Diva or no, Beckham had a massively positive impact for MLS.
Despite your feelings on David Beckham (and there are many who think he's not worth the trouble), there is no denying the very positive effect he has had on our domestic league during his stay with the LA Galaxy.
When news that Beckham was arriving hit the wire, fans worldwide went crazy. British fans were offended that someone of Beckham's quality was bothering with a "Mickey Mouse League" like MLS, while others thought of it as career suicide ("His international career will certainly be over!"). Articles pinned Beckham as a weakling, his move to MLS motivated by wanting less pressure in a less demanding league. The world speculated wildly what he would cost to move while he was still with Real Madrid. $250 million? $100 million?
He arrived at the LA Galaxy in mid-2007 and the rest is history. Underwear endorsements and Olympic duties aside, Beckham set MLS on fire and made it very visible to the non-soccer sports fan who knew the set-piece maestro by name only. Curiosity was piqued, shirt sales boomed and all of a sudden MLS got first and second looks from people who had never bothered before. If David Beckham chose to join MLS, certainly there was something redeeming about this American league, right?
David Beckham would have been paid to play in a million different places, but he chose MLS. If not for him, who knows if Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Robbie Keane and assorted others would be playing stateside today? There's even rumors of Frank Lampard (I LOVE YOU LAMPS!), once described as one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world, coming to the Galaxy. These are older gentlemen of course, but you have to start somewhere. What better way to start than by acquiring slightly aged, but still very effective superstars to increase both quality and exposure? Would they have even considered doing these things without Beckham's initial push?
It certainly helped our revenue sharing league that his name sold approximately 20 bazillion Galaxy shirts (give or take a couple gajillion), both domestically and abroad. If not for his exposure, then we can at least thank his sales numbers.
Let's not forget that Becks put up with a TON of silly nonsense from non-soccer fans during interviews. He was asked the most inane questions about tea and crumpets (seriously), had to describe basic soccer rules on TV more than once, and he answered them all politely and with a straight face. It reminded me of Mike Modano's arrival in Dallas and the insane stuff he heard from non-hockey fans.
Oh sure, David Beckham has been subject to diva-esque stunts ranging from benching himself for every game against Colorado ever, to kicking a dead ball at an injured player (oof, that one was quite bad wasn't it?). Does that change anything though?
Would you have traded Beckham's impact on league sales and exposure for a player who was all good, all the time, and as exciting as treacle? Heck, even us talking heads love tearing Becks to shreds for the next tantrum he throws, which is a godsend during boring matchdays in which nothing interesting happens.
I'm not entirely sure the league would be as popular today without his involvement. For his civility, his sex appeal*, his soccer ambassadorship and his MLS exposure, I thank David Beckham.
Silly underwear ads and all.
*Hey! MLS attracted more than a few females (and some men too...) who still follow the league based exclusively of how Becks looks like in a wet shirt. More fans is a good thing right?
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