March 15, 2010

Becks' Bottle; or, the Courage to have Grace

We admired his defiance in the face of naysayers. We applauded his attitude and commitment when the media labelled him a sell out. We appreciated his desire to play for his country at any cost. We awed at his thumos, and aspired to his work ethic. We shall never forget that goal against Greece. In many ways, this man’s career was an exemplar of talent turned to courage, petulance resolved to patience, and glamour galvanised to resolution. On the whole then, I think the footballing world has felt a rather large pang of sympathy for Mr. David Beckham’s latest injury. It is hard for us to see a crestfallen, if not heartbroken, man. On the brink of his hoped-for triumph, he has been blighted, literally, by his Achilles’ heel. The Homeric allusion should not be ignored.

Photo: Paul Blank

Beckham had the right idea: work like hell to make the England team; be a part of a winning World Cup squad; bow out with every major honour on offer in the game. Great sportsmen should leave everybody wanting more; retire at the top; ensure the mystique of genius by affording nobody the opportunity of seeing the decline. But now that this master plan has been denied him, what is left but a downward spiral of third-rate games for a third-rate team in a third-rate league? I, for one, do not want to watch that. There is a more graceful option, but it will take courage. The hero has had his day. David Beckham should retire from football.

There are things that we may want to gloss over in the life and career of David Beckham – the empty celebrity, the tattoos, the lack of pace, 1998 – but whatever your view on the man, there are three things beyond dispute: 1. On his day he was as good a footballer as anybody; 2. His work rate is greater than the majority of his peers; 3. He has become a fantastic ambassador for the game. In combination, these afford him lasting respect and opportunity. He can best put those to use by getting off the pitch. Beckham has already done an enormous amount for football – giving youth an opportunity, and giving the sport a fighting chance in America – but he can do so much more if he takes on a full time role as an ambassador for football, promoting the game and the best of its values. His name is known the world over. It is surely time to put it to best use. It’s time to quit for all the right reasons.


  1. Agreed. There is nothing more for him to prove, as he will not be fit enough for 2014. It is awful that he goes out this way, but as you perfectly stated, does he really have more to prove by playing third rate games for a third rate team in a third rate league. Multiple athletes can be pointed to who have outstayed their welcome and would have been better off going out on top. If nothing else, his last game was a win. I'm sure he will still be in South Africa, just not as a participant.

    Although, it would have been nice to see him setting up Defoe, Crouch or Pavlyochenko, as some of the rumor mills had it over the summer. Not that I'm hinting as to whom I support.

  2. Indeed, doctor, we all wish that the man saw himself through the eyes of his admirers - there used to be something statuesque about him. But the price to pay for popularity eventually is demagogy or incontinence, if not vice. Perhaps more men should have expected more of him, or maybe there was something in his education that made him immoderate. Easily is a man tempted to want too much - what his virtues no longer can offer him, but what incontinence or even vice might... But a man must expect much of himself and think about others' expectations as if the common good and his own good would be the same.

    I urge you to write about those heroes who showed moderation in their finest hour. I can only think of George Washington now.


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