You want to judge Beckham's legacy? Great - watch a week from Saturday. Then we'll find out. Not because we are single-mindedly obsessed with championships. Not because we confuse moral goodness with success. Although we are and we do. It's actually because we do that his legacy now becomes so easy to measure.
What Beckham is attempting to do, perhaps without knowing it, is a John Wooden. John Wooden was a legendary coach who announced his retirement to his team immediately before the NCAA championship game. UCLA won.
So if David Beckham really means that much to the people who know him best - his peers - then the Galaxy will win MLS Cup comfortably.
....sorry, John Wooden was UCLA's coach. I don't know if you all knew that. Kind of a while ago. Story doesn't make a lot of sense otherwise, so, maybe you figured it out.
"But Dan," you say, "weren't you the guy who sneered at the idea of professional athletes needing extra motivation for the playoffs? Now you're saying that Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and Bruce Arena were sitting around not knowing which hand to crap into before King David gave their lives meaning? Cut me some slack, Jack. Give me a break, Jake. Guess again, Ben."
First of all, stop doing that, you sound like a bad Paul Simon ripoff. Second, I'm not talking about positive motivation. Beckham has made it, neither for the first nor the last time, All About Dave. He has also, neither for the first nor the last time, shone the Media Scum-Signal high into the night sky. An MLS Cup that might have gotten passing attention on SportsCenter - or maybe just Soccer America - is now the social event of the season. The Galaxy are going to party like it's 2007.
Theoerotically*, this time, the Galaxy play like it's 2011, instead of 200-late.** Five and a half years ago, the Galaxy reacted to the media spotlight just about as poorly as - well, you know how DC United put the Freddy Adu circus aside and won the Cup in 2004? Yeah, not that.
Since then, though, the Galaxy have added Keane and Arena, and Donovan tore it up in the 2010 World Cup. This team is better suited to handle pointless media yap than the one back in 2007 (of which Donovan is the last survivor).
But why invite the vampires in at all? Why borrow trouble at a high interest rate? Why should the "Miss, Noonan! Miss! Miss!" come from inside the locker room?
Option one - Beckham is about himself, first last and forever, and the Galaxy brass went along with it because they'd rather sell out the stadium than win the game. Option one is as believable as an LA traffic jam.
But option two - Beckham is seeking to provide his team with extra motivation, extra leadership, extra inspiration. He's bringing the world's attention to MLS Cup - now more than ever. This is the last chance to live up to the hype.
It might backfire hilariously. Arena can barely handle questions from people who watch twenty games a week; imagine how he'll react to TMZ. Robbie Keane is to team spirit and self-sacrifice what fish are to the Grand Prix. Landon Donovan is playing along in a big way, which is nice - oh, by the way, this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful that I believe everything I read.
We're in for a week and change of "Beckham Beckham Beckham," no matter what the context. People are already giving him credit for every single thing that has gone right with Major League Soccer, let alone the Galaxy.
By the way, how about that premise, Sounders fans? Timbers fans? You owe it all to Beckham, right? Houston, Kansas City, San Jose - Beckham pretty much built your stadiums, I think we can all agree, no?
But central to all the propaganda - there's no other word for it at this point - is that Beckham brought his team something special and irreplaceable. He's also brought his team, in the words of Niecy Nash, a lot of mayhem and foolishness.
That's why it's great that the Galaxy get to decide on Beckham's legacy. They know by now if they win, a lot of people will give the credit to David Robert Joseph, rightly or wrongly. Beckham himself will have to play well above average - no one's going to beat Houston 11 v. 10 and a passenger - but he's been wonderful at times this year. But if he doesn't bring the team along in his quest to add to his legend, then it's going to awkward editing "The David Beckham Story" to avoid mentioning a 5-0 Dynamo blowout.
The theoeroticy*** is, despite early and frequent setbacks, and despite some misunderstandings,**** David Beckham won back the affections of his team and made the Galaxy better.
Let's see if the Galaxy agree.
*It was a typo, but I'm going to run with it. I think it has promise as a word. Theoerotically. A premise that makes you aroused. It's the feeling you get when you're a Galaxy fan and you're blogging about an MLS Cup win that isn't either a 1-0 slog or a painful loss. But it may have other uses.
**Once too often with the pop culture references. I knew it when I typed it. The engine started to smoke with Paul Simon, but I kept going, and I hit the wall and exploded.
***Yikes - sure doesn't work as a noun, though.
****I don't wanna bring up old stuff, man, but this week I've been reminded why I want to punch Beckham whitewashers in the face, frequently and with gusto. I could give you all twenty bucks for every time some Beckhamologist has told the story correctly, and not have to go to the ATM. It wasn't simply the extended loan to Milan that caused strife - did Galaxy fans call Donovan and Keane frauds for their EPL stints this past winter? Beckham asked, live, on camera, for a permanent transfer after the window had closed. Which would have fingerbanged both Galaxy and MLS something fierce, because who then could you have signed and promoted? Beckham's sins may be forgiven, but they were not venial. Nor do we read about, how if Beckham's wish was merely to stay a tad longer at Milan, why Phil Anschutz roasted him and Milan both on a spit over it. Go back and read what actually happened in those negotiations - Anschutz, Tim Leiweke, and Don Garber were mercilessly ridiculed on both sides of the Atlantic, by Milan and Beckham supporters both paid and volunteer, for not understanding how football worked. Milan and Beckham ended up being utterly crushed.
And I have to rant about it, in 2012, in a footnote as long as an actual post, and that really frosts my flakes. While Galaxy-haters are understandably free to take shots at us Galaxy fans for being, well, us - this was about American fans demanding to be treated with respect. I can laugh off the ignorance of international fans living in the ossified shells of their decaying culture like so many hermit crabs with scarves - but friendly fire is another thing. So-called American soccer fans who think American soccer fans somehow didn't deserve Beckham...well, hey, in a way, I guess they were right, we didn't. Still, on Sunday the 2nd, they can stop pretending to be American soccer fans and start pretending to be Australian soccer fans. All of those people will be out of my stadium and out of my life forever, so even losing MLS Cup won't make the weekend a total loss.
Now if they can just finally kick Chivas USA over to USC or Riverside or wherever, and then develop a nerve gas that kills Herbalife distributors but doesn't affect human beings, the Home Depot Center will be downright glorious next year.
EDIT - I knew it was too much to hope for that no one had used this headline before. I'll link the post, though, and not just for fairness, but for this last line:
The bad press of a disgruntled superstar playing in your league is far more damaging than an amicable parting would’ve been.
An understandable fear in March '09, but one that has the opposite of come true. David Beckham and MLS learned to use each other very well, thank you. Beckham accepted his defeat with very good grace, and if one judges his Galaxy performance using the past two years only, he looks wonderful indeed. But it's at least as likely that he realized that half-assing it for his considerable paycheck (a) was going to screw his World Cup hopes and (b) torch what was left of his professional reputation. If Beckham and MLS had worked together like this from 2007, instead of 2011, Beckham might be a legitimate US Soccer Hall of Fame candidate.
....aw, Christ, he will be anyway, won't he? They'll use his induction as an excuse to build a new site, probably. And he'll get votes for Kyle Rote Jr. reasons, only much worse. I'll never be rid of Beckham apologists, never.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!