Latin Americans, who, like most of the rest of the world, hold soccer as their #1 sport. At one-seventh of the total U.S. population, and a demographic that prefers to settle in urban areas, this should not be trivialized. In fact, DC United's most boisterous ultra firm, La Barra Brava, was founded by South American immigrants.

He's in there somewhere on the left half of the field. Just look for the sexy and you'll find him.

After all is said and done, whether or not Beckham's U.S. tour makes any difference to U.S. soccer will ultimately rely on him actually playing. And if he ends up heading back to England soon rather than later, and thus cutting short his term with the LA Galaxy and the MLS, it will probably prove more detrimental to the league than had he never come at all.


CJ said...

I consider myself a "whig" first and foremost.

Brice Lord said...

Welcome back, CJ's eyes!

CJ said...