The high profile world of sports is less glamorous than adoring fans seem to believe.
Take, for instance, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber. He spoke to a huddled group of press corps at halftime of the friendly between FC Barcelona and the Los Angeles Galaxy, which the Catalans won 2-1.
Fifteen feet from the group congregated in a corner for a very unglamorous press conference was a table with food: hot dogs wrapped in aluminum foil and rubbery chicken. The carpet looked worn.
The main topic Garber was speaking on was David Beckham, the Galaxy's and the league's most high-profile player. Since returning from a loan stint with AC Milan in mid-July, he's endured a chorus of boos when he touches the ball. Fans are unforgiving of him for missing the fist half of the season.
Instead of reject the baseness of it all, Beckham seems to have embraced it -- in his own peculiar way of course. Since his return, he's donned a bad boy image, replete with confronting fans, earning a fine from the league and exposing his tattoos by wearing short sleeves. (Beckham told me that he shunned his traditional long-sleeved jerseys because, “It's pretty warm.”)
Taking this grittier approach doesn't seem to be a tactic Garber minds.
“I'd rather deal with people having challenges and issues with some of the things that take place than not care at all,” he said. “The amount of awareness for this story has been one of the biggest stories for professional sports anywhere around the world. That's a good thing for Major League Soccer.”
Despite the jeers, Beckham has been in perhaps his best form since joining the American league in 2007. Against Barcelona he scored a trademark curling free kick from 30 yards. LA is unbeaten in league play since his return. But it's not Beckham's obvious abilities he shows when motivated that prompted Garber and other league officials to bank on the England international two years ago. It's his marketability.
“This has been deemed an experiment; it's not an experiment,” Garber said, taking a jibe at Grant Wahl's book, The Beckham Experiment. “This is something we believed would be an important part of the development of our league, an important part of our history. I would do this again in a heartbeat.”
Garber, amid the generic setting, found time for one fairly glamorous quote: “I'm happy David's here. He creates drama that every one of our fans will grow to respect. The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.”
It may not always be glamorous, and the fans may be less than adoring, but Garber will take it.
Zac Lee Rigg is an associate editor for Goal.com
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