Bending benjaminsBeckham’s newest hobby

In a country consumed by its own games, obsessed with young sensations, and entertained by high-scoring shootouts, it seems unlikely that the richest athlete in the land would be the fading star of an international sport that features less points than a circle. Enter David Beckham. The 31-year old British soccer icon (and one of People Magazine’s 50 most beautiful people) signed a 5-year, $250 million contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer earlier this month, making him the richest athlete in American sports history. The previous owner of this title, Alex Rodriguez of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees, signed a 10-year contract worth $250 million—a measly half-million dollars per week compared to the nearly $1 million Beckham will earn every seven days. Beckham has made it clear that his main goal in America is to serve as an ambassador for football, er, soccer. Despite its popularity in seemingly every other country, soccer has failed to take root in the hearts of Americans. Recent hopes for success, such as the U.S. men’s national team and teenage phenom Freddy Adu, were major failures due to less than stellar play. Unfortunately for those banking on Beckham to bring soccer into the American spotlight, there is reason for concern. Even in his prime, Beckham was not known for explosive play, but rather for well-placed passes and the occasional bending free kick for only so long. American audiences may not consistently tune-in to watch a solid team player. Critics of Beckham have noted that his skills are on the decline. He has received less and less playing time with his current club, Real Madrid, and has been at odds with team management due to his new contract. Team president Raul Calderon has made claims that Beckham signed with the Galaxy because it was his only offer, and went on to say “David Beckham is going to be some sort of film actor living in Hollywood.” While Beckham will certainly receive movie star attention in L.A., he will focus on bringing publicity to soccer. “He can make the league popular for a while,” said junior Mazdak Mina. From then on, though, the ball is in Beckham’s field to keep fans watching. Whether or not he achieves his goal of popularizing soccer in America, the next five years look to be a challenge for David Beckham. If he is able to succeed, he will have done the unthinkable. If he fails, he will be remembered as the most expensive eye candy the States have ever seen. The Galaxy’s bold signing of Beckham has made the message clear to soccer fans: now is the time to see how far the sport can make it in America. With so much money invested in one man, failure to make soccer big in the next five years could leave the Galaxy and the league in too big a hole to recover from. As Mina so aptly stated, “This could be the rise of American soccer to heights it’s never known… or it could cause the downfall of the league.” Best of luck, Mr. Beckham.