Robin Scott-Elliot: David Beckham trots towards the Olympics but what of his sporting afterlife?
Major League Soccer, ESPN / After The Final Whistle, BBC 1
Monday 14 May 2012
It's not a good time for Stuart Pearce, what with going from scrupulously planning the laundry schedule for JT, Lamps and the gang in Krakow this summer to Roy Hodgson deciding to leave him at home to sort his sock draw on his own.
Now he's got Sir Alex Ferguson becoming all dog-in-the-manger over Manchester United's players, not letting Pearce borrow them for the Olympics, apart from Ryan Giggs. Here's one for the conspiracy theorists, a section of The Independent readership that doesn't get the respect it deserves (if only they knew why) – Ferguson has singled out Giggs as part of a plan to get one back at David Beckham.
Pearce, it has been widely suggested, is keen to pick Beckham but could he select Beckham and Giggs, with a combined age of 75, as two of his over-age players? It would not be the best signal to send to young players around the country. On the evidence of Beckham's performance in Montreal this weekend, Giggs is comfortably in better form. Beckham was poor in his previous outing which Pearce crossed the Atlantic to watch. There were moments on Saturday to cling to: a free-kick whizzed around the wall and into the net and a last-minute ball dinked deliciously over a back-pedalling defence that should have led to a winning goal. Yet there were also many that strengthened the case against. Like the kicker in American football, he was often a peripheral figure, wheeled on for set pieces – which were in turn of variable effectiveness. Too often for Pearce's comfort, Beckham's corners failed to clear the first man. In between, he trotted around midfield, the game passing him by.
But the camera still loves him, and his wider appeal to London 2012 (a prize he played a part in securing) isn't difficult to see. Beckham was the focus. At one point, there was a lingering close-up of his "shoes", as the commentator called them. They were pink and had his children's names on them.
Beckham spent much of the second half chuntering at the referee, which at least showed passion still burns. That is not enough to make amends for athletic decline, and judging the moment when enough is enough is the toughest call a sportsman or woman will make.
Sporting afterlife was a subject Michael Vaughan explored as he continues his own evolution. It's a fascinating area; in simple terms, take that joyous moment as a supporter celebrating X scoring to win your team a trophy, how for a few happy seconds everything is utterly right with your world. Think of being X and scoring that goal.
It's little wonder the likes of Paul Scholes and Ian Thorpe try to return. How do you replace that moment? How do you adapt to a life that is not half lived without it?
Vaughan appears to have done it pretty well but there is still an England captain in there. The lightest moment of a film that probed interestingly without any great revelation came when Vaughan ticked off his former team-mate Matthew Hoggard for not planning for retirement. Beckham's too well advised to do that but there is a common bond to be found between the captain of Leicestershire and a man who has become a brand, and it's one that deserves understanding.
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