Not since the musical "British Invasion" of the Sixties have American media gone so nutsy over the prospect of some Brits coming to the United States. Unless you've been sleeping 24 hours a day, you probably know that soccer star/fashion model/sex symbol David Beckham and his wife, former Spice Girl/skinny person/compulsive shopper Victoria are moving to Los Angeles. He's going to make approximately $250 million over the next five years while endorsing all kinds of things and attempting to make European football, or soccer as we Americans call it, a major sport in the United States.
It's not an easy task. In America, we love our baseball, football, and basketball, and we think it's cute that our kids play soccer. But very few of us take it seriously. We may watch an important Olympic or World Cup match on television, but very few of us understand the game and actually have paid money to see it played. Those who own and run the Major Soccer League are hoping that Beckham will help bend our attitude towards the sport.
And it already seems to be working. In 24 hours, Beckham's new team, the L.A. Galaxy, sold over 2,000 season tickets. In Toronto, which will have a new team in the league this year, they sold over 1,000 season tickets after the Beckham announcement, and those folks aren't even guaranteed that they'll see Beckham this year in a game. I understand it. This guy's a legend, the rest of the world loves soccer, so why not check him out?
That's my thinking, and I'll definitely buy a ticket to see Beckham and the L.A. Galaxy play this year.
The question, of course, is will those of us who go to see Beckham play continue to be fans after that match? Will America ever embrace a game where there is so little scoring? Will we ever have the patience to learn the finer points of the game? Will we ever take a sport seriously where it's forbidden to touch the ball with your hands, but you can hit it with your head?
But wait a minute. If Americans don't care about soccer all that much, why was the war in Iraq, the Democratic Congress, and even the new "American Idol" season pushed off the front pages of America's newspapers by the Beckhams? It's because they are bigger than soccer. In England, this couple has been dubbed the "alternative Royal family."
Beckham and "Posh" are famous in the entire soccer-loving world — in other words, everywhere outside of the United States. What they wear, how their hair looks, and where they hang out is big news internationally. So now they will have a chance to become hugely famous here, too. Or as the Wall Street Journal put it, "Can they replicate their global superstardom in the U.S., where soccer doesn't draw huge crowds?"
My feeling is that if the Wall Street Journal is speculating about this couple, they are on their way.
They also have a good start, since Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are among their best friends. In fact, Beckham said that he turned to Tom Cruise for advice before signing his new contract. Of Cruise, Beckham said, "He's a very wise man and a very good friend of mine." Yikes.
But Tom and Katie won't be their only competition for the title of "The Most Glamorous Couple In The World." On a radio sports talk show the day after Beckham signed his contract, the sports experts were not talking about his soccer ability or whether the United States would finally embrace soccer. These guys, who would not have been able to pick out either Beckham from a lineup a week before, were debating whether the Beckhams or Brad and Angelina were the biggest celebrity couple in the world. On a sports show! That's how pervasive the cult of celebrities has become.
I wouldn't be surprised if Brad and Angelina had an emergency meeting with their publicist right after the Beckhams blew them off the front page. Expect some big move from them soon, like maybe they'll announce that they're going to adopt triplets from some unfortunate country. But the Beckhams aren't amateurs in the self-promotion business. It's just possible that they could top this. All they have to do is make an even bolder move: announce that they're adopting someone, too — Jennifer Aniston.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver