When I heard the news that David Beckham has decided to retire from soccer, it seemed like one of those watershed moments for all sports. We can arguably say that Beckham is the most famous soccer player ever, though when I mentioned this to someone who loves the game, I was immediately told “One word – Pelé.” I am sure others will chime in with their candidate as well, but it seems obvious that no soccer player ever transcended the sport the way Beckham has.
Whether or not someone is a soccer fan, that person probably knows David Beckham. If you mention his name they recognize him for his model good looks or his marriage to Spice Girl Victoria Adams. I heard someone on sports radio this morning saying that he is better known in this country as a “fashion icon” than as a sports figure, and that could be true more because the United States has never opened itself up to soccer (which everyone else in the world calls football).
As someone who has gone to his daughter’s soccer games for years now, I have a rudimentary understanding of the game. I appreciate it when my daughter scores a goal and her team wins, but my connection to the sport ends when her games do. I believe many Americans have a similar point of view.
I am a baseball-(American) football-basketball fan who invests too much of his time watching teams I have loved all my life (Jets, Mets, Knicks) that continue to disappoint me. I used to be a hockey fan, but after the last strike I have stayed away from the Islanders (even if they had a decent season) because I vowed never again and stuck to it. Soccer does not enter the equation because I did not grow up with it, did not play the game, and only watched during the Olympics.
Yet Beckham’s retirement troubles me in that it is another end of an era, and one I only knew in a cursory way. I felt the same way about the TV series The Office, which had its series finale the other evening. It was on for nine seasons and I had never watched one episode. The next day everyone was moaning about it all being over, and I only knew of Steve Carrel from his films and that’s about it, but I still felt that end of the era thing – one that I guess I missed just as with Beckham’s career.
Beckham’s accomplishments are the stuff of a legend. Besides having a film made about him (Bend it Like Beckham – 2002) and being married to a Spice Girl and appearing in all those sleek advertisements, the man could really play the game. Sepp Blatter (FIFA President) said that Beckham was “one of the most iconic figures in global football.” Proof can be found with his winning championships with Manchester United, Real Madrid, Los Angeles Galaxy, and Paris Saint-Germain (his current team). If that doesn’t make him a “global” superstar then I am not sure what would.
Beckham has two games left with PSG and seems to be happy to be going out with a title. He said, “It’s every athlete’s dream, every footballer’s dream to go out on top – on top form or winning a trophy – leaving as a champion.” No one would argue with that, and Beckham also has to be seen as one nice fellow since he has been donating his salary to a children’s hospital. I cannot think of one American athlete in any sport that has done anything like that, and there are many who have amassed so much money that they could for certain.
So, as he retires at a ripe old age of 38, one can only wonder what is next for Beckham. He can be a model with those dashing good looks, or he could go into the movies and be the next Tom Cruise. One can probably safely say “The world is his oyster” and get away with it.
There is one more thing to note about Beckham – he is a family man. Beckham makes it clear that what matters most to him in his life when he says, “I wouldn’t have achieved what I have done today without my family. I’m grateful for my parents’ sacrifice, which made me realize my dreams.” And he added, “I owe everything to Victoria and the kids, who have given me the inspiration and support to play at the highest level for such a long period.”
This is such a great story that it should be made into a film. What about David Beckham starring as himself? Now that would be a happy bending!
Photo credits: beckham-fanpop.com; beckham family-mirror.co.uk