July 25, 2011
By JAMES LAWTON, Special to QMI Agency
LONDON, ENGLAND - This may be the wrong time to ask the question, given the celebrity lane cooing over the arrival of his Princess Harper Seven, but has anyone ever been so blissfully separated from some of the realities of his extraordinarily successful life, than the ever more firmly A-listed David Beckham?
The question was provoked here by his latest pronouncement. It came on the buildup to Sunday's exhibition match between the soccer titans Los Angeles Galaxy and superrich Manchester City, the club so desperate to convert its vast Arab financial resources into a place above Beckham's old club, Manchester United.
Beckham, who signed away the last of his stretched playing resources, and apparently infinite ability to generate personal publicity, to the Galaxy in exchange for another major hike up the rich list of sport, believes that nothing good will come of City's huge, Middle East-based wealth.
He declares: "The money that has been pumped into City has been incredible. But United have their history and it's not all about paying fortunes for players. It's important that players get along with each other, for example. That makes team spirit."
One club Beckham doesn't need to tell this to is surely Real Madrid, for which Beckham spent several mostly futile years collecting one of the biggest paycheques and commercial incentive packages in the history of sport. Nor, of course, the man who so brilliantly developed Beckham's career --Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
When Ferguson sold Beckham to Real Madrid in 2003, he ran a gauntlet of ridicule across England. He was charged with disposing of a national treasure but his defence was impeccable. He said that no player was bigger than the team and that Beckham's celebrity lifestyle was not good for the culture of a pro sports organization.
Ferguson proceeded to augment his position as the most successful manager in the history of British soccer while Beckham eventually won one La Liga championship medal--albeit after sporadic appearances in his last year and his removal to the bench when Real clinched its title.
Beckham's next career development, it is widely believed here in England, is a knighthood. The citation will probably not refer to his epic achievement in building so much wealth and fame on the foundation of fine -- if scarcely overwhelming -- soccer skill, as an essentially decent character and pure genius for grabbing every possible scintilla of attention.
Rather amazingly, though, it had to be allowed that Beckham probably merely won the silver medal for detachment from reality this week.
Who could deny the gold to Steve Williams? Whatever you think of the behaviour that brought Tiger Woods down from one of the highest pedestals professional sport has ever known, it is surely not so easy to reach for the tear bucket on behalf of his fired caddie.
The task might have been somewhat easier if Williams had not for so long rejoiced in his extraordinary status as one of the best paid, if not the best, "sportsmen" of his high achieving native New Zealand.
No one would dispute the value of a top-class caddie. The best of them work on a lot more than mere yardage and club selection. They monitor the spirits, sometimes even the souls, of their bosses.
But, when Williams says: "Through time, I hope he (Tiger) can gain my respect back," you wonder quite how accurately he has identified his own place in the universe.
Williams protests that his name should have been cleared from the scandal and that he has wasted two years of his life. In the league table of human suffering, some may feel that the former king of the caddie-shack has not quite made the cut.
No more so than the indefatigable David Beckham.
James Lawton writes for The Independent in the U.K.