David Beckham’s arrival stateside was notable, but not for one of the reasons typically elucidated en masse. He was not in his playing prime, his feet robbed of their buoyancy by the weight of time. Neither was he capable of swinging the needle of soccer fandom on his own. He may have been inside the palm of the handful of the world’s best at one moment, but by the time he arrived in L.A. he was merely Among The Very Good Ones. An unbelievable set piece taker and a sulking Ent during the run of play.
We know this now.
What some shielded at the time but now wholeheartedly acknowledge was that Beckham’s true value was merely himself. His mannerisms, his thin, warbly accent, his slowly fading European memories, the knowledge that he’d been inside the Bernabeu, knew Alex Ferguson, had his vacations covered by magazines and newspapers. And yes, his damned hair and his damned face. In short, his personality. You cared about him, whether you loved him or loathed him or landed somewhere in between. You had opinions.
The package MLS bought included his ability on the field – without it, he’d have just been another underwear model – but it wouldn’t have been nearly as enticing without all his delightful humanness. It wouldn’t have birthed an entire addendum to the MLS rulebook.