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The Beckham Experiment: How the World's Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America Hardcover – Jul 14 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype (July 14 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030740787X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307407870
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.8 x 24.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #638,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Far more than merely a soccer book, The Beckham Experiment brilliantly explores-and exposes-that odd place where sports and celebrity collide. David Beckham's American odyssey is often too bizarre to believe, and Grant Wahl captures it all with uncommon depth, precision and insight. Forget Beckham-Wahl is the Pele of soccer writers. A brilliant book."
—Jeff Pearlman, author of Boys Will Be Boys

"In The Beckham Experiment,Grant Wahl has done a wonderful job of explaining to soccer fans--and, perhaps just as importantly to non-soccer fans--the worldwide phenomenon that is David Beckham. The reporting and the writing are all there and the story is a terrific read, whether one thinks of Beckham as one of the world's great athletes or as Posh Spice's husband."
—John Feinstein, author of Change-Up: Mystery at The World Series

"It's not behind-the-scenes access: It's what you do with it. Grant Wahl knows his soccer, but mostly, he knows a great story, at turns funny, sad, bizarre and, yeah, occasionally a little juicy. If the best thing that came out of Beckham coming to America was this book, I'd say it was a fair trade."
—Will Leitch, author of God Save The Fan, contributing editor New York magazine, founder Deadspin.com

"David Beckham is more than a gifted player. He is a multinational conglomerate. And, in Grant Wahl's extraordinary telling, his sojourn through Los Angeles makes for a gripping tale about the business of sports and the growth pangs of American soccer."
—Franklin Foer, author of How Soccer Explains the World

“This is a riveting, highly entertaining book about the world’s most famous athlete, and his attempt to conquer America with his skill, charm and amazing good looks, none of which have any effect on my wife, at least according to her.”
—Dave Barry, Humor writer and winner of 38 World Cups

"Forget the underwear ads. Forget the movie. Want to know about the world's most famous athlete and his impact on the world around him? Let Grant Wahl show you. For more than a decade, observers have banged their heads bloody trying to penetrate the Beckham phenomenon. Now, having barreled through the crack created by Captain Galaxy's fish-out-of-water foray into America, Wahl reveals the strange welter of celebrity, sport and mind-boggling obliviousness lying at its core. Jobs lost, careers ruined, franchises and leagues bowing to the man's every whim: The ripple effects caused by Beckham's arrival in Los Angeles are unlike anything seen in sports in years. Armed with unparalleled access and tapping into the lacerating candor of those closest to the now-sputtering experiment, Wahl raises the bar on what to expect from a sports book. For anyone looking to expose the backstage workings of an American team and league -- not to mention the cross-pollination of pop-culture and sports -- here's the new model: Write It Like Wahl."
—S.L. Price, author of Heart of the Game: Life, Death, and Mercy in Minor League America

“We can quibble about whether or not the actual "Beckham experiment" has been a smashing success, but Grant Wahl's account - as well-written as it is well-reported - is an unqualified triumph. The "Becks" cultists will devour this; but so will those of us who simply like a damn good sports book.”
—L. Jon Wertheim, Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played

"I can't believe I enjoyed a book about soccer."
—Rick Reilly, ESPN Columnist

“Grant Wahl crafts a bounty of insider details and vivid character portraits to provide a keyhole's view into the 'Beckham experiment.' He reveals the Beckham beneath the stagecraft and photo shoots as the world's most famous athlete is forced to confront the locker-room class struggles in a cost-conscious league. With great care, Wahl unveils a book ribboned by humorous accounts and moments of disillusionment, conflict and drama, all surfacing when a humble MLS team finds itself taken over by Brand Beckham.”
—Selena Roberts, author of A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez

"The Beckham experiment failed miserably, but The Beckham Experiment succeeds as an engaging peek into the weird worlds of Beckhamania and U.S. soccer. Grant Wahl, the country’s best writer on the sport, may even convince all those who played soccer as kids to remember why they loved the game."
—Frank Deford, author of The Entitled

About the Author

In twelve years at Sports Illustrated, senior writer GRANT WAHL has written thirty-one cover stories and more than two hundred articles while covering five World Cups, three Olympics, and twelve NCAA basketball tournaments. Wahl has won four Magazine Story of the Year awards, given by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, Céline.

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Amazon.com: 41 reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
"You Can't Escape the Field" July 14 2009
By Steve Amoia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Three seasons into Beckham's American adventure, the same question remained: Would it ever be about the soccer?" That was the last sentence of the book, and it easily could have been the first.

Amidst great hopes and unrealistic expectations ("Beckham will have a greater impact on soccer in America than any athlete has ever had on a sport globally." Tim Leiweke, CEO of AEG), the experiment has been a commercial success, and raised the profile of MLS. But as Sir Alex Ferguson, the legendary manager of Manchester United, said, "You can't escape the field." It was a theme that the author stressed with regularity, and one that apparently escaped American soccer promoters during their formulation of this grand experiment.

Grant Wahl, in a very detailed, entertaining, and enlightening book, provides the reader with answers why the experiment has not achieved all of its objectives. The portrait was an extremely balanced analysis that was not dumbed down to sell more books for a non-soccer audience. Mr. Wahl writes about the sport of soccer without derision and/or frequent comparisons to its more accepted mainstream counterparts. He understands international soccer (he has covered 5 World Cups) along with the unique way the game is organized professionally in North America. Like a scientist, the author presented the equation, gathered the evidence from many sources, structured an interesting story, and ultimately demonstrated why the experiment did not work yet where it was needed the most: On the field of play.

Although Beckham did not provide exclusive interviews for the book, he is quoted frequently from previous discussions with the author. Despite a painful ankle injury, and promotional realities, Beckham began the experiment in prime time on a July evening at the Home Depot Center. Being the great professional that he is, he soldiered on so that the Galaxy and MLS could maximize a rare window of opportunity in the mainstream American consciousness. But after a few starts and stops, it came to a thundering halt when Beckham suffered another injury and was forced to weeks on the sidelines. The show went on without its protagonist. American fans, many of whom had to pay inflated prices to see the Galaxy and/or buy multiple game packages, began to voice their anger.

This book also chronicled the unsung life of the typical American professