Bracing for Beckham

January 11, 2007

EDIT: 11:18 AM – It’s officially official. Apparently MLS just issued press release confirming Beckham to MLS.


Don’t look now, but MLS is about to be invaded by the one and only David Beckham.

Rumors have been surfacing for a few weeks now on soccer blogs and message boards. Becks is out of favor with his current club, Real Madrid, and the rumor mill had him looking at clubs in England, Italy, and…the United States.

Copious new sources are now reporting this as a done deal (ESPN, Good Morning America, BBC, blogs) with Beckham expected to officially be announced as a member of the LA Galaxy as early as tomorrow. There’s intense arguments on both sides about whether or not this is a good move for MLS. Whatever your opinion, one thing’s for certain – this is HUGE news.

The obvious cons to Beckham’s signing – he’s 31 years old, past his prime, will cost a fortune (somewhere close to $35MM is the estimate) and this seemingly doesn’t jive with MLS’s modus operandi up to this point. The biggest naysayers point to the dysfunctional NASL, which was a supernova league and then crashed and burned in incredibly swift fashion. Will MLS simply turn into a wasteland of overpaid, past-their-prime former mega-stars? That’s the worry.

But count me in as a supporter of the move. Beckham’s not the Beckham of 1998-99, but he will come in as one of the top 3 players in MLS. Period. He’s not 35, he’s 31. He’s expensive, but you can bet that there will be an absolute boatload of LA Galaxy jerseys sold now that never would have been before. He’s one of the 5 most recognizeable athletes on the planet, right up there with Tiger, Jordan, LeBron. MLS instantaneously becomes relevant to people all over the globe. He will drive attendance, if for no other reason than because he’s incredibly famous. I don’t think MLS will abandon their model. The league has made great strides in the last 10 years, but the fact of the matter is that something will have to happen – some tipping point – before MLS has any chance of competing with hockey, NASCAR, etc as one of the “fringe major” sports in the US.

I’m trying to come up with some sort of analogy and everytime I think of one, it breaks down. The reason – Beckham is so much more than a soccer player. He’s undoubtedly an icon. And in today’s crowded pro sports environment, icons are everything. Beckham is a brand unto himself, and MLS has to feel good about associating itself with one of the most famous brands in sports.

The coolest part of this for me – I know a number of players in MLS from my year on the UNC team. Guys like Logan Pause, Matt Crawford, Chris Leitch, David Stokes, and Eddie Robinson. These guys are going to play on the same pitch as one of the most famous athletes of our generation. That is awesome.

Can’t wait to see the media storm that arises because of this. Beware – even if Beckham comes in and plays amazing, it won’t be enough for a lot of people. But in the long run, I think this is an awesome investment for MLS.


Fighting the Manual Labor Beast

January 8, 2007

When I was growing up, my family used to go to breakfast on Saturday mornings at a local “grease and grits” place called Danny’s. Danny is a Greek guy who loves to come by the tables and chat with the patrons. The only problem is that normal people can only understand about 20% of what Danny is saying. So inevitably you end of just nodding your head and enjoying the sweet sensation of biscuits and gravy.

As I got older, often times it was just Dad and me on Saturday mornings. We both liked the time together. But every once in a while, as we got in the car to head home, stomachs happy and full, I’d see a wry grin creep across my Dad’s face and know what was next.

Home Depot.

My Dad loved Home Depot. I’m convinced he could spend an entire day just walking around, taking in the smell of lumber and hardware and feeling every bit a man’s man. I, on the other hand, was never quite as amused. I’m a utilitarian shopper, and have the attention span of a gnat when it comes to buying anything in a store. This, compounded with the fact that Dad would usually play games with my head and not tell me what he was looking for, made the Home Depot experience completely miserable.

So I’d cry foul at my awful fate and generally bemoan the existence of hardware stores in general. But buying the goods wasn’t the worst part. No, the worst part about Home Depot is what awaits inevitably when you get home: Manual Labor.

