Is David Beckham good for MLS?
The dust has settled on a tumultuous three weeks in MLS. However, what might be a watershed moment in the league's history, the signing of David Beckham, is a topic of debate that continues to swirl. ESPN The Magazine senior contributor Jeff Bradley and contributor Kristian Dyer debate the issue in ESPNsoccernet's own version of "Pardon The Interruption."
Kristian Dyer: David Beckham is worth every penny of the $250 million that he will receive from AEG and Los Angeles. On the field, the man can clearly produce, his recent dip in form notwithstanding; he carried England during the past World Cup and still has the deadliest right foot in the world.
Jeff Bradley: Where exactly did Beckham carry England? They may have been the most boring team to watch in the World Cup. Worth every penny? Thankfully, adidas and other sponsors are willing to help AEG and MLS, because Beckham won't even be the best player on the Galaxy. Perhaps that's the saving grace in this signing, that fans may finally begin to realize that Landon Donovan is pretty darn good.
KD: Mr. Posh accounted for three of England's five goals in the World Cup, pretty decent production under glaring scrutiny. Boring, perhaps, but they were effective enough with an injury-plagued team. He was the team's leader, and they played through him. Perhaps it is foolish of me to ask this of someone who thinks Donovan is better than a player who has performed incredibly well with Manchester United and Real Madrid, but since when have you cared about boring soccer?
JB: If Beckham is going to be the league's calling card, then he'd better bring some excitement to the field and not just to the red carpet, where he and Posh are sure to be seen with TomKat. Becks will hit some nice free kicks, but then again so did Branco back when you were still in diapers. Let's see how many of those free-kick goals come courtesy of LD getting whacked about 20 yards out. I loved Becks when he was a winger for United back in the Treble season. Since then, he's been more about hairdos and photo shoots. I want my MLS stars to bring it on the field.
KD: It's funny, all the pictures of me in diapers have that same glassy-eyed look that you had on "ExtraTime." ... I digress, we all know this move is more than just soccer; beyond the scope of the playing field, David Beckham will make L.A. the hottest team in MLS and perhaps the hottest ticket in the City of Angels. Galaxy games will now be an event and should come close to selling out nearly every time. He can and will put this team and league on the map purely based off his presence and allure.
JB: And there's going to be a movie about it all some day; I'm going to call it "Twice in a Lifetime." Yeah, there's going to be a media circus and MLS is going to be mentioned more on "Access Hollywood" and there may even be an "E! True Hollywood Story" in this down the road. But you know me, Dyer, I'm a soccer guy and I prefer steak to sizzle. Let's hope after people come out and see Beckham's first three hairstyles, they're somehow swayed to come back a fourth time to, you know, watch a soccer game.
KD: Soccer guy? Funny coming from a guy with how many articles on baseball and steroids? And weren't you the one decrying the boringness of an "effective" England squad and now you want steak, not sizzle? You can enjoy a steak without sizzle, but it is so much better with some of that pizzazz. Call it the Alexi Lalas in me, but I want the show. See, Jeff, I love MLS as much as you secretly enjoy "Dancing With the Stars," but most people are not like us. They don't want to brave 90-degree Wednesday nights at Giants Stadium to watch Peter Vagenas and Dema Kovalenko battle it out in the midfield. But, if they come to see Beckham, maybe they'll realize that Peter Vagenas is not a bad player and that well, Dema Kovalenko ... holds a promising future in the UFC.
JB: The people who come out to see Beckham will be a step above those who came out to watch Andrew Shue back in the day. OK, that's a stretch, and my apologies to Andrew, who's a Jersey boy and a good guy. But I doubt those who come to gawk at Becks are going to notice Vagenas and Kovalenko any more than those who came out to see Freddy Adu in 2004 saw Christian Gomez. You get my point: They're going to be the "Access Hollywood" crowd, not likely devoted soccer followers. Man, I hope I'm wrong. And you got it wrong, I'm a "COPS" guy, not a "Dancing with the Stars" guy.
KD: I disagree. People will come out to gawk at Beckham as much as they will to jeer him, and I am not talking about just the supporters' clubs in the various MLS cities. People will come out because he is such a polarizing figure. Look no further than the two of us; I thought his World Cup was splendid and you termed it "boring." Opinions differ on Beckham, but the interest will be incredibly high -- the Adu factor times 10. There will be an excitement in the stadium, the game will be an event and the league will gain credibility from these types of crowds.
JB: The league only gains credibility if Beckham produces ON the field. And to make Americans appreciate his greatness, he's going to have to do more than hit good dead balls. He's going to have to dazzle a bit. The 1999 Beckham was capable of that. I'm not as certain that Beckham 2K7 can.
KD: Let's get one thing straight, David Beckham can still play and he will elevate the standard of play of not just his teammates, but also the other team. Every MLS outfit will want to be the one to shut down David Beckham, to twist him around and humiliate him. Los Angeles will become the league's bad boy, the team you love to hate. With Beckham, you're paying for the effect on and off the field. You can't put a price tag on how much this move means to the league. MLS is beginning to realize the perfect blend of young talent and established stars. Watch out, Jeff, he will knock your socks off.
JB: I hope you're right, Dyer. I just hope it doesn't take Becks half a season to realize that MLS is a league that needs to be respected. But, back to your original point. Worth every penny? Fact is we won't know if Beckham was worth even half the pennies until 10 years down the road. If he comes here, inspires a generation of kids, raises the level of fan passion leaguewide and a decade from now the sports world points at his signing as the seminal moment in MLS history, then we'll agree.
KD: He is saying all the right things; the man is on a mission. Every time he walks out on the field, he knows he carries the future of the league on his shoulders. If that doesn't drive him on, nothing will. The man has won the English Premier League, the Champions League, personal accolades, captained England; playing in MLS, knowing that he is the draw and the future stability of the league, it will inspire him to leave his mark.