Bend it like Beckham
Is this header:
a) the title of a sweet chick flick about women soccer players and cultural/racial norms in England;
b) reference to international soccer superstar David Beckham's impending move to the LA Galaxy, with a salary of $250m over five years;
c) indulgence on the part of the blogger, who would like to remind everyone she picked seven of eight quarter-finalists in the 2006 World Cup for the challenge on Jack Bog's blog, thanks in part to a memorable curving free kick by the England captain;
d) all of the above;
e) none of the above - something else?
Correct answers are d) and e).
MSNBC today carries an AP report discussing the potential impact of Beckham's transfer on support for Major League Soccer in general, particularly regarding attracting more Latino fans. The key question is whether Beckham by himself can raise the level of play sufficiently to win ongoing support from enough new paying fans to change the nation's perception of the game as a second-tier sport. Coupled with the increasing numbers of U.S. born-and-raised players who have grown up living and breathing the game, thereby achieving higher proficiency throughout the sport in this country, I think he can.
Another issue to consider, more serious to many, is immigration policy. Not only David Beckham, but any foreigner with financial assests will find getting a visa to live in this country much easier than people seeking to provide a better life for themselves and their children. Entrepreneurs with capital promising to employ Americans in new businesses, and other rich people, get visas much more easily than people fleeing hardship or even those with advanced degrees in science and technology. Immigrants allowed to enter with their families, with the right to seek permanent residency if they choose to remain, often come in under an H1-b visa. There is a list of professional categories, of skilled jobs the US lacks sufficient workers for - nursing, for example. When I got my green card (which was white) in 1982, I wasn't allowed in because I was married to an American citizen, rather because I am a nurse. But "professional athlete" isn't on that list of desired skills, and there are annual quotas (ceilings) for immigrant worker visas. Some people wait years, going through annual lotteries, and getting in legally takes a long time. How come David Beckham gets to jump the immigration queue, bringing along wife Victoria and sons Brooklyn, Romeo, and Cruz? Is it right that athletes and entertainers apparently come in as they please, while hardworking people in other professions have to wait? Can others bend immigration controls like Beckham?
Back to soccer: is there any potential Portland relevance of Beckham's transfer? The Portland Timbers play in the United Soccer League (USL) First Division, one tier below Major League Soccer, MSL, the LA Galaxy's league. The Timbers' mascot is "Timber Jim", (Jim Serrill). They play at PGE Park. The Timbers finished bottom of their league in 2006, making this a perfect time to jump on their bandwagon as there is no place to go but up. Prospects of Beckham playing in Portland any time before those golden locks are gone, rather than shaved, seem dim at best. Oh well.