Sunday, June 25, 2006


The late rock promoter Bill Graham used to tell a story unprintable in my corner of cyberspace that ended, "you're standing there like a schmuck, with your good suit on." The moral of the tale was that while Graham could produce more hype than any man in the music business, his skill was useless if his acts didn't deliver.

So it was with David Beckham earlier today. Beckham is the only international soccer star known by name to Alice and Hope Gee, who of course have never seen him play. Beckham was born English, and plays most of his soccer in Spain, yet he's a permanent resident of the nation of Celebrity. He married a Spice Girl. He had a movie (a good one) named after him. Since Americans love British tabloid celebs as much or more as our own, Beckham is as much a presence on ET as he is on ESPN.

The author can't say he watches a great deal of world-class soccer on TV. But in the matches he did catch where Beckham participated, he'd never seen the superstar/show biz star actually DO anything of note.

It would be an exaggeration to say I thought Beckham was a fraud. But my nostrils detected a whiff of Brian Bosworth when his name came up. No surprise, really. Soccer's the sport giving boxing a run for its money in the "stars ruined by life at the top" competition. Or so Diego Maradona informs me.

Beckham is on the back nine of whatever his career really was, a fact mournfully evident to anyone watching him attempt to keep running throughout this World Cup. I was not prepared for his moment today.

England was tied with Ecuador 0-0 in the second half, looking every inch the World Cup favorite on its way to a most-deserved upset loss, when Beckham was awarded a free kick outside the Ecuadorian box. On the far side of the field, another English player wildly gesticulated towards Beckham that he'd be running to where the kick should land.

That was Dick Williams pretending to order Johnny Bench intentionally walked. Beckham whacked an untouchable shot to the near side. It bent around the goalie and into the net, just like the movie title said it should. England 1-Ecuador 0. The hype, the tabloids, it all made sense. When the national team dearly needed a hero, Beckham was it.

Another set of English celebs, the Rolling Stones, really ought not tour anymore. Their set at the Super Bowl was a painful embarrassment for all concerned. But in their usual 2-hour concert, about two or three times a night, the time machine works, and the Stones really bring it. The unlucky ones born too late to catch the Stones in their prime get to see what the fuss was all about.

The time machine worked for Beckham against Ecuador. I'm glad for my chance to see what the fuss was all about.


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