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September 1, 2007

David Beckham is still exciting even sidelined


David Beckham is out for six weeks, but for those of us who could care less that he even plays the game of soccer won't be affected.

Beckham may not be on the field much for the Los Angeles Galaxy, but the attention he has brought the game is unparraleled so far in American soccer history!

While the Galaxy have paid nearly $21,000 per minute of play time, I'm sure they have made much more through ticket sales, jersey sales and free publicity to make up for Beck's field time.

CARSON, Calif. (AP) — So much for David Beckham's debut season in America. It's all but over now that the 32-year-old English midfielder is out six weeks with a sprained right knee, to go along with his famously injured left ankle.

His absence not only dampens U.S. enthusiasm for soccer — already on life support — but leaves England's national team without its former captain for a crucial stretch and threatens to deflate the Hollywood hype that elevated Becks and his Spice Girl wife to A-list celebrities.

"I'm incredibly disappointed to be injured again so soon after returning to play for the Galaxy," Beckham said on his Web site Friday. "It's been a year of amazing highs and frustrating lows, but I'm hopeful that I can still play a part this season."

The 32-year-old midfielder sprained his medial collateral ligament in a tackle during the Galaxy's loss to Mexican team Pachuca on Wednesday night. He was expected to be out about six weeks while he rehabilitates behind the scenes.

Beckham's right knee was in a brace Friday and he was ordered to rest for the next five days, Galaxy coach Frank Yallop said.

"We got to make sure he's doing the right thing from day one," he said. "Then his rehab will start and away he goes on both knee and ankle."

If he stays out for six weeks, Beckham could return in mid-October, when the Galaxy would have three likely meaningless regular-season games remaining. He joined the team July 13 — well into the season.

For his time — 310 minutes in six of 12 possible games — Beckham earned $20,967 a minute from a yearly salary of $6.5 million. His minutes in three MLS games totaled 198, worth $32,828 a minute.

Beckham has been worth every penny, Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas insisted.

"Regardless of what we did with David, we were going to be second-guessed. We did what we felt was right for the organization, we did what we felt was right for the player," Lalas said. "Some of it worked out and some of it didn't. These are just moments that you go through. We'll get through this and he will, too."

Beckham's inability to play will impact everyone around him, according to marketing consultant Ryan Schinman, president of Platinum Rye Entertainment.

"The Galaxy, the stadium, the city, the concession stands, the merchandising will all be affected. And the networks showing the games," said Schinman, who works with music and sports celebrities. "You want the guy out there, where he's visible, every week."

But Brand Beckham — which includes his endorsements for fragrance and apparel — will hold up despite his setbacks.

"It's still too early to tell, but these injuries do add drama to his story line. People love soap operas and fairy tales and comeback stories," veteran Hollywood publicist Michael Levine said. "Very few sports heroes make it off the sports page. There's Muhammad Ali ... and David Beckham."

While Beckham is idled, his wife Victoria is moving ahead with her entertainment career. She will play herself on an episode of the ABC comedy "Ugly Betty" this fall, and she will be part of the Spice Girls reunion tour this winter. She also oversees her own line of fashion, fragrance and sunglasses.

"By his side, she props his star up," Schinman said.

Other than a star-studded welcome-to-Los Angeles bash thrown for the Beckhams in July by actors Tom Cruise and Will Smith, the couple has kept a low-profile on the Hollywood party circuit.

But they will always be targets of paparazzi, said Paris Hilton's publicist Elliot Mintz.

"Beckham's injuries have not altered the fact that he's an incredibly handsome and attractive man," he said. "These injuries don't impair how he looks when he's photographed."

Beckham's biggest success has been in moving merchandise and attracting fans.

Initial sales of his No. 23 jersey topped 250,000 and have skyrocketed from there. He gets an undisclosed percentage of every jersey sold, with MLS also sharing in the profits. The Galaxy only makes money if jerseys are bought at its team store at Home Depot Center.

He attracted 66,237 to New Jersey's Giants Stadium for his first MLS start, and the Galaxy enjoyed a few home sellouts in its 27,000-seat stadium.

"It's everything they could have hoped for," Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan said. "It stinks that he's hurt now, but in the games he's played, they've been fun to watch."

Beckham's extended absence deals a serious blow to the already slim chance the Galaxy had of making the playoffs. Its Major League Soccer record is 3-10-5 — last in the Western Conference.

But losing the world's most famous soccer player impacts more than just the Galaxy, though.

Beckham will miss England's two Euro 2008 qualifying matches against Israel and Russia in London in early September, and possibly two more in October.

Other games in the United States and overseas are in jeopardy, too.

The Minnesota Thunder of the United Soccer League were set to host the Galaxy against an unnamed international opponent on Oct. 10 in the Metrodome.

Beckham's injury "is obviously an important issue for us in doing this game," said Manny Lagos, Thunder director of operations.

The Galaxy has MLS games at Chivas USA (which shares Home Depot Center with the Galaxy), Real Salt Lake, Kansas City and Columbus in September.

Real Salt Lake heavily promoted Beckham's presence for its Sept. 19 game and had 1,000 seats remaining Friday in its 25,562-capacity stadium. The team said it will not offer refunds.

Kansas City advertised Beckham's Sept. 27 visit as the "Midwest Sporting Event of the Year." As of Friday, 28,000 tickets had been sold. No decisions on possible refunds had yet been made, the team said.

The Galaxy has scheduled an exhibition match in Sydney, Australia, on Nov. 27. As part of the deal, the Galaxy promised to reschedule if Beckham was injured or unavailable.

Beckham's knee injury is the same one he had in February while playing for Real Madrid. He returned in time to help the team win the Spanish League championship and regain his spot on England's national team.

"I'm staying very optimistic," he said on his Web site.


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