Don Garber Misreads the Beckham Experiment

David Beckham comes to Kansas City - KC Wizards Game (18)

Photo by Ramsey Moshen

With David Beckham in the final year of his ground-breaking MLS contract, speculation has turned to whether the 36 year-old midfielder will resign with the LA Galaxy and the league, or continue his quest for another international cap elsewhere.  In an interview with the press, Garber talked about the MLS All Star’s impact on the league, and as expected painted it as a perfect partnership.  His comments, however, reveal a disconnect between the league office and the casual fan.

To do justice to his comments, I want to take each statement individually as reported by The Sun and enter my own comments.  Agree or disagree? Sound off below.

“David has been a game-changer for us, on and off the field.”

He’s right in regards to how the league is perceived off the field.  The Beckham acquisition brought attention to MLS from the international and domestic press, as well as Hollywood and the New York ad agencies.  He became the face of the league to some Americans who are casual-to-non-soccer fans, and in the first year that impact led to higher ticket sales.  On the field, however, his impact to this point has been much less.  After years of constant injuries and loan deals, he is finally this year showing how well he can play.  Case in point – he is among the league leaders in assists.  But to say one year (and no MLS Cups) of quality play justifies his salary is absurd.

“We love him. It has almost been five years and now is very established in our country. He has become this larger than life figure and he happens to play in our country for one of our great teams.”

Don Garber loves him, the MLS owners love him, but who else really loves the MLS version of David Beckham? Based on the constant loan deals and yearning to return to England, not David Beckham.  Fans will come to see him play and buy his jerseys, but ask opposing fans and see how much they care for Beckham.  And I would take issue that he is established in this country when, for the first three years, he was injured or playing on loan in Europe.  The dream of Beckham appearing constantly in endorsements and on TV has failed.  The promised reality TV shows never materialized.  He may still be a name guy in Los Angeles and New York, but if you mention him outside of the coasts he is not really known.  I am sure most people can say he plays soccer, but can they talk about him beyond that?  And if the league wanted to just make him a name in these two markets, it is incredibly short-sighted.

“There is no question that it was a good financial deal for David and the league but you don’t hear about the money anymore.”

The Sun article begins by mentioning the £128m Beckham has supposedly made during his time in the States.  Sports articles on Beckham have down to the game how much money he makes, even now.  The money still matters, especially since the league’s best paid player still hasn’t won an MLS Cup.

“He really cares about the league. He wants to build the sport and he wants to give back to the community.”

The Beckhams are very charitable and do a lot of good community work, so I won’t disagree with that.  But it is hard to take it seriously that he cares about the league when just this offseason there were rumors of a move to Tottenham (as reported on this site).  This wouldn’t be a big deal except for (a) the previous season-long loan moves and (b) the fact he flees to England as often as possible.

“There is something for David in trying to be the person, like Pele was decades ago, who can be a real pioneer for our sport.”

What was Pele’s impact on American soccer?  He certainly was a mythical figure who, while he didn’t save a league, established that Americans love star power even in soccer and the sport can sell out large venues.  His impact on the game itself in America is debatable, but he did add to the mythos of soccer in America.  What will Beckham’s impact be?  I doubt that years from now it will be revered as Pele; in fact it may be more negative due to the money spent and the lack of playing time for most of the contract.

“I am not sure what his future is or what his plans are but it would be great to have him in MLS for years to come.”

And that is the big offseason question – will he or won’t he? And should it matter?

20 Responses to Don Garber Misreads the Beckham Experiment

  1. Charles says:

    Beckham has made the league money most likely.
    And you can call your team a CLUB all you want, it is a business.
    Man U didn ‘t come here to give all its loyal club members a chance to see their team. MLS won’t keep Beckham around if he loses them money.

    Pele helped to bring soccer into the conversation for those who literally barely knew what soccer was. Beckham didn’t.
    Even with all the Pele name did, Cosmos drew 50k.
    Without Pele, the NY team draws closer to 15k.

    Like I have said a billion times before, the bumps in attendance with the “exposure” type events ( friendlies against huge $ teams, signing big names, etc ) do NOT work long term.

    It is LAs decision, but they should look at Ichiro up here making $17 million ( probably more now ) because he sells a lot of jerseys worldwide.
    Perfect analogy to Beckham’s crosses, as all Ichiro does it hit singles very well…..and get paid because he can sell jerseys.
    He hurts the Mariners, IMHO, and Beckham will start to hurt his team even more the older he gets.

