By Tim Froh
Contributing Writer - Climbing the Ladder
For those of you are not San Jose Earthquakes fans or Bay Area residents, it’s doubtful that you’ve ever picked up a copy of the San Jose Mercury News. If you had though, you’d be surprised not only by the lack of quality writing (for an area that prides itself on its liberality and intelligence, the Bay Area is also home to two of the worst metropolitan newspapers in the country), but by the overtly negative tone with which the newspaper approaches every issue, sports or otherwise. Naturally, this negativity extends to soccer. For a sport whose fans are already plagued by hyper overreaction, self-doubt, and a supreme inferiority complex, you can only imagine the reaction among local fans when the Mercury News takes yet another piss on the world’s game, on the home team, or on MLS.
I was surprised then when former Earthquakes defender Ann Killion wrote a scathing, indeed vitriolic, piece on Beckham’s impact on MLS. From this writer’s view, it would appear that Killion hasn’t watched an MLS game since the Earthquakes left in 2005, if she had even ever watched one at all. To attack MLS now, on the eve of the Earthquakes’ return to San Jose, and as owner Lew Wolff’s stadium plans move closer and closer to fruition, seems suspicious. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but if I were, I’d argue that the Mercury News is actively trying to bury Wolff’s development plans by engaging their soccer-neutral and soccer-hating readership.
Since I’m not a conspiracy theorist though, I will say only that the attacks are in remarkably bad taste. Instead of celebrating the return of a major sporting franchise to the city of San Jose, the Mercury News feels the need to attack the team, its sport, and its league at every turn. Why? The Earthquakes brought the city two championships, players devoted to community-building, and joy to thousands of local fans. Now they’ll be bringing the city a world-class sporting complex, national exposure in one of the world’s fastest growing leagues, and most important of all, they’ll be bringing the world’s game back to the Bay Area.
Killion’s article, as linked above, demonstrates everything that is wrong about the Mercury News. Her facts are blatantly wrong: she writes that “Wednesday he started for England in its friendly against Germany - his first cap,” apparently having failed to see Beckham’s previous two caps since 2006. She questions Beckham’s motivations for coming to the States. Apparently, she also missed Beckham’s bone-crunching, yellow-card inducing tackle against D.C. United. That was not the kind of play one expects from someone who has come to America to further his wife’s career. Can we not believe Beckham when he says he came here to grow the game? Do we have to question his every motive? Can we not let his play on the field speak for itself?
To damper the enthusiasm for last Saturday’s Galaxy match against the New York Red Bulls, played in front of 66,237 people, is understandable. Many of those 66,237 people were doubtless there to catch a glimpse of David Beckham in action, and many of those same people will probably not return to the Meadowlands any time soon. And the play on the field, while entertaining, left much to be desired, particularly defensively. But to argue that it will have no impact is insane. Not only was the crowd actually enthralled by the game, but they witnessed how good some of the players in MLS actually are: Clint Mathis (yes, Clint Mathis), Juan Pablo Angel, Donovan, Altidore, Beckham, Joe Cannon. These aren’t the “fading stars” that Killion describes. Apparently, Lothar Mattheus and Luis Hernandez left a bad taste in Ms. Killion’s mouth. She could have talked about the influx of younger foreign talent: Toja, Emilio, Conde, but she doesn’t.
But Killion truly loses it when she writes that, “Beckham isn't making Major League Soccer any better.” If there was any doubt that she hasn’t watched Beckham play in MLS, here is the definitive proof. Beckham’s presence on the field has instantly made the Galaxy a better team. His vision, his service, and most importantly, his leadership, have had a profound effect on his club. Landon Donovan, no longer saddled with the pressure of the captaincy, is free to play off of Beckham as he sees fit. The younger, inexperienced players are responding and feeding off of Beckham’s play and leadership. Would Killion argue that Angel has not been a positive influence on seventeen year-old Josmer Altidore? Is Schelotto not a positive influence on Grabavoy, Gaven, and Szetela?
There are no good responses to these questions. Killion is so blinded by her own negativity about a league she doesn’t even watch that it would be impossible for her to provide a satisfactory response of any kind. It’s remarkable when a small-town paper from tiny Salinas, California beats the local newspaper to a major Earthquakes story. I hope by now though, you all realize that it shouldn’t be surprising.