Grant Wahl is an experienced and level-headed soccer writer, but perhaps even he was surprised by some of what he learned in the process of writing The Beckham Experiment.
Wahl probably wasn’t shocked to learn that David Beckham himself was less a soccer player than a commodity, and that as such he was “handled” by people less concerned with the circumstances of the team employing Beckham than they were with maximizing the star’s opportunities to generate money by entertaining people who don’t know soccer from succotash. But even Wahl may have been caught off guard by how dysfunctional the front office of the Los Angeles Galaxy turned out to be when confronted by the David Beckham Machine. At least part of the Galaxy’s failure on the field during 2008 must be attributed to the inability of the team’s owners and administrators to stand up to Beckham’s “people,” who orchestrated a destructive coaching change and several other only slightly less stupid maneuvers. The result was a collection of unfocused and confused individuals whose only claim on being a “team” was that they all wore the same jersey.
Discussion of Wahl’s book has focused on what Landon Donovan told the author about Beckham. That’s not surprising. Donovan’s criticism of Beckham as a captain, a teammate, and an individual suggests that Donovan would have been delighted if Beckham had remained with A.C. Milan. How the two most highly paid players on the team will co-exist for the remainder of the MLS season will give the team an ongoing People Magazine story, whether or not the Galaxy can make it to the post-season for the first time in several years. That’s too bad for soccer fans, but weirdly enough, it may be good news for MLS, since although all publicity isn’t necessarily good, most is, at least in terms of dollars eventually generated.
There is less soccer in The Beckham Experiment than there might have been, but Wahl can’t be blamed for that. He took on the story of an icon whose “significance” has not depended primarily on soccer for quite some time, no matter what David Beckham might say, or even believe.