    • Robert says:

      Beckham was/is nothing but a marketing gimmick. One player doesn’t improve the level of play.

      • Charles says:

        Well you are wrong there. He was worth a lot of money.

        He sold a gagillion jerseys, worth $75 gagillion.

        • Robert says:

          Charles, sometimes I think you disagree without even reading what I wrote. I said he is nothing but a marketing gimmick and you reply that I’m wrong by saying he has sold a gagillion jerseys. HUH?! You agree with me!

  2. BamaMan says:

    As a way to get people to pay attention to MLS, Beckham has been a miracle-worker. Casual sports fans here in Alabama know who David Beckham is, which is more than you can say for any other MLS player outside maybe Landon Donovan (no, not Henry. Soccer fans know him and I’m sure casual sports fans in NY do, too. But in flyover country, no.) He gets people on Sportscenter talking, he shows up at the Royal Wedding, all that stuff widens the league’s exposure. Most of all for the league, he moves merchandise.

    As a player, of course he hasn’t been worth the money. He’s proven this year that he can still play but otherwise he’s spent almost all of his career here hurt. The loans don’t bother me; the guy is chasing another few England caps and will one day be running UEFA or even FIFA in my opinion but when’s he been healthy and the MLS has been in full swing, he’s been there. They knew what they were getting into when they signed him. I’m not going to bash Beckham for being a primadonna. If they wanted to improve the quality of play, that money would have been much better spent identifying and signing some young latin american talents. They wanted a celebrity and they got a celebrity. It made the league money so it worked from their perspective. As a one-time shot of energy into a league that was – at the time – on the downswing, it was a good move. As a template for how Garber and co. see expanding the appeal of the league going forward, it worries me.

    • DCLee says:

      Really well said BamaMan. I agree with you completely and am worried but I do feel the league is going in the right direction even when ManU hands it to them. The game was still a valuable showcase. I really love the increased exposure that ESPN has given the sport on the mens and womens side of things.

      BTW – The Dawgs over Bama in the SEC title game this year:)

      Charlies – That was a nice gesture the all stars did for Keller on Wednesday night and get your Sounders in order for the 2nd leg next week at home. I’ll be bummed if they can’t get some offense together and advance and they really can not afford to give up a goal are they will really be behind the 8 ball!

      • BamaMan says:

        Soccer-specific stadiums, smart expansion, and good decisions on team name changes, etc. have all done more long term good for the league than Beckham but Beckham gave the league a shot in the arm when it needed one. The league has reached the point of stability; now, my opinion is that the league needs to open things up to take to the next level.

        Georgia will do better than expected this season but a spot in the SEC title game is a stretch.

        • DCLee says:

          True on Beckham giving an added shot in the arm but the league had already turned the corner after almost folding in 2004 and was expanding with new owners in 2005 with RSL and Chivas and then again with TFC in 2007 so the foundation had been laid but he certainly helped it become stronger.

          UGA should have a solid year but the following years with this young class coming in has a chance to be really good. I’m just hoping they turn the corner for Mark Richt so he can show them how good a coach he is as he has done up until the last 3 years. Bama will be good as usual.

          • BamaMan says:

            My one difference of opinion with you is that, while the league had diversified ownership at that point, those expansions were as much about bringing new expansion fee money into the league as they were about growing into new markets. Depending on expansion fees to keep the lights on is not a viable business model long term. And I hope that we’re finally getting away from that to some extent.

            On SEC, agree that Richt is a great coach who has been unfairly maligned the past couple of seasons. Bama will definitely be good. QB play will determine whether they’re a contender or not.

          • DCLee says:

            While I’m sure that the 35 mil helped and was used for the lights the plan had started to get away from that with Adidas helping out in 2004. The money was used to help pay back Uncle Anshutz and the Hunt Group who had kept the lights on until 2004 but the league had already begun to do better and the league is doing the right thing now making these new owners find suitable stadium arrangements going forwards which will help keep those lights burning going forward.

            CFL is almost here at the end of this month:)

  3. Dave C says:

    Just a minor style/grammar point – if you mean “re-sign” as in “sign a new contract/extend a contract”, you should include the hyphen (or avoid the term altogether).

    “Resign” could be confused with “resign” as in quit.

    Also, I don’t think he went on any “season-long loans” did he?

