Grant Wahl: Part Two

[ame=""] The Beckham Experiment: How the World's Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America: Grant Wahl: Books[/ame]

How is it that you ended up writing this book in South Africa?

My wife was working there for a year. She's an infectious disease doctor working at a big hospital in Soweto. She's an infectious disease and tuberculosis expert and that's kind of the world epicenter for that stuff.

So I knew she was going over there as part of her fellowship at Johns Hopkins and the real start of this was me wanting to take time off from Sports Illustrated, take a leave of absence, live over there with her and it seemed to me the perfect time to do a book. It was the right time in my career, I've been with SI for 12 years and it happened that it coincided with Beckham coming over and becoming a major story in the history of American soccer.

So there was a publisher who was interested, we got the deal done, and I went over.

I reported the book over 16 months and then joined my wife over there on Thanksgiving Day 2008 and I had to have a book by March 1, that was when the manuscript was due

So, after two weeks of outlining it I wrote 112,000 words in 72 days.

Wow. (OK, so I'm not David Brinkley)

Yeah. I wrote ten hours a day, seven days a week.

The great thing about it was that I was completely isolated. It was just me, by myself, in a room, and day by day got it done. By the end of it I was really worried about the quality of it because when you write a book in 72 days, is the quality going to be there?

I didn't ever have writers block, knock on wood, and it worked out. I feel good about it.

Regarding the Galaxy, a little noticed feature of the 2009 season so far is that, somehow, the Galaxy has been slowly inching their way up the table and now they're reasonably respectable, record wise. Will Beckham's arrival help?

That, to me, is what's fascinating to watch about the week.

Theoretically, Beckham should help this team on the field. I mean, he's a good player. He showed that in Milan, where he was much better than he was with LA in the last half of 2008.

I think a lot of people want to see him with a full commitment, giving 100% effort for the Galaxy the way he did with Milan.

But the question for me is how will the Galaxy deal with the Beckham Circus, this rush of media attention that follows him wherever he goes and will no doubt be in New York where the media will be covering him heavily.

I keep going back to the fact that since Beckham joined the team in 2007 they have a better winning percentage without him on the field than with him on the field.

Now obviously there are a lot of factors that come into play with that, but I asked the Galaxy players about that and they said that obviously it's not because Beckham as a player hurts us on the field, he's a great player. But this circus that's always around him, a lot of the Galaxy players really stuggle with all of that media attention everywhere they go when Beckham is with them.

With the team obviously a more veteran Galaxy team than the one Beckham was with at the end of 2008, these guys should be able to deal with that better, but maybe not. We'll see.

That's where we're going to find out if the Galaxy can be a winning team with David Beckham because we haven't seen that yet.

If Los Angeles had won MLS Cup 2008, would David Beckham have gone to Milan?

Well, when Beckham first arrived he said that he could still keep playing for England while playing for the Galaxy. He said it many times.

However, it became clear, and I know this for a fact, Fabio Capello said to him "You need to be playing in Europe for me to consider you for the national team."

So, I think that had a lot to do with it but I also think that Beckham got extremely frustrated with all the losing at the Galaxy, and he wanted to rehabilitate his reputation, wanted to go to Milan or somewhere in Europe.

It's a good question. If LA had won MLS Cup 2008 Beckham might still have wanted to go back to Europe but it would have been much less likely just because it became clear he just wanted to find a way out at the end of 2008.

If Tim Leiweke had this to do over again, if he could redo January 2007, would he would he sign David Beckham?

Well, the Galaxy made a ton of money off of Beckham. And Beckham also made a ton of money off of this whole thing.

So the business side of this has always been a piece of genius from the start.

And Leiweke mostly cares about the business side. I mean I know he's unhappy about not winning but the business side of it has been very successful.

I don't know if David Beckham would go back and sign this deal in 2007 because I do think he cares about more than just money . He cares about his reputation as a soccer player.

He lost a lot of credibility, over here at least, because we watched the Galaxy play over the last couple of years with him on it.

People in Europe weren't subjected to that, they didn't see the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2008, didn't see how bad they were. It was just bad soccer.

Do you see David Beckham in a Galaxy uniform at any time after 2009? There's talk about him coming back after the World Cup, but that's easy for him to say now.

He really sounds like he wants to come back after the World Cup. I think it's a matter of whether the Galaxy want him because what you're looking at is another season next year where Beckham doesn't play for the Galaxy that much. Is that good for the team? I don't know.

I don't think this arrangement this year has been good for the Galaxy so does the team to do this again? A lot of that is going to depend on the rest of this season. If it turns out to be a good equation, maybe he will come back.

I've always wondered if, deep down, Bruce Arena wanted him at all. If nothing else, there's only room for one enormous, overbloated ego in the room when Bruce Arena's there and we all know whose ego that is. And I say that with all the love in the world. But I wonder if Arena would be just as happy if Beckham had stayed over there this summer.

I think Arena wants to win soccer games, wants to win Championships, and I think the situation with Beckham and the Galaxy in 20009 has made that harder for him, only having him for half a season.

They could have built the team much differently if Beckham wasn't on the roster. He's basically a part time player for them and I think that any time that happens it makes it harder for the soccer team.