David, we hardly knew ye

Saying that loaning out Brian McBride to Fulham didn't make sense for a team that's trying to win a Championship, the Chicago Fire has announced that they have TURNED DOWN THE OFFER.

Fire TD Frank Klopas told the Chicago Tribune that it's "important to have him here from the beginning" instead of waiting until after the EPL season concludes.

Since McBride and his Svengali-cum-Agent brother, along with Mrs. McHead, who seems to wear the pants in the family anyway, have a major say in things like this, you have to wonder if it wasn't in fact BMB himself who said no. Certainly there was no doubt that the Fire wasn't crazy about handing him over.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that all this gimmicky stuff in Seattle, like the OPEN ROSTER SPOT CONTEST is just a tad too minor league?

Still, it would have been a great story if a Native American had won the spot, although it would have been better if his name had been something like "Johnny Littlefeather" or "Chitchincommeranatang" or, you know, something with a little cachet?

Somehow, "Chase Mikkelsen" isn't a name that conjures up images of sweat lodges and the Little Big Horn.

It sounds more like someone who plays defense for the Detroit Redwings.

David Beckham made it official yesterday when he told a reporter from Reuters that he wants to stay with Milan.

As the story zipped around the interweb my favorite take was the one from the Washington Post which is headlined "BECKHAM'S LAWYERS TALKING TO GALAXY", and followed just four paragraphs later by a sentence which begins by quoting DBecks saying: "At the moment my lawyers are not talking to the Galaxy".

Since most of us are sick to death of MLS turning into an All Beckham All the Time enterprise, it's really hard to gin up either any shock or a whole bunch of tears.

The most interesting part of this whole soap opera has been how masterfully his cadre of handlers and flacks have scripted this entire affair.

A month ago he was staunchly denying that he would ever dream of forsaking LA. Of course he was. Anything else he said would make him look like just another craven, spoiled professional athlete who wants out of a signed contract.

Plus, it was the only safe way to go. If the whole Milan thing turned out to be a flop, he could hop on a plane back to LA where he'd tell the assembled drooling reporters that he only went over to stay in shape and he achieved that goal but of course he always intended to come back to LA.

Conversely, saying "I'm going over for a trial with Milan" would have been very high-risk. Failure would have meant that he was completely washed up. Brand Beckham would have been hopelessly tarnished.

And if Milan turned out to be a smashing success, then they could say - as they are now - "Gosh, this has worked out so well here and I am having such a great time that, while it certainly wasn't my original intention, I wonder if LA would mind letting me stay".

It was a can't lose proposition, set up brilliantly by his management so that all Becks had to do was flash that shy, boyish grin once in a while and they'd handle everything else.

The best part about all of this is watching the American Sportswriting Fraternity try to get a handle on the story, because it runs exactly counter to everything in their experience:

They all agreed long ago that he's an over-the-hill, past-his-prime player who came to LA as a sort of semi-retirement. The problem is that while he had very little success in MLS, a league they universally denigrate, he moved to a higher league and was an instant success.

It's like a star third baseman who got sent down to Triple A Pawtucket, stunk the joint up, then came back and hit 50 home runs for the Red Sox. It just doesn't jibe with what they know, and they'll play hell trying to figure it out.

The obvious story line - "MLS is a better league than Serie A" - is impossible to comprehend (and of course entirely inaccurate), so they're left with "it didn't work out" in LA and so he moved on. Of course "it didn't work out" says nothing at all, but it's the best they can do.

On the other hand, it will be the supposedly soccer-saavy bloggers and writers who will be tossing out articles about how "The Beckham Experiment" was a dismal failure. And I couldn't disagree more.

Maybe it's just me, but Beckham was brought over here not to transform the league on the field - no one player who ever lived could do that - but to get the league noticed and talked about.

In that mission Beckham succeeded brilliantly.

But you can only "put it on the map" one time. He did exactly that. Yeah, adidas sold some shirts, but they're already appearing on closeout racks. Nobody with any sense ever thought it would be a constant, yearly thing.

Same with ticket sales. He sold a bunch and could probably continue to do so, but the local sportswriters across the league have already done their one big "Beckham Comes to Our Town" story. They weren't going to do a new one every year. This is sports, this is America, and you don't stay hot forever.

I believe that, in the final analysis, Beckham did indeed conquer America. It's just going to take some time for America to recognize it.