Weekend Edition host Scott Simon speaks with ESPN's Roger Bennett about soccer star David Beckham's last appearance for the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday.
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Tonight marks the end of the on-field career of a man who's been arguably the most famous athlete in the world. David Beckham will play his last competitive game for the L.A. Galaxy. He signed with the team in 2007 and earned himself something close to a 4250 million over the last five years in salary, and his own line of underwear, sportswear and cologne. Roger Bennett joins us now, he's the voice of Premier League soccer on ESPN, an ESPN columnist and co-host of Grantland's "Men In Blazers" show. Roger, thanks for being with us.
ROGER BENNETT: Scott, thank you so much for having me on.
SIMON: Did U.S. soccer get its $250 million worth in goals or any other currency?
BENNETT: Well, that's a great question. There are really three phases to David Beckham's career. He arrived heralded, red carpet, as the trumpets were blaring, but he arrived as damaged goods. He was injured when he came. I think he played five games only in his first season. His team was terrible in his second. And he then went through a truant phase where he tried to be anywhere but in Los Angeles and anywhere but America. He was loaned to Milan, he turned up for royal weddings, he'd go to Wimbledon, anything but play with his team. And then he was injured while playing at Milan on a second (unintelligible). He snapped his Achilles and he came back a changed man. The team had changed and he knuckled down. I think he realized his legacy was at stake in this American experiment. He's been a solid performer - not an outstanding one - but his legacy is off the field. The league and his time here has got seven new teams while he's been here, has 11 new soccer-specific stadia, and he's left an MLS, which when he came was kind of a shoddy backwater. He's normalized it, gained a global respect and is leaving a league that is poised to flourish.
SIMON: Well, your colleagues at ESPN spoke with David Beckham earlier this week, and let's just play a clip, because I think it reveals his distinct interview style.
DAVID BECKHAM: I knew that coming here was always going to be a challenge and I knew that it was going to be a challenge that I was going to enjoy, because the moment I stepped foot on U.S. soil, the moment I met my teammates, I knew that I had made the right decision.
SIMON: Put that in your memory book, huh?
BENNETT: Yeah. He's a fascinating human being because he is the face of the sport in America. He is a premier athlete, but he doesn't do it by transcending the sport on the field. It's really the way that he looks, the way that he acts, the aspirational life that he seems to embody. And it all shatters soon as the man opens his mouth. He sounds like a giraffe in a PIXAR movie.
SIMON: And it best be noted that the Beckhams have become famous as a couple. I mean, Victoria Beckham's singing career hasn't exactly taken off either, but on the other hand, she's become a real figure in the United States.
BENNETT: Absolutely. I mean, America is charmed by them. And the next move will be no doubt dictated by a mix of his footballing legacy, where his brown can best be given a final luster. And also what's good for Victoria and her nascent fashion career, which is taken far more seriously here in America than it ever would be in England.
SIMON: Do you expect we'll see him in shorts again?
BENNETT: He is always on-message. He's been very tight-lipped and really said a whole lot of nothing ahead of this MLS Cup game. We'll definitely see him in shorts again. You can wander down to your window of your local H&M and see him in a splendid pair of underpants. All signs suggest that he will join one more team. The odds are that Monaco may well be his destination. It's great for him - a league where he can still prosper and it's obviously a little bit of French for her fashion career will do her no harm whatsoever.
SIMON: (Singing) Ole, ole, ole, ole.
BENNETT: It's always lovely to speak to another man who wears David Beckham on, Scott.
SIMON: Roger Bennett is an ESPN columnist and co-host of Grantland's "Men in Blazers Show." Thanks very much.
BENNETT: Thanks for having me on, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.