July 26, 2007

It's Beckham's Galaxy, and We're Living in It

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I was all set to blog about David Beckham’s debut match with the L.A. Galaxy. It was a great idea; I was going to give a non-soccer fan’s perspective on the event, because I admit that I am truly ignorant about soccer. I barely know the difference between Ronaldo and Ronaldinho and I would rather watch The Big Green than watch an MLS game. Additionally, I don’t understand why the Los Angeles Galaxy was going to play a team from England in the first place and I don’t like games where 2-0 is practically a blowout. But before I could partake in Beckham-mania, something interesting happened – Beckham hurt himself, and was only able to play 12 minutes at the end of the game and another four minutes of stoppage time, probably causing ESPN executives to angrily reenact the last 30 minutes of Kill Bill, Volume 1. But, with Beckham not playing, I certainly wasn’t watching.
However, even though I can’t really write about coverage of a game I didn’t bother to watch, there is still much to discuss about Beckham’s arrival in Hollywood. For weeks now, ESPN has been running a commercial promoting the Beckham’s debut. In the ad, fans in Madrid (home of his former team) are sad to see Beckham go, while Los Angeles residents are pumped at his arrival. The Beatles song “Hello, Goodbye,” covered by Son Volt, plays in the background.
I have to protest the choice of song. I have no problem with “Hello, Goodbye,” and I think that choosing the Beatles makes sense given that Beckham is indeed British. But a Beatles cover? I think not. I have no clue who owns the rights to the real “Hello, Goodbye,” but couldn’t ESPN have shelled a little bit out to pay for it? The network is willing to pay Dusty Baker an annual salary but won’t pay for one song? Instead, we are subjected to a cover by a band from the United States, in which Son Volt tries to sound exactly like the Beatles. Come on ESPN, it’s David Beckham, not Alexi Lalas! If ESPN could not get the rights to that particular song, there are plenty of other good British bands over history who it could have chosen, like Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Cream, Queen, Oasis, Coldplay and many more. Are you telling me that no decent songs by British artists were available? How about “Bargain” by The Who? Or “Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones? Wouldn’t “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis be perfect? Frankly, I don’t care what song it is; I would even accept Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself.” Just don’t pick a cover. And don’t get me started on those people who can never recognize a cover and will swear that it is actually the Beatles.
Furthermore, the commercial makes it seem like Madrid is going to begin a downward spiral into despair and gloom. In the ad, fans of Beckham’s former team Real Madrid are seen crying and taking down Beckham memorabilia. From viewing the commercial, you would think that Madrid was about to become like Manhattan in Escape From New York. Give me a break. I get pretty upset when my favorite teams lose their best players, but I have never, ever expressed my frustration by defacing a stop sign, which actually occurs in the commercial.
So why should Americans care about Beckham? Most of us, myself obviously included, only care about soccer every four years, during the World Cup. In addition, in my opinion, the worst possible blunder you could make is to hire American announcers for a soccer game (although Vizzini from The Princess Bride thinks that the biggest blunder is to get involved in a land war in Asia). So clearly, Americans are not suddenly soccer experts; most us of know more about former Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” character Barty Crouch than English soccer player Peter Crouch.
Beckham’s appeal, therefore, is half soccer and half Hollywood. If Ronaldinho was coming to the MLS, would anybody care? How about Lionel Messi? Ricky Kaka? Articles announcing their arrivals might run beneath the Jai Alai scores. Most people don’t know who these great soccer players are, and I actually had to look them up. But of course I know Beckham; he married a Spice Girl and had a Keira Knightley movie named after him. Frankly, marrying a celebrity is one of the best things an athlete can do for his marketability. Tony Parker is just an above-average point guard, but paired with Eva Longoria, he is a huge star. Similarly, David and Victoria Beckham are popular because of their good looks and ability to mingle with other celebrities. In addition, Victoria Beckham will have her own reality show in the fall, and Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith threw the Beckhams a welcoming party on Sunday night. The party was star-studded, as seemingly everyone in Hollywood showed up, including Jaime Foxx, Ashton Kutcher, Jon Voight, Jim Carrey and probably Gollum.
Interestingly, I turned on the Galaxy-Chelsea game for about a minute on Saturday night, and saw an ESPN sideline reporter interviewing none other than Drew Carey. To be fair, networks interview celebrities at games all the time, but I just felt like this interview was a microcosm of the Beckham frenzy. Who knows if the future host of The Price is Right actually likes soccer, but ESPN still felt that it was necessary to interview him.
As it turns out, approximately 1,468,000 people tuned in to see Beckham, setting the record for an ESPN broadcast of an MLS game. Is this going to start a trend? Will sports fans start arguing passionately about who should be the striker for the New England Revolution? I seriously doubt it. Beckham is more style than substance, and I think that people who matter will enjoy partying with him more than watching him play soccer. I guess then, that only positive aspect to come out of Beckham’s debut is the termination of the “Hello, Goodbye” commercials.