How David Beckham Ruined the US Soccer Hall of Fame

If I'm Jonathan Ullman, present of the Soccer Hall of Fame, I'm so pissed off at Cobi Jones right now I can barely see straight.

It was the Year of Our Lord 2006. Cobi had missed the MLS playoffs for the first time ever, having followed up a triumphant 2005 double year with a truly miserable train wreck under his old friend Steve Sampson.

Then, according to Tim Leiweke, either late in 2006 or early in 2007, he and Cobi had a conversation that went something like this:

Cobi: I've decided to retire.
Tim: We've signed David Beckham.
Cobi: ...next season.

Grant Wahl documented most of what happened afterwards. But one of the little ripples of that decision was to delay Cobi's Hall of Fame eligibility for a year. That year would have been this.

Meanwhile, the Hall followed up major media-friendly inductee events featuring Alexi Lalas and Mia Hamm by inducting no one, thanks to the blinkered and stupid soccer media. Offers from handsome, well-spoken and erudite bloggers to cull the voter rolls, with violence if necessary, went tragically unheeded. Yet market forces, not for the last time, would force a change in voting procedures - by lowering the threshold for induction.

The following year, the Hall saw to its horror that the soccer media still refused to induct anyone terribly interesting, picking the admirably soft-spoken Agoos and Fawcett. The public cared about this only slightly more than about Anson Dorrance.

And so, for two solid years, the Hall of Fame, tucked in adorable little Oneonta, had little to entice visitors except the Dewar Trophy and an actual Colorado Caribous jersey*. (WELL worth the trip, by the way, but lamentably, the sports tourist public refuses to agree.)

So the Hall once again tweaked its rules, saying that for crying out loud, SOMEONE will get in besides a Builder or a Veteran - in other words, hopefully someone who could draw a crowd large enough to fill a Radio Flyer.

Which brings us to this year's ballot, as Andy covered here.

Now, I suppose a couple of those guys might get some greater than passing interest, but the likely winner will not. The new nominees this year are Chris Henderson, John O'Brien, and Eduardo Hurtado, none of whom will make it. That pretty much leaves Preki. Unless he loses points for his playoff coaching. Whoever gets in, he or she won't be even as famous as MLS washout turned Buckeye shamateur Devin Barclay.**

The silver lining is, because Cobi took an extra year, that gives the Hall until the 2011 induction to get a reboot going with a big splash, whether in Oneonta or elsewhere. I mean...they can't possibly waste Cobi and Eddie Pope on a conference call...can they?

*Recently chosen by the readers of the Uniwatch blog as the Worst Uniform in the History of US and Canadian Sports. Not, as you see, simply for the wrong plural noun. Me, I wish that Jomo Sono had named his South African team the Jomo Caribous, but as in so many things, I'm in the lunatic minority.

**Sorry - just a little Herky bitterness. I think college players should have the right to be paid in any case, so if TFOSU wants to hire a former professional athlete, that's fine. He probably makes more with the Buckeyes than he did with the Mutiny, and in any case the NCAA is about college education the way "Hamlet" was about ham - stop me if I've told you that one.