The Beckham Experiment by Grant Wahl
Every year of late, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Lester Munson (of ESPN and Sports Illustrated fame) give a presentation. And following each such event, I have read at least one sports book.
Anyone who knows me will recognize that this is weird behavior. Indeed, for me, it is downright freakish.
Thus is the power of Lester Munson.
So this year, the result is that I picked up a soccer book. When Lester said, “Grant Wahl is the sweetest of writers,” I immediately decided to Read That Book, even though soccer leaves me cold.
Plus, David Beckham has one of the nicest faces ever to appear in my Us Weekly. I understand the appeal.
So first, I’ll confirm what Lester said: Grant Wahl is indeed a sweet writer. Even for the non-sports-fan reader—and I personally can attest to this—The Beckham Experiment is a pleasure to read. Wahl’s writing makes the reading effortless, and he spins a very fine narrative.
Mercifully, there’s relatively little actual soccer playing described in this book, and, when I needed to, I was able to skim over those sections and land on a nice summary sentence that told me what I needed to know. Though mostly I hung in there and tried to pick up some soccer terms, because it seemed the decent thing to do.
The book is much more about the people—their quirks and their relationships to one another; the enormous salary differences between the stars (in 2008, Beckham at $6.5 million, Donovan at $900K) and the newer, lesser-known players (earning as little as $12K—egads!); the weirdness of fame; the business side of things (the Beckham “brand,” underwear ads and all); and the quest to make soccer a huge spectator sport in the United States. (My prediction: ain’t never gonna happen.)
If you really want to think well of David Beckham, you may want to steer clear of this book. The last couple of chapters are rather damning, despite a general consensus that he is a good man—and I was left feeling a bit let down (because soccer means a whole lot to me. Right.) Really, it was that I wanted him to be better than he was/is.
See what happens when I read a sports book? Disillusionment, disenchantment, disappointment. No more.
Until next year.