IN THE LUCRATIVE morning TV show market in the United States, ABC’s Good Morning America is the industry leader and has been since 2015. It averages over 5 million viewers every day, wielding a considerable influence on average households across the country.
When it covers football stories – a rare event – there’s usually a nationalistic angle: the US women’s team winning the World Cup or Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic ‘taking the world by storm’.
But David Beckham is always an exception.
His presence still whips many into a frenzy and he knows it. His celebrity carries a much greater impact in the US than England these days, probably due to the squeaky-clean, UNICEF ambassador schtick having been eviscerated by those pesky email leaks in 2017. While his native land has grown somewhat weary of the entire package, his adopted home can’t quite get enough of it.
Recently – and for seemingly no reason – he turned up in an episode of hit ABC sitcom Modern Family, even throwing in a topless scene for good measure. There were the usual cosy references to ‘Posh’ while Becks hammed it up for the cameras. It was all harmless, feel-good stuff. A family show watched by millions every week. An ideal scenario for a man always with one eye on the mirror and the other on his brand.
It’s no coincidence that Beckham turned up on Good Morning America yesterday to promote his new gig: football club owner. His Major League Soccer side, Inter Miami, kick off their debut season on 1 March with a game, ironically enough, in Los Angeles. But not against his former employers, the LA Galaxy, where he played between 2007 and 2012. Instead, the opponents will be LAFC, who also boast a collection of celebrities – Will Ferrell, Magic Johnson, Tony Robbins – as co-owners.
Naturally, there was very little discussed about MLS during the GMA interview. But in the brief moments when it was, things got extremely cringe-worthy. At one point, the league’s commissioner Don Garber appeared alongside Beckham – again, for absolutely no reason – to reminisce about Beckham’s arrival in the league and to also sycophantically muse on how cool the board meetings will be from now on.
David Beckham always attracts a crowd, particularly in the US.
Then, inevitably, the focus was on Beckham’s family – his children, their passions. And things wrapped up with some words on Kobe Bryant’s death.
Because it was an MLS media day, Beckham turned up in variety of different outlets and discussing lots of topics, even giving his take on ‘amazing person’ Prince Harry and his recent relocation to North America to Entertainment Tonight. Later, there was an appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s chat show and more family talk: a recent ski trip, the duration of his marriage, his obsession with Lego.
Beckham is far from a raconteur extraordinaire but it’s immensely difficult not to admire his tenacity. When he was a kid at Manchester United, he would attach a tyre to the crossbar and practice his free-kicks by trying to put it through the hole in the middle. And he’s spent his entire post-football career by possessing a similar work ethic.
Of course, by itself that’s a wonderful thing. But mixed with the celebrity culture he’s been so heavily immersed in ever since stepping out with a Spice Girl for the first time, it can create issues. The email leak showed a man with a huge opinion of himself but, almost paradoxically, obsessed with how others see him.
“It’s pissed me off, those old unappreciative c***s,” he wrote in one, embittered with having missed out on a knighthood.
In another, he rounded on the fact that singer Katherine Jenkins had been given an OBE and described it as a ‘fucking joke’.
And during the GMA interview, there was something else.
“It’s been such a long journey,” he said.
“A journey that I actually didn’t think was going to take this long. Seven years in the making.”
In terms of creating an entirely new sports organisation in a notoriously difficult market, seven years seems a tiny fraction of time and it’s as if Beckham has learned little from the entire process.
There were a multitude of issues along the way, with the location of the stadium the biggest one. It was a drawn-out affair as many people brought different issues to the fore. The discussions involved local councils, politicians, civil servants, lawyers, financiers – the usual bureaucracy for a project of its size. And yet, Beckham seemed to think it was an easy fix.
And maybe that’s something for him to remember. Carrying the glitz and glamour of celebrity will get you places. It will help you promote your new MLS franchise. It will help you push the ‘family-man’ image, regardless of the scar tissue from previous missteps.
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But, it won’t solve everything. Inter Miami won’t make an impact because of Beckham’s high-profile cache. And it remains to be seen whether his work ethic can lead to strong ownership of a football club.
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