I know for certain that the gang who shows up like clockwork at the crack of dawn at Thousand Oaks’ Crown and Anchor pub to watch live satellite “soccer” from around the world every week are chuffed about the arrival of David Beckham (chuffed is London slang that roughly translates to “delighted or thrilled”).
Unless you’ve been vacationing in the Galapagos for the last six months, you must have heard about “Becks” — as he is affectionately called in his British homeland — who will strut his stuff for the first time in Southern California on July 21 as the newest high-profile member of the struggling LA Galaxy soccer team.
I should admit I am a soccer nut. Always have been. I played it, reported on it — four World Cups — and grew up in Beckham’s neighborhood. I am delighted that Becks, his wife Victoria — also known as ex-Spice Girls singer Posh — and their kids Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz, have moved into a primitive, little $22 million mansion on the Beverly Hills prairie.
The other day a lady quoted by the Associated Press admitted she was bored by soccer but would go to see the matches at the Home Depot Center in Carson because the star athlete, who left the legendary Spanish team Real Madrid for the sunshine of Carson, “has got a great body and a great butt.”
Great butts, alas, do not turn the greatest sport in the world — which by the way is still grossly underappreciated in North America, into a winning and profitable enterprise.
The truth is that the LA Galaxy is an average team doing poorly right now. While one player can inspire a team, alone and unaided there’s no way he can perform weekly miracles on a soccer pitch.
Beckham is brilliant and delightful to watch — butts and bodies notwithstanding. The former captain of the England team can make the ball do fabulous tricks. Remote control, actually. He strokes it with his foot and actually bends it (Stand up those in the class who didn’t see the 2002 movie “Bend it Like Beckham”). It’s marvelous to watch him split a defense or pinpoint a kick with the deadly accuracy of a guided missile.
At 32, of course, he’s no longer fast, is constantly outrun by younger, speedier players and his stamina for an entire 90-minute game is questionable.
But he can perform football (sorry, that’s soccer on these shores) wizardry.
The philosophy of those who agreed to bring Beckham to Southern California is that he will do for soccer what Shaquille O’Neill and Wayne Gretzky did for their sports when they hit town.
I am a cynic — you have to be in this business. I’ve seen saviors come and go. I have no doubt that the frenzy fueled by our celebrity-obsessed media will excite everyone — fans and foes alike.
Early games of the Galaxy are already sellouts. Having had a front-row seat for the past four decades during soccer’s decline in the U.S., I fervently hope that Beckham will become soccer’s savior.
But I know, as does every other red-blooded soccer fan, that this game will capture America’s imagination only when the U.S. can win the World Cup — the jewel in the crown of the soccer world.
Beckham has assured us that he has come to Los Angeles “for the sport — not the nightlife.”
But anytime he feels like getting away from Posh’s obsession with clothes, hairstyles and weight — or lack of same — I know the lads at the Crown and Anchor pub would love to buy him a few pints, even if he doesn’t manage to parlay the hype into turning “The Beautiful Game” from a poor relation to a major U.S. sport.