Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Beckham's Absence: Yawn

David Beckham will be absent from the Galaxy's match against Houston. Nothing new, right? Beckham missing a Galaxy game. It's happened quite a bit since he joined the club in 2007.

This time around, though, the reason is different. He's gone not because of England duty, because he's on loan or because he's injured. Nope. This time, it's due to a testimonial match.

Gary Neville's testimonial match was enough to draw Beckham across the pond and force him to skip out on the Galaxy-Houston match.

When rumblings over this very matter began to surface, so too did the all-too-familiar criticism:

Beckham doesn't care! Beckham is not committed to MLS! He's only in it for himself!! How could the Galaxy let him leave? He's turning his back on the club!


Sure, Galaxy ticket holders have some right to be upset. Beckham is the Galaxy's biggest draw, and fans who splurged on this ticket for the chance to see Beckham play may very well be a little irritated.

But firing shots at Beckham or the LA Galaxy is ill-advised. You want to find someone to be upset over? How about Major League Soccer?

What exactly is Beckham missing? Well, he's missing a regular-season game. This is meaningful, right? This is what players get paid to do, to play in these games and to win these games, right?

Perhaps, but Beckham and the Galaxy are not minimizing the importance of this match, because MLS minimized the significance of it a long time ago.

This is a league that has played through each and every Gold Cup since the tournament switched to the current summer format in 2003. This summer's tournament is no different. When the U.S. play Panama on June 11, DC-San Jose and Houston-Chivas USA will be played directly opposite the match. Six matches will be played on June 25, the same day as the Gold Cup final.

This is a league that has scheduled league matches directly opposite World Cup qualifiers involving the U.S. national team.

MLS played right on through the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups before finally wising up and shutting down for two weeks in 2010, but only through the group stage. Then, with the world watching the World Cup knockout rounds, MLS went on with business as usual.

MLS regularly sets aside weekend summer dates for certain clubs for friendlies and crams midweek games throughout the season because of it. The regular season is a priority? Not in June, July and August.

MLS ignores international fixture dates, knowing full well that its product will be cheapened because of the absence of important players throughout the league. The league finally wised up on that - somewhat - as the league has open weekends in September and October of this season. But March 26-27 featured a full slate of games while the international calendar was rather busy as well.

MLS schedules its All-Star Game during the middle of the week, forcing its top stars to travel great distances to play in that match. Even last year, when the Galaxy had a quartet of players in the match, the league placed a greater significance on that game than anything. The Galaxy played a CONCACAF Champions League match the night before the 2010 All-Star Game, and even though Bruce Arena tried to get his four players from having to play consecutive nights in cities hundreds of miles apart form one another, the league said no and forced the Galaxy players to compete in the match.

And, perhaps most importantly, MLS consistently diminishes the meaning of said regular-season games by having a playoff system that rewards mediocrity, punishes successful teams and makes the regular season a moot point.

So Beckham decides to ask for and receives permission to attend a testimonial match and now he's the worst guy in the league, he's turning his back on his club, the team that pays his salary, because he's missing a regular-season game?



AlecTheGreen said...

Great article and totally agree. The decision by MLS to extend season to 34 games and expand playoffs to 10 teams is an obvious money grab. As a fan, I'm fine with it as it gives me more games to watch. Sure its a bummer if your favorite player isn't there. But hopefully no one shells out $$ for a ticket just to watch 1 of 22 players on the field. As fans, we have to support the team and know that players will have to sit out games to get through the season. If this was the playoffs or CCL, we'd have a different story.

Catamount said...

Good to have you back on Sideline Views. This was my favorite blog for quite some time.

Sorry AC. I don't buy this argument. You cite league decisions as an argument for individual privilege.

If you can honestly say that Sean Franklin would be allowed to miss a Galaxy game for the retirement of his coach at CSUN, then you would have an argument. You and I both know that Sean would not be given that opportunity, nor would CSUN ask him to. So why should Grumpy be accommodated, when others on the team are not?

His Beckhamness considers a meaningless game in honor of his friend to be more important that a MLS league game. Perhaps each player should be given permission to miss a league game to attend a cousin's high school graduation, or a nephew's Bar Mitzvah. That's the point. I figure he laces up his boots like everybody else and he should abide by the same standards.

This is another example of Sir Beckham deciding that he deserves special treatment at the expense of Galaxy fans. What's next, a coronation or a red carpet opportunity?

Anonymous said...

The testimonial game was probably an okay reason to miss a relatively meaningless game vs. Houston -- same went for going to the Royal Wedding.

The problem is that whenever Beckham misses a game or goes off on some extra curricular activity, we are all reminded of his OTHER absences.

If you miss 20 days of work in a year, they'll still fire you at 21 even if your wife just died. Primarily because you used up all your good excuses on 1-20. Same goes for Beckham.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

L.B., the last poster is absolutely right. If Beckham hadn't tried to manipulate loans to AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspur, the fan base would be far more forgiving of his travels for a royal wedding (especially since Prince William is the president of the English FA) and a testimonial match.

Catamount also is right. If Beckham actually gave a damn about the fans, perhaps he might have behaved differently.