  4. dan says:

    Say what you want about Beckham’s past years and dedication but no one can deny that this year he has proven himself to be one of the best players in MLS by legions. Perhaps it comes from Henry’s competition now? 😛

  5. Jan says:

    Love him or not Beckham brought attention and soccer fans to MLS plus other name players. MLS has some great players now and will continue to grow but looking at just Becks Career i’d like to see him finish it where he started it, in the EPL…. (or i could settle for AC Milan:>) Unfortunately, with his family happy where they are, in Calif. i believe this might really influence his decision, even though his dream is to play out his career in Europe.

  6. Steven says:

    Beckham? Well he’s very much like a mosquito is he not? He landed on LA Galaxy sucked up as much money/self publicity as was greedily possible only to then fly off on to repeat money/self publicity sucking opportunities the other side of the Atlantic. Here is a guy whom as shamelessly and without conscience REPEATEDLY abused and disrespected both U.S public and MLS. The parasitic Beckham is damned by his own actions!!!! Only a prize idiot would fail to notice his selfish motivation and greed, you can almost taste his desperation to REPEATEDLY hotfoot it out of the U.S on yet another greed mission!!!!

    • DCLee says:

      I’m not some huge Beckham fan that is blinded to the fact that he did those things you referred to @Steven for himself and his own interests. I do respect him wanting to represent his country in the world cup so I understood the loans even if I didn’t agree with them.
      You have blinders on yourself if you think him not being here the last 5 years have been good for the league both on and off the field. He has one of the best services on his right foot still in the world and he has helped improve the overall quality of the league on the field. So I agree with CoconutMonkey in that regard. I’d gladly take him and his quality and work rate on my team any day of the week. You could do a lot worse. You could also argue that his loan to AC Milan was great for the league in the fact that he came right over from MLS and made an immediate impact with them and that he hasn’t been good enough to waltz right in and win a title is good for the league to on the field.

      He has been amazing for the league off the field even the negative pub has been a positive. When was a more publicized MLS offseason then 2 years ago when he first went on loan. MLS was getting talked about in January on main stream media outlets such as Good Morning America and the Today show. That never happens. And the ocassional matches missed for the royal wedding, Man U tribute, etc… are not as bad as everyone seems to think. LA is still in first by a wide margin and those publicity hits are worth a ton and will be felt for years to come. The guy has actually really helped MLS…like him or not.

      And switching balls 70 yards through the air and hitting those target players on the run right on their foot is not tossing it out of the backfield to RBs @Mateo Van Frite. And Peyton Manning does a lot more than that too. Beckham and Manning read the game better than most.

  7. CoconutMonkey says:

    When it comes to having an overpaid player on your roster, the Galaxy can do a lot worse than David Beckham. I’m a fan.

  8. Mateo Van Frite says:

    Garber must be a great boss to work for.
    Show up when you want, leave work for month on end, go to parties, galas and weddings instead of going to work, piss off your fans AND STILL Don will give you 200 million dollar.
    Thats good change for a part time job.

    Luckily, his academies are doing great community work.
    I saw Snoop Dogg’s kids went to one. Rich kids need sports camps too.

    Im sure gonna miss him because when else will we hear announcers gush how no one else can kick corners like he can. Or when they praise him for a 10ft lateral or back pass “Did you see that? That is a world class pass right there.”
    Its like all the times we watch the NFL and the announcers tell us how Peyton Manning dumping the ball to the RB is the reason why he is a great QB.
    The great thing about marketing is that while you may laugh at people buying BS, there are always fish in the sea who believe.

  9. Joe says:

    Robert Hay, do you actually expect the commissioner of a sports league to public say that one of his league’s star players (and one of the few to have any international notoriety) has been a disappointment and has not earned his contract? If you do, you’re more delusional than Garber.

  10. ExtraMedium says:

    Thierry Henry: Salary cap keeps MLS behind Europe

    Clubs can sign three DPs on top of the salary cap, a situation the former Arsenal and Barcelona player said puts MLS sides at a disadvantage*…”How are you going to say to Barcelona, ‘if you get Messi, you’ve got to let (Andres) Iniesta go?” Henry asked. “That’s how it is in the U.S. That would never work in Europe.”

    Read more:

    *Like a typical Euro Henry assumes the point of pro sports is to determine a champion. What a loser…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….sarcasm.

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