This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
Becks is the Bomb. We've known about David Beckham's whopping $250 million contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy for many months now. We've known of Beckham's star status in Europe but I don't think even the world-class paparazzi here could have forecast what an A-list event Becks and his wife Posh arriving in L.A. would be.
Beckham was given this seemingly outrageous contract because he's not just expected to come over and help the Galaxy toward a winning season. He's expected to be the savior who finally catapults American soccer onto the world stage. As it turns out, David and Victoria Beckham swoop into this country on a magic carpet of perfect timing on two accounts, but neither of them happen to be soccer. First, sports have dived into some sort of netherworld lately. The Michael Vick vicious dogfight/cruelty to animals case has sparked a national dialogue among even the non-sports crowd. Waiting for Barry Bonds to clobber just one more home run has taken the steroid cheating conversation to many a dinner table where sports are not the nightly topics. The utter collapse of credibility at the Tour de France has rocked the foundation of one of sport's most beloved events. So the Beckham arrival has been a literal breath of fresh air. A sports superstar who is polite and low key, who speaks humbly of this opportunity to be a part of American "football," has infused our sports pages with a throwback sentiment of love for his game. Beckham hasn't saved soccer yet but he's well on the way to restoring our faith in athletes in general.
The Beckham brand of celebrity also happily supersedes recent American star shenanigans. Just as we don't think we can take any more of the alternating Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan debacle, here come the Beckhams, goo-ga in love with all things American. A network special last week on Victoria, aka Posh Spice, revealed a woman who is, yes, enjoying the poolside lounging at her new $22 million Beverly Hills mansion, but who has put the celebrity hype in a healthy place of not interpreting any of it too seriously. She jokes openly about her pouty public persona. It's simply a costume, a role she plays. Underneath that down-turned mouth is a young woman having a ball.
We haven't embraced Becks and Posh because we have long admired them from across The Pond. How many random people on the proverbial street have followed either David Beckham's soccer career or the Spice Girls' music? Very few. But with both our sports and Hollywood newsmakers crossing public trust lately, it's only logical that we've welcomed the Beckhams with open arms.
David Beckham's sore ankle has frustrated him in the early going, but his presence in the League, even injured, has already proven a positive force. Ticket sales for the Galaxy games where David is scheduled to play over the next couple of months have skyrocketed. The season average for the New York Red Bulls, for example, is 10,729, but the Galaxy game there on August 18 has already prompted 31, 496 tickets sold. 37,000 people have bought tickets to see Becks play at DC United on August 9. The season average in DC is 17, 260.
Despite his ankle injury, despite the fact that he will skip Galaxy games to play for England when they need him in National games, David Beckham seems to be worth his fat contract.
And at the same time, the United States Soccer Federation has for the first time in their 94-year history launched a nation-wide program of soccer academies, similar to what Major League Baseball has long done in the Dominican Republic. Young, promising players will no longer play for neighborhood associations or even for their local high schools. They'll train at an elite level at these academies. Who knows? Between the academies and Becks, soccer may yet become a mainstream spectator sport in the USA.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images