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Becks and Landycakes Square Off for World Slapfighting Championship

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↵Well, it's come to this. Landon Donovan and David Beckham, two players at odds over the epic holy disaster that was the LA Galaxy in 2008, have turned to taking unveiled shots at each other through the press. This, of course, always ends well and with no detriment to the team whatsoever.
↵A noticeably agitated Beckham, responding to requests for comment about Donovan's involvement in The Beckham Experiment, had this to say to reporters at his first media appearance back with the team: ↵
↵⇥"It's unprofessional in my eyes. In every football player's eyes ↵⇥throughout the world it would be unprofessional to speak out about a ↵⇥teammate especially in the press and not to your face," Beckham said on ↵⇥Saturday.
↵⇥"But I'm going to turn it on a positive spin because that's what this ↵⇥needs. But in 17 years, I have played with the biggest teams in the ↵⇥world and the biggest players and not once have I been criticized for ↵⇥my professionalism. It's important to get this cleared up and I will be ↵⇥speaking to Landon either this evening or over the next couple of days." ↵
↵To Beckham's credit, Donovan played no small part in the assault on Beckham's leadership and his worth to the Galaxy and MLS. Take, for example, this from Sports Illustrated's published excerpts from the book: ↵
↵⇥Most of all, Donovan was upset that Beckham had not supported him in ↵⇥front of the team when Gullit had confronted him at halftime of the May ↵⇥25 game against Kansas City. Donovan had not played deep enough in ↵⇥midfield in the first half, according to Gullit, who angrily challenged ↵⇥him in the locker room. "If I'm the captain and he goes after our best ↵⇥player that way, I would have said, 'Hold on a second, that's not ↵⇥right, this guy is doing everything he can,' " Donovan said. But ↵⇥Beckham had sat stone silent. ↵
↵The whole thing reads as a "everyone look at how bad Donovan got railroaded" piece. That's not to say it's without merit or otherwise not worth reading, but the influence is pretty obvious. That often happens when a writer has a trusted source, and that source just so happens to have an inflated view of self. That's fine, since most athletes share that trait; the issue here is that writer Grant Wahl doesn't have the common sense to use some discretion in his description of Donovan.
↵ ↵For example, and perhaps the entire book is different in tone at which point this would all be moot, we simply must take exception with this: ↵
↵⇥Nearly anywhere else in the world, Donovan's achievements would have ↵⇥made him a household name, a fixture on the covers of sports magazines ↵⇥and (considering that his wife starred in the CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement) ↵⇥celebrity rags. [...] Yet it was his fate -- equal parts ↵⇥fortune and misfortune -- to have been born in the U.S. Which is to say ↵⇥that the three dozen paparazzi outside Mastro's were not there for him. ↵
↵Wahl is correct: the photographers weren't interested in Donovan. But this notion that being stateside has hampered Landycakes is so patently false that we're shocked SI didn't tell Wahl to peddle his wanton lies elsewhere.
↵It's not being American, it's being not very good that has kept Donovan off most magazine covers. Lest we so soon forget, before his successful MLS career, Donovan played briefly for Bayer Leverkusen before being laughed out of the Bundesliga. Yes, he's the star of the national team, but that's a national team that has literally never been very good outside of a magical 225-minute spree in South Africa a couple weeks ago. That's all a recipe for irrelevance no matter where in the world you are.
↵That said, he's good by MLS and USMNT standards, and he should be a centerpiece of a very competitive Galaxy club, not a team that goes three months without winning a single match. It's this aspect of abject failure, one that the book places squarely at the feet of Beckham and his manager Terry Byrne, that probably exacerbates all other problems that crop up, just as winning would likely mitigate (or at least table) them.
↵As a matter of fact, again with the qualifier that if the rest of the book is different in tone it's a moot point, the most interesting facet of the story isn't some overtly ravenous ego turning Beckham into a monster (or, for that matter, Victoria; did you really think when they arrived that she'd be no hassle at all? Oh, you did? Liar.). It appears to be more the work of Byrne and the comically incompetent puppet coach Ruud Gullit (both of whom have since been forced out of Galaxy operations) putting the onus of extra demands on everyone else, all with what appears to be tacit approval from Beckham, who seemingly remains silent as issues emerge.
↵That, then, would be nearly the very definition of a lack of leadership, which is central in Donovan's (and the book's) arguments, that Beckham's arrival seemed to be more for the sake of Beckham than the Galaxy, its members, or even MLS. People whose jobs it was to promote Beckham's best interests off the pitch were allegedly given free reign to do so at the expense of what happens on, and that's a recipe for disaster, if true.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.