Friday, August 10, 2007

The World Wide Leader In Schlock

Much to my surprise, ESPN2 didn't hold up the start of the David Beckham game last night at RFK Stadium. However, nothing else about the game was much of surprise to me as it was David Beckham, David Beckham, L.A. Galaxy, and a healthy dose of Landon Donovan thrown in for good measure.

Oh, and BTW if you didn't already know, David Beckham and the rest of the L.A. Galaxy was playing D.C. United.

D.C. United actually won the game too but all you heard about on ESPN2 was David Beckham this and David Beckham that. It was a David Beckham stalker's dream broadcast. ESPN2 even dedicated a David Beckham cam to follow David Beckham as he sat on the bench.

Now I'll give the guy credit, he played despite a balky ankle on a poor field in bad weather conditions. He could have very easily hurt himself even more than he already is and used that as an excuse to not play, especially after L.A. went down a man.

But this isn't a post bashing David Beckham, this is a post bashing ESPN. Between ESPN2's fawning coverage of Beckham (we got more replays of Beckham warming up than we did of Luciano Emilio's goal, which was the only goal of the game) and the HIGH-LARIOUS Barra Brava/Screaming Eagles "We Sing Better Than Your Wife" sign directly across from the L.A. bench - that cracked me up everytime I saw it - it was tough to watch what was a very good soccer game. Well, at least for D.C. United fans.

Even Michael Wilbon was at the game to repeat his slur that the MLS has "blown by the NHL." However Michael would you have been at RFK if that game had been scheduled for a 5 pm kickoff on September 9th? I don't think so. One thing lost in all the hoopla is that Beckham is signed for five years. So that means there (should be) four more visits to Washington, D.C. If the L.A. Galaxy and D.C. United can still pack in 46,686 or more into RFK (or wherever D.C. United is playing) in 2011, then I'll be impressed.

D.C. United is back in RFK on August 22nd versus their arch rivals, the New York Red Bulls. If D.C. United can get generate half of the 46,686, I'll be surprised and maybe, just maybe concede that Wilbon is right about soccer and hockey. However, the odds of D.C. and New York generating 23K+ for a mid week match in the middle of August is rather slim. Furthermore, with the admission that the MLS "needs 25 more Beckhams" maybe the MLS isn't on the solid footing that some think it is. Nobody is clamoring for more "star power" in the NHL.

Besides, even if the MLS went out and got 25 more Beckhams, I seriously doubt it would make much of a difference for the MLS. The NASL already tried that and failed miserably. Furthermore, the more David Beckham's the MLS imports, the fewer American players the MLS develops for the U.S. National Team. While some might see this as xenophobia, the best thing the MLS does is that they help identify and develop talent for the U.S. National team. It is good for the MLS's bottom line that David Beckham is here and people are coming out in droves to watch him run up and down the sideline for an hour. However, it will be through the success of the U.S. National team that will grow the sport in the United States. Not aging foreign superstars in the twilight of their careers.

But the problem for the MLS right now is that they have to go out and get a David Beckham in order to get ESPN to pay any attention to them. This is potentially the first step down the same road that the NASL traveled. And true to form, David Beckham is the only thing that ESPN is willing to talk about. Jaime Moreno needs one goal to become the All-Time leading goal scorer in MLS history and it got passing mention (mostly on a graphic) but even discussion about Moreno was spun into more talking about Beckham. After Beckham came on the field, there was one point where D.C. United maintained consistent possession, but not a single man in ESPN's three man soccer booth mentioned a United player's name with the ball or United in general. It was all Beckham and Galaxy.

There was little interest in the MLS from ESPN before David Beckham signed on. Now ESPN is overkilling everybody on David Beckham so that when people get tired of hearing about him and pay attention elsewhere, they'll say "soccer is dead in America" and/or "what's wrong with Americans that they don't like soccer"?

But soccer not being a uniquely American sport, which is Wilbon's excuse, won't be the reason why. It will be because people like ESPN show little respect for the sports that they cover. They shove the New York Yankees down everybody's throats, especially when they're playing the Mets and Red Sox. They employ hype masters like Stephen A. Smith and Dookie Vitale who turn more people off to their broadcasts than turn on. They also promote and build signature broadcasts around bozos like Tony Kornheiser.

No wonder Dan Patrick is jumping ship...

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