Beckham’s Ridiculous ESPY

If you’re like me, you put very little credence in the ESPY’s. I can’t remember a time when I’ve sat down after a hard day’s work and said, “Gee, I wonder who’s going to win the ESPY for Outstanding Team???” The idea of an awards ceremony for sports television really ranks in that lovable Twitter category, “First World Problem.”

But ESPN has to stroke its amazingly huge ego, and so we have to endure countless gushings over LeBron James and Tom Brady (as if that’s any different than the continuous morning SportsCenter loop).

In all of this, two “awards” (and I use that term loosely) were handed out that might cause a blip on a soccer lover’s radar. The “Best International Athlete,” was well-deserved by F.C. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, while “Best MLS Player,” was won by David Beckham.

(Before we get to Beckham, if you really had any inclination to pay the ESPY’s any respect, then that shred should be doused in gasoline and burned like a cheating lover’s photo given the fact that “Best Male Athlete” had no mention of Messi this year or last. The guy has shattered scoring records galore. Are American networks and sponsors really THAT scared of soccer that they refuse to acknowledge a superstar in his prime??? Sheesh…)

So Beckham’s not the Best MLS Player right now. We probably agree on that, right? As is the case with Messi and Best Male Athlete, you’ll rarely see the most deserved player receive the accolades – unless that player is the glitziest, most saleable headliner that might help ESPN sell ad time during sporting events. Out of the nominees, the last 12 months has shown that Dwayne De Rosario is the right choice hands down. Unfortunately for Dwayne’s pocketbook, he’s not modelling underwear during the Super Bowl, so Beckham got the nod. And honestly, every “Best MLS Player” award has been won by a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy, so De Ro shouldn’t be too surprised (by the way, the Galaxy end up on ESPN quite a lot, don’t they…).

But does it really matter? For Best Female Golfer they selected Cristie Kerr, who hasn’t won a tournament in TWO YEARS. Yet she is more deserving than Yani Tseng, who has won two majors and 8 LPGA events in the last 12 or so months. The absurdity of this event, and that someone like me would waste my time writing about it is criminal (it’s really tough typing in handcuffs).

Of course this is exactly what Major League Soccer targeted when they lured Beckham to America with promises of money and fame. Beckham is the face of MLS, and so ESPN has obliged – rewarding a player who is not the Best MLS Player at this stage of his career, but that creates some buzz for the league.

Obviously Beckham’s presence has helped MLS over the years. I do think that MLS is beyond the bump in popularity that Beckham brought. More and more Americans are watching soccer televised from overseas, and the sport continues to gain popularity from a broadcast perspective. It’s going to take time, and Beckham is still a fine player. Hopefully in the coming years, the emphasis is as much on raising the bar in quality as much as the profile of the players involved.

That doesn’t change the fact that David Beckham is still the face of MLS. When MLS decided to discipline him for a petulant act against San Jose, he decided that meant it was time for him to make a cameo appearance at Wimbledon. Beckham seems ever ready to better his own public image, even if that means he appears to disrespect the rest of his team. He then has the audacity to complain when the press decides to call him on his behavior.

So what it comes down to for me is simple – Beckham’s still a good player, but his skills aren’t what they used to be. He can still earn his hefty paycheck by his actions though. His competitive nature will always be there, and it’s unreasonable to expect that he will be this gentlemanly figure when he’s getting hacked down. But what he can do is take the league as seriously as he takes the game. Play away matches. If you have to sit a game out, sit with the team and not with your wife at the All-England Tennis Club. Go the extra mile to be that ambassador for the league – especially because it seems like this appearance at Wimbledon was more for his own image than that of MLS.

There is a fine balance between publicity and integrity. I think we all know where the ESPY’s stand in terms of credibility. As long as MLS takes care not to hurt the integrity of the league, this is all OK. The league suspending him for his poor behavior was refreshing and necessary, but his response to that has bordered on disrespectful. Beckham is welcome to earn all of the money and meaningless accolades that can be foisted upon him – just as long as his actions befit the Best MLS Player.

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