Readers rush to defend their beloved Beckham.

By Salon Staff
Published July 2, 2003 8:24PM (EDT)

[Read "Beckham, the Virus," by Mark Simpson.]

Mark Simpson must be British, for no other culture succeeds at self-loathing with quite their tenacity. His lambasting of an international icon would be forgivable if he would simply admit the impetus behind it -- jealousy. Perhaps not in a conventional sense, but it's jealousy nonetheless.

It reminds me of all the die-hard NASCAR fans lining up to hate Jeff Gordon when he burst on the scene. How dare this young, handsome and intelligent man infiltrate our close-knit club? How dare he succeed with such grace? Becks gets the same treatment, for basically the same reason. David is media-savvy, despite his shy and somewhat awkward demeanor. More important, he's comfortable with his celebrity, and that is what really pisses people off. He makes millions of dollars a year, and with it he purchases glamorous clothes and automobiles -- as if the rest of us would choose to put it all into bonds and T-bills! He is a happy man who appears to have a loving relationship with his wife (it's Victoria, not "Posh," thank you very much) and his two children. He clearly enjoys the game of football and possesses superstar skills. It is easy to see why he is both revered and hated in equal capacity, though I'm sure even the Scousers have to pause and silently admire it when he curls one into the upper 90s.

David Beckham is a member of the world's elite. A multimillionaire with looks, charm and the discipline to continue on with it all without looking back. He should be admired for simply doing it, but also for doing it with such grace -- and without the regular public meltdowns that disgrace so many of the world's celebrities. Mark apparently wishes David will be found out at Real Madrid, but even "good" players are made to appear great when placed alongside the world's top players. More likely, though, he will flourish even more so among the flashing bulbs of the Bernabu and the glittering streets of Madrid.

-- Aaron Gordon

It's nice that Mark Simpson has taken the time to open a few recent newspapers and peruse the covers of a few recent glossies. This research has allowed him to take David Beckham down a peg. Will the England captain ever recover? Not likely. The string of championships he has won with Manchester United, the votes he garners every year for European player of the year, the magic of his right foot, which has provided his club and country with its most memorable moments of the last decade -- none of these things will be remembered in the wake of Mr. Simpson's timely article. I can only hope that Mark is now using his talents as a shallow and asinine critic of pop culture to decry the Lebron James phenomenon.

-- Jim Gavin

Mark is right on one (and, I think, only one) point in his article: Worshipping sports heroes and mourning their passing (or transfer) is a Great British tradition. Silly? Sure. And those poor souls who feel suicidal, sexually inadequate or, having had his name tattooed on their arm, stupid when he goes? Well, there are worse things to be a fanatic about.

What was fascinating about Mark's piece is that it represents the ultimate British tradition -- more established even than working-class-hero worship. It's the "I want to be the first to put the boot in" tradition of ultimately and relentlessly tossing acid on the reputation of anyone we envy for their success.

Here in the United States (I'm a Brit expat), some mourned when others started to take down John F. Kennedy's reputation in the '90s -- seeing it as a collapse of manners. Had Kennedy been a Brit, some tabloid writer would have rubbished him before he made it to his grave.

-- John A. Blackley

Having spent a sizable chunk of my youth in London, I've been so very grateful for the flood of Premiership football delivered to us by Fox. I'll leave discussing the counterbalancing evils of Rupert Murdoch for another, much longer and more important, occasion.

Among the faces I've finally been able to put with names has been Beckham's. Mark Simpson's piece does do justice to what an unlikely global phenomenon the lad is.

One slight bone of contention. While Beckham is not a particularly fearsome defender, and can go missing for long stretches in a game, it is not only his free kicks (or set pieces) that have earned him his England spot.

It's the uncanny accuracy, the sheer elegant effortlessness of his perfect crosses into the box from midfield, that make Beckham a formidable presence. There are few players from any era who can serve it up to the strikers as lethally as Beckham has consistently.

So, there are better all-round players in the world, certainly. But there are no better players at putting the ball on a striker's head or feet.

-- John Clark

Say what you will, David Beckham is that attractive!

-- Kirsten Eyles

Mark Simpson deserves a prize for the stupidest sentence ever to appear on Salon.com when he wrote in his David Backham article:

"On footballing skills alone, he is arguably not worthy of playing for the English national team, let alone being its captain."

The fact is David Beckham is the most talented English footballer of his generation, not just for his free kicks (he is the best in the world with a dead ball) but for his long-range passing and what soccer players call "vision" -- the ability to pass the ball to the right man at the right time in the most complex situations.

-- Roger Kirkham

In "Beckham, the Virus," by Mark Simpson, I have only one grief with the article. Mr. Simpson wrote that "[Beckham] is the most recognized sportsman in Asia, where soccer is still relatively new." The sentence seems to be very understated and uninformed regarding the history and popularity of soccer in Asia.

Soccer has, for at least the past decade, been one of the most popular sports in Asia, especially in the Southeast Asian region. For the children or even adults who came from middle-class or poor families, soccer is a very popular and inexpensive sport and pastime. For years soccer fans had religiously arisen in the wee hours of the morning to watch the World Cup. Not to mention the fans' devotions to other international as well as national soccer teams and competitions as well.

-- Lucy S.

Salon Staff

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