Beckham Watch - Palace Weighs In

From's Tino Palace:

Now, as for those that think an England recall is bad for MLS and the Galaxy, can I ask one, very harmless, understated question: Are you absolutely nuts?

OK, he might miss an extra game here or there for Euro qualifiers and obviously would be out for the tournament next summer, but c'mon.

Suddenly you have the reinvigorated Beckham pulling the strings for the English national team once again - while playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer.

The credibility that would bring to the league - that this is an in-form Becks as opposed to an end-of-career Becks - is worth much more than having him around a couple of extra games.

OK, to answer the first question - NO! See, that was easy. Leaving aside the visions of Superclubs dancing in Alexi Lalas' head, what was Beckham brought here for? Plain and simple, his signing is to boost recognition, both domestically and internationally, for MLS. Let's call it the coup of getting the prom-king-star-quarterback to sit at the computer geeks' lunch table in the cafeteria. Suddenly, not only the neighboring A/V club table, band table, and D&D table are taking notice, but across the way, the cheerleaders, the yuppie preps, and the basketball team are starting to cast glances. That's a good thing for the computer geeks.

Now, lets say Beckham is in the long-term England plans. Looking at the fixture dates for LA and for England this fall, he's going to probably be missing five Galaxy home matches (we'll call the away date with Chivas a home match as well) out of the eight he's likely to be in town for. Now your casual domestic fans who ponied up to watch Becks at the HDC are sitting on some expensive tickets to see Nate Jaqua and Kyle Martino. Think the A/V club is going to be impressed by the last guys on the bench for the baseball team? Me neither.

What it really comes down to is which do you value more - growing the American fan base for MLS or building up international respect for the league? The snorting dismissal of MLS as a "Mickey Mouse" league by the Euros seems to suggest that maybe you ought to build the brand at home first and then try to sell it abroad. I know that with increased attention, attitudes will slowly change, but that's going to take a while, particularly if you don't sell overseas broadcast rights. Anybody have a clue why SUM's website seems to be under construction rather than pitching what should be a blazing hot commodity with Becks-mania about to land in a month or so?

If Beckham gets the butts in the seats, then his absence hurts MLS at home. Do you think the casual fan at the Toolbox will care if he's over in Europe building "respect" for the league? Bullshit - they paid for overpriced season tickets and out the arse for parking just to see Beckham. If the quarterback isn't gracing the computer geeks' table, pretty soon the A/V club and the D&D table start to lose interest.

Now, having played Devil's Advocate for a spell, let me take this opportunity to cautiously agree with Mr. Palace. Beckham playing for England whilst (Eurosnobbery! I call foul!) playing in MLS does lend the league international credibility, particularly if he isn't dominating the league by merely showing up and yet is still playing well for England. It also may have the ancillary effect of getting casual American soccer fans to watch the Euro 2008 qualifiers to see how "our" boy is doing. This can only help the game here by broadening the American fan's perspective of the "World's Game".

Sort of lost in the discussion is what effect all this has on the man himself. He'll not only be carrying the weight of the American sports and entertainment media here as he builds the hype machine for MLS and Brand Beckham, but he'll also be jetting back and forth across the pond and dealing with a whole different set of pressures from English fans and media surrounding Euro qualifying and the constant questions about what he's even doing in the pathetic American league in the first place. Talk about catching it from both barrels.

I'm sure all of this will dissolve into high drama, ridiculous quotes from all sides, emotional breakdowns, religious wars in the blogosphere over the word "soccer", and probably even the demise of Western Civilization as we know it. Damn if it isn't going to be loads of fun to watch. Here - hold these pointy sticks, I'll go grab the marshmallows!

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