Friday, August 10, 2007


Here is a sight that you don't see at a Major League Soccer often:

Over 40,000 people were in attendance at RFK Stadium August 9th to watch cameras watch David Beckham. The match was a joy to attend, both because of the large rooting interest in United and the equally large (and bizarre) rooting interest in all things Beckham. Luciano Emilio continued his fine form of aggressive, attacking football for United and drove a ball square through Joe Cannon's hands for the only goal of the match. That goal set Emilio up as the MLS's lead scorer, and put DC United into second place in the East, three points behind New England, with a game in hand over the Revolution.

And yet the good people of Kansas City, Salt Lake, and Columbus are likely to be denied the opportunity to view such a spectacle at their home pitches this year because of the injury sustained by number 23 in the SuperLiga Final against Pachuca. This turn of events has led to absurd calls for refunds of tickets sold in anticipation of Beckham coming to town. The reasons for the demand were articulated most vehemently by Filip Bondy, the Daily News correspondent, in a recent piece for MSNBC.

The argument, however, is ridiculous. Up until he set foot on the field in the second half, the fans that turned up at RFK were not sure that Beckham would play. While his participation certainly made the night more enjoyable, paying spectators were treated to a fairly decent match without regard to whether Beckham played or not. The message that Bondy (and other commentators apparently lacking in other ways to fill column inches) wishes to have these squads send is that absent the presence of an international pop star, an MLS match is not worth the price of admission.

Bondy, for one, argues that refunds (or exchanges for future Galaxy games) will earn these teams good will. Perhaps. But such moves would also constitute an admission that there is really no other reason to go to an MLS game. Futbol commentators in this country, in general, spend an inordinate amount of time ripping the quality of soccer played here, but the hatred for the American game evinced by this proposal (and effort to stir emnity against these teams) is unparalleled.

Had Beckham not played in the DC United match, fans might have been disappointed, but many would also be pleasantly surprised by the product that MLS puts out on the field. Emilio and Moreno alone are worth the (reasonable) price of admission. With luck, the same holds true in Salt Lake, Columbus, and Kansas City. The peripheral fan who bought Wizards tickets with the hope of catching Beckhamania will face the choice of abandoning the match and eating the cost of his tickets or attending the game and taking a chance that he just might enjoy watching Eddie Johnson take on Landon Donovan. And, with even more luck, if he makes the latter choice, he may buy another ticket to watch EJ work his magic against other opponents.

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