Oh how I remember those Saturday afternoons in the yard. Seemingly endless hours of picking up hedge trimmings, raking leaves, and laying down pine needles. In retrospect, the days of yard work were relatively few and far between. Yet, while in the moment of adolescent angst, they were positively neverending.

“You’ll appreciate this someday,” my Dad would say. “It builds character.”

Cynic that I was, I brushed off the old man’s wise words and instead focused on thinking up lyrics to the Manual Labor song. Sung in a loud voice that was intentionally meant to make dogs bark and babies cry, I think the ditty went something like this:

“I hate Manual Labor,
I hate Manual Labor.
‘Cause it’s hard
and you sweat,
Oh I reaalllllly
Don’t like it….Oh

I hate Manual Labor
I hate Maual Labor”

REPEAT

It was epically atrocious, and yet somehow helped the time to pass by more quickly.

4-dardanelle-lane.jpg

Fast forward to this year’s Yuletide season and you’ll find that Manual Labor has somehow crept it’s way back into my life. I guess that’s what happens when you buy and house and have to start thinking about blowing leaves and trimming hedges of your own. I’m now stocked up with a full line of yard work gear, and yesterday i set out to tame the Manual Labor beast (which I had conveniently avoided for the past couple months).

As I raked all the leaves in the backyard, pulled out some weedy bushes and organized the garage, a strange sensation overwhelmed me. I continued to pick weeds and trim some vines in the gently drizzling rain – yet the feeling remained.

I was doing Manual Labor – and I liked it.

Feeling empowered, I went inside and fixed the leaky toilet and began to put up some new blinds in the guest room. When all was said in done, the score was Manual Labor, 4 hours – Playoff Football, 0; and I loved every second of it.

It’s weird, how we change as we grow older. I think I may actually be able to get used to this. Now if I could just find a Danny’s in Durham…


UNC-Penn Random Musings

January 4, 2007

With yet another easy non-conference victory for the Heels, I think it’s safe to say that everyone – players, coaches, fans, media – is ready for some better competition.  ACC play should do the trick, even if the league as a whole is not as strong as it has been in past years (I really think this is true – maybe more to come on this in later weeks).

Some random musings from last night’s game:

Great to have Bobby and QT back.  I was shocked to see Frasor in the game, as the pregame reports all had him slated as OUT.  Bobby looked as if he hasn’t skipped a beat – he’s really been shooting well this year.  We may need some big outside shooting in the late February, early March time frame.

Quentin looked comfortable and quick – but doesn’t he always against the Penns of the world.  I really love Q’s character, and hope that he can find a niche on this team.  Maybe it’s just 3-5 minutes of passing and defense.  Maybe it’s the behind-the-scenes stuff in practice.  Whatever it is, I think QT can get it done.

Invisible last night: Ginyard and Green – but with the depth of this team, it’s easy to be invisible on a given night.

Ellington approached serious “I think it’s going in every time he shoots” status when he started off 4-5 from 3.  Too bad he cooled off in the 2nd half – I think he makes 6 3’s in an ACC game this year.

Wes can’t buy a big shooting night.  I think he’d pay big bucks for one.

Line of the Night: Alex Stepheson: 9 Min, 3-4 FG, 8 points, 1 rebound, 2 blocks.

Even better Line: Dewey Burke: 2 min, 2-2 FG, 6 points.  And Biscuits for everyone!

What was up with Len Elmore being completely mesmerized by the Carolina diving on the floor in warm-ups thing.  The team’s been doing it for 3 years now, before every game.  I’ve been to games that Len’s been broadcasting and seen them dive before the game.  Yet, Elmore thought he should use that as his talking point for the whole game and then the production guys thought it’d be an even better idea to show the footage from pre-game every time.  We get the point – Roy likes guys to dive on the floor for loose balls.  Thanks for the tip.

Only thing shown more than the pre-game dive footage: John Edwards.

Big props to Copeland.  Loved the hustle and grit from Cope and the Blue team.

Best word to describe this year’s team: explosive.

Bring on the ACC!