Five years ago, he arrived: David Beckham, in LA, a newly crowned member of the LA Galaxy. There were high-profile matches (Chelsea). There were parties (Tom Cruise, Will Smith, CAA). There was reality TV (not worth mentioning). Tomorrow, he leaves. After one final match—this year's MLS Cup (the league championship)—the David Beckham experiment will be over.
So, how'd that go? When Beckham showed up in America, I took to the pages of this magazine to argue the "pro" side of a Beckham's-arrival-shows-soccer's-time-has-come argument. I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines of: America loves a spectacle. I concluded with an ultimately stupid proclamation that, before long, field-side at LA's Home Depot Center would have the same cache as courtside at the Staples Center and that soccer would seep its way into the American mainstream through the pages of People magazine.
As it turns out, America may love a spectacle, but not so much an imported one. Beckham's first few seasons were injury-ridden flops. His wife's reality show was panned, and she never got another look from Hollywood. By the time Grant Wahl's definitive The Beckham Experiment debuted in 2009, the book's subtitle said it all: "How the world's most famous athlete tried to conquer America." Aside from a brief successful loan to AC Milan, it was looking like America was where David Beckham's soccer career had gone to die.