Amid the mania earlier this week surrounding the move of the David Beckham family from Europes to the United States is a quiet religion ghost that reporters ought to take a look at. We sympathize with anyone trying to write about Philip Anschutz, but the back story surrounding the move of the world's most famous soccer player (footballer for the non-American readers) needs a look as this story will likely be in American media until the Beckham family moves on to other places.
I am not optimistic that this will happen anytime soon. Many of the articles hardly mention at all that David Beckham is a soccer player. They hardly need to of course, but let's not forget this is a sports story involving players other than Beckham and a team owner who has a vested interest in seeing a return on his investment. Right now the media coverage is focused more on the glitz and the glamour more appropriate for supermarket tabloids. Here is a USA Today cover story:
David Beckham has conquered the rest of the world as the most recognized soccer player around. Now, he's ready to take on America.
Wearing a black suit with white shirt and black tie, Beckham shared his thoughts a day after agreeing to a five-year contract with the L.A. Galaxy that could be worth $250 million.
"I'm coming there to make a difference. I'm coming there to play football," Beckham said Friday via satellite from Madrid. "I'm not saying me coming to the States is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America. ... But I think soccer has a huge, huge potential. I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe in this project. This could create something that we've all never seen before."
Those who orchestrated the deal are convinced Beckham not only will raise soccer's profile in America but help the Galaxy win.
Hey, look at that. The article -- about a professional athlete -- actually raised the idea that Beckham is being shipped to the U.S. to help a team perform better! What a novel idea.
But back to Anschutz. He is a businessman with an estimated worth of about $7.8 billion. He has stakes in three soccer teams, including the Los Angeles Galaxy, for which Beckham will play. He is a donor to and supporter of the Bush administration and has helped support many religious and right-wing issues. And it's his Anschutz Entertainment Group that is funding Beckham's big salary estimated at $250 million.
Here is the International Herald Tribune's Rob Hughes on what little was written about Anschutz's involvement:
In that respect, the statement that soccer intrigues the rest of the world more than it does the United States, Beckham and Anschutz are almost right. They share the view that his presence, and let us be honest his groomed PR, will permanently take American manhood past the point of resistance to soccer.
Where they are wrong is to suggest that the United States -- or as Beckham put it Thursday, the whole of North America -- is the last big frontier unconquered by soccer fever.
Even FIFA, the governing body of the game worldwide, acknowledges that India, with its billion population, has never yet been lured to share the infatuation.
After Hollywood, perhaps Bollywood for the iconic Mr. Beckham?
Meanwhile, he is expected to see out his contract, and play out his role as a backup player to the Madrid players eclipsing his waning star in the Bernabeu Stadium. His backers, Gillette, Pepsi, Adidas and now Anschutz, will help him easily past the career total of half a billion dollars.
If the dust ever settles around the Beckhams' risque-styled PR move to the U.S., I am hoping someone gets an interview with Anschutz to explore his thoughts behind the events. And while Anschutz is unlikely to grant a face-to-face interview, I hope reporters will take the efforts to write about it anyway. There's a story to be told about the man who wants to bring more family-friendly movies to American cineplexes.