"You're Where You Should Be All The Time"

It's hard to believe, but after - what has it been, five years now? six? - a bunch of people still don't seem to get it. Soon after David Beckham signed with MLS (well, OK, technically he signed with The Gals in LA) and brought with him the dawn of the DP era, writers, bloggers and BigSoccer aficionados alike began asking who would be "the next Beckham", as if that were somehow possible.

Because David Beckham is not just a star footballer, or even a superstar athlete; the world is lousy with those.

Nor is he - as some would have it - merely a "celebrity" or a "star". Those designations apply to half the paparazzi-bait B-Listers in Hollywood.

Rather, David Beckham is that rarest of rarities: a citizen of the world.

How this happened, why it happened (and how in the name of all that's Holy we get it to stop) are questions I will leave to others (along with the question of why, with all their money, the Beckhams can't afford to hire a voice coach to rid him of that annoying accent which, while it's not, say, Mancunian or even Scouse is nevertheless grating on the ears).

He's not Kobe Bryant or Peyton Manning or even Pele, world class athletes who dominated their sport for a period of time but who can't shut down an airport or a restaurant like the future Sir David can merely by walking in the door.

Just about his only peer in the rarefied world of fame is Mick Jagger, and he's way WAY better looking. Possibly because Becks never had to be whisked off to Switzerland for a complete body blood transfusion to get him off of heroin long enough to go do his job.

He doesn't move like Jagger, but he's not wrinkled up like a Shar Pei either.

Which brings us to the, shall we say "unfortunate" incident in his team's game against the Quakes last week when, down a goal in the 92nd minute, he deftly sent the ball 30 yards and plunked Sam Cronin, who was rolling around like he'd been shot in an attempt to kill the clock.

Beckham's point was that Cronin was faking it, which Cronin - apparently not a high IQ guy - immediately proved by jumping to his feet and practically assaulting the ref, demanding a sendoff.

In point of fact, Cronin was demonstrating one of two things here; either

a) he was faking an injury and thereby intentionally wasting time, which is unsporting conduct, meaning that he not only proved Beckham's point but also that he himself deserved a card, or

b) a Beckham-struck ball has miraculous healing powers and he should quit this silly football thing and set up a booth at Lourdes.

In any event, the ref showed Victoria's hubby the yellow and subsequently the league, in their infinite wisdom, suspended him for a game, which turned out to be yesterday's tilt vs. the Fire.

All of which explains why, if you happened to flip on the Men's Championship match from Wimbledon yesterday, you saw David and Victoria, dressed to the nines of course, sitting amongst the swells in a super-private-exclusive-luxury-royal-if-not-Papal box watching the match while his teammates were suiting up to play a league match.

This has occasioned some complaints from around the soccersphere, with some people darkly hinting that, somehow, some way, Beckham and the league must have conspired to get him out of the lineup so that he and his lovely bride could attend the biggest sporting event in the world that day.

Others - notably Alexi Lalas, AKA The World's Worst Soccer GM, who made one of his solemn pronouncements on the subject at halftime of that very match, illustrated with a photo from London - feel that, while they don't see a conspiracy here they are nonetheless outraged that this suspended player did not spend the day with his team, "offering them encouragement" or "showing his loyalty" or some such rot because his absence "hurt his team".

And even aside from the fact that "his team" handled themselves - and Chicago - rather well yesterday, all that noise just indicates a shocking level of cluelessness.

Well, of course cluelessness from Lalas doesn't really shock anyone any more, but you get my point.

Last year, when Bill and Kate were getting hitched in London 48 hours before a Galaxy match vs. the FC's of Dallas, the team gave him "special permission" to miss practice (cue Alan Iverson destroying his career) because a Royal Wedding was such an "amazing opportunity".

Left unsaid was the fact that Beckham did MLS more good sitting there in morning clothes than he would have if he'd been in Frisco playing keepaway and stretching with his teammates.

Because that's David Beckham of MLS sitting there. I didn't see Wayne Rooney and I sure didn't see LeBron James. Elton John and his partner, sure. Messi? Pele? Hell, not even the Obamas were invited.

Now in point of fact it's pretty unlikely - though I admit not impossible - that the league somehow stage managed the little piece of drama which led to Beckham being available to fly to London for the match. Don't know, don't care.

What I do know is that, far from Wimbledon being the wrong place for him yesterday, it was absolutely the right place. MLS gets it. AEG gets it. I'll wager a case of your favorite that his teammates get it too.

Which is partly why I also completely disagree with England Olympic manager Stuart Pearce and most if not all of the talking heads who feel that Beckham really didn't belong on the GB Olympic football team.

As Stuart said, he selected the team not on sentiment, but effectiveness, and that Beckham simply isn't good enough to make the cut.

Which is undoubtedly true and even if it's not it's still his call.

But I recall the 1992 USA Olympic dream team in Barcelona (the only real one - all the rest are pale copies) which found room for a guy who moved like he was 100 years old, was in too much pain to practice much and spent most of his time lying on the floor to try and get his back unwound enough to hit the court for five minutes here and there.

Larry Bird wasn't on that team because he was the most effective player available. There might have been 50 or 100 guys who were more capable at that point of contributing.

He was there because he belonged there.