Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Beckham Experiment

I read the Beckham Experiment by Grant Wahl last weekend. It's a great book, especially if you are a fan of any other team in MLS besides The Galaxy.

The years covered in the book, 2007 and 2008, were the last two years I was able to be a fan of the Galaxy (I'm one of the owners of the Seattle Sounders FC now). Reading it made me re-live every wall-punching moment: Hearing about Beckham getting hurt in Spain. Seeing Beckham get hurt at the Home Depot Center. The firing of Frank Yallop. The hiring of Ruud Gullit. AC Milan sticking their beak in our beeswax. Nobody passing to Beckham. Beckham waiving his arms, desperately trying to signal that he was open and nobody else on the team seeming to give a shit if he was open.

(Soccer fans who didn't follow the Galaxy may think I'm exaggerating the part about nobody passing to Beckham, but I don't think I am. During the last home game of the season last year, my friends and I watched in wonder as a Galaxy player, dribbling the ball into the attacking third, looked up, saw David Beckham wide open on the wing, and then turned around and dribbled the other way. Only thoughts of my poor fatherless child kept me from flinging myself over the balcony of my luxury box.)

In short, it was a time at the Los Angeles Galaxy that they and Major League Soccer would like to forget. I will heretofore refer to this episode in MLS history as "The Troubles".

A couple of important thoughts went through my head as I read this book. One was a mantra: "Without Phil Anschutz and AEG there would be no pro soccer in the United States. Without Phil Anschutz and AEG there would be no pro soccer in the United States. Without Phil Anschutz and AEG there would be no pro soccer in the United States." (And please, God, don't forget Lamar Hunt. Without those two we probably wouldn't have enough interest in soccer in America to even get a cable station to carry it.) So AEG had a bad couple of years with the Galaxy. So what? They're allowed. Forgive them for stubbing their toe while attempting the never-before-attempted.

Another thing I couldn't help thinking as Grant Wahl described misstep after misstep was "How can this possibly benefit the Seattle Sounders FC?" You see, during the Troubles, I was a fervent Galaxy fan. But now, a year later I find myself in the enviable position of being part of the ownership group of the expansion Sounders. And, if I do say so myself, we've done everything right so far. :) But there's nothing in this book for anyone in the Western Division except for bad news.

Is there anyone out there that seriously thinks AEG and the Galaxy management are going to let 2007 and 2008 ever repeat themselves again? Ever? You think they're ever going to let themselves get to that point again? If you do, then you're high. Bruce Arena (former US Nat'l Team coach) has the Galaxy actually practicing! (Unheard of in the Gullit days.) Their defense is 1,000% better. Even Landon Donovan and David Beckham have supposedly patched things up, which is the worst thing you could hear if you own another team. I don't want those two getting along and scoring goals now. Donovan is one of the best goal scorers in the league. Beckham is perhaps the best ball-passer in the world. I don't want them to be playing the Sounders and being all happy and focused. I want them slapping at each other during warm ups. This book might be the worst thing to happen to everyone BUT the Galaxy.

I'm just starting to watch the Galaxy play the Red Bulls on FSC as I write this. Donovan and Beckham just hugged. Donovan looks like he's about to play in a World Cup game and his testicles will be removed if he doesn't win. The Galaxy already scored and I haven't even had a chance to finish this paragraph. See what I mean? The world of every team in the West is about to be turned upside down because of this freaking book. Good job, Grant.

The Seattle Sounders FC play the Galaxy in LA on August 15th. I hope everyone remembers that we're not playing the same Galaxy team from last year whose every game-plan from Ruud Gullit was "I'm going out for coffee, anybody want anything?" This is the Galaxy who now are re-energized and have something to prove. They have a former MLS Coach of the Year who has won the MLS Cup twice. They already tied us on our home field 1-1 without Beckham. Now they have Beckham back and he and Donovan hugged.

Damn it.