Pitch Imperfect

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By Norman Chad
Monday, November 3, 2008

Note to Readers: Couch Slouch is asking -- actually, imploring -- members of the soccer cognoscenti to walk away right now. What follows will be my almost annual, is-that-sound-of-silence-I-hear-the-lack-of-a-

soccer-boom? column, which provokes many out there to want to "kill the messenger." Frankly, you should want to "kill the messiah," because I've been correctly forecasting America's collective yawn over the beautiful game since the 1970s.

We are finishing Year 2 of Beckham Across America and, you know, it feels a lot like the previous 230 years of America Without Beckham.

As some of you may recall, David Beckham washed up on our shores in 2007 amid great fanfare. He was the Next Big Thing in our culture, Benny Hill with a bicycle kick. He was going to single-handedly -- make that "single-footedly" (it's a word; I looked it up in an unabridged futbol dictionary) -- transform soccer into a sold-out spectacle from sea to shining sea. He was going to turn hockey moms on to soccer dads, and then these neo-soccer couples would turn into nouveau-soccer families craving nonstop soccer on TV.

In reality, Beckham simply has allowed ESPN2 to maintain the 0.2 to 0.3 rating that is the hallmark of MLS.

Quick, which team won the MLS Cup last year?

Quick, how many games in the MLS regular season?

Quick, who was the leading soccer in MLS this year?

If you answered any of those three questions correctly, you are either MLS Commissioner Don Garber or you once dated Alexi Lalas.

Incidentally, MLS is in the midst of its playoffs right now, featuring the "two-leg aggregate score series," which has all the appeal of a root canal without anesthesia.

The World Cup is riveting sports drama, once every four years. MLS is more like league bowling (oh, gosh, I hope my bowling friends don't beat a path to my doorway right behind the soccer hooligans) -- it goes on interminably, and right after it ends, another league season begins. I mean, how can a sport with absolutely no mass following drag its regular season and postseason out over nine months (well, unless you're the NHL)?

Beckham's on-the-field effect has been negligible: The Galaxy is 14-22-12 with him on the roster; the team has missed the playoffs in both of his seasons, with the league's worst record this year; he has five goals and 10 assists in 31 MLS games.


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