Friday, January 12, 2007

More Beckham

A tidbit on the Beckham news:

I'm worried the Beckham signing could backfire some.

Let's say the fence-sitting American sports fan goes to an LA Galaxy game. They've seen the highlights and read the hype. 'Beckham is magnificent! Beckham is the second coming of Pele! Beckham is the greatest soccer player in the world!'

They go to a game expecting to see proverbial fireworks. And what they get is Beckham making a few long passes (his specialty) and nothing more. He's subbed in the 70th minute of a 0-0 draw.

How many of these people will be back to watch an MLS game?

The danger is in winning over the casual fan only to lose them as quickly. What I worry about is whether or not this comes crashing down on Beckham and the MLS: will the fair weather fan care if Beckham doesn't play up to billing? Will they understand when he doesn't score the bending free kick or the jaw-dropping pass?

The pressure will be immense. He's not in the Real Madrid 'Galatico' system anymore. Here, he's expected to move soccer into the higher echelon of American sports.
People will come out at first, but will they stay when he's shown to be a supporting midfielder and not the glamorous soccer star people are under the impression he is?
The pressure's different here. In Europe, the pressure's about getting to the Champions League, winning cups, etc. One doesn't have to worry about winning over fans. The fans already have a deep psychological investment in clubs.

Here, he's expected to be much more. I'm worried people will bail when they see he's not a dribbling machine. They'll never come back when they observe he's not a scoring dynamo. Or they'll cancel their season ticket plans when they notice he's slower than the goalkeeper.
People want bang for their buck. Audiences pay big money to see Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant perform and most of the time, they're satisfied. Even if they're not, the psychological investment is there from seeing them perform in the past. The athletes hooked their emotional tendrils into our souls long ago.

Soccer's a blank slate here. There's no emotional attachment to MLS, Beckham or his previous exploits.

Then again, it can be argued his name appeal by itself will pay off in the end. Only time will tell. I sure hope he's worth the investment.

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