THE PEOPLE’S GAME: Beckham’s impact felt at turnstile

David Beckham is a superstar no matter how you slice it.

Even people who have never played soccer or follow it pay a lot of money to see him play. The question is, is he a soccer player, or a celebrity who happens to play soccer?

All things considered, Beckham has had an impeccable career. At 17, he was called up to play for Manchester United, the soccer equivalent of the New York Yankees, and was twice the runner-up for FIFA World Player of the Year.

In 2004, Beckham was the highest paid soccer player in the world. He was captain of the England national team from 2000 until the 2006 World Cup Finals, and has received another bid to play in the 2010 World Cup.

In 2007, Beckham transferred from Real Madrid, where he became a fan-favorite after scoring five times in his first 16 matches, to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Beckham’s career seems to have slowed as of late, even though his reputation has kept him in the spotlight with a major-market team in the MLS.

After several less-than-spectacular seasons, the Galaxy have made it to the playoffs this year, leaving the critics with little to say. Still, his lasting impact on the sport is questionable when you see stadiums packed to see a player whose skills are clearly on the decline.

In an interview with ESPN, Beckham said he was moving to the U.S. to play football and nothing else. He added that he wasn’t sure his presence would make soccer the biggest sport in America, but he wanted to make an impact.

This might seem like normal press conference jargon, but surprisingly, his words have come to fruition. The financial numbers for the MLS are on a new level, with new fans and sponsors being gathered around the league. For longtime soccer fans, it may be hard to understand why this is happening.

Beckham is still a remarkable soccer player and a good fit for the MLS in the twilight of his career, but why are people so taken with him? Is it his marriage to Posh Spice, the former singing sensation and current fashionista? Is it his look that could woo your mother, or his marketability as a sports star? It also probably doesn’t hurt that he lives in Los Angeles, where people are so distracted with celebrities and their lifestyles.

Yet, during some matches, it is hard to tell that Beckham is even playing. Other times he is a major contributor to a game’s outcome, so it is anyone’s guess as to why people who have no deep-rooted interest in soccer are paying top dollar to see him play every weekend.

The big question is whether or not his contribution to American soccer is a positive one.

Ultimately, the answer is a resounding yes. The fact of the matter is that Beckham has changed the sport, and it does not look like it will regress any time soon. People have their opinions, and it seems that the more younger fans learn about soccer, the more likely it is that they will have a distaste for him.

Sunday’s match against the Dynamo saw fans punishing Beckham from start to finish. Either way, he is here to stay, at least for the next season, so people must look at his stay in America as a positive thing.

Any soccer fan loves to see packed stands because it makes them feel that they are finally part of something worthwhile. Beckham receives a lot of criticism for playing in the MLS, but at least he fills the seats.

So for now, fans should keep an optimistic mindset and anticipate the next superstar to come play in America and transform the sport. The path has already been cleared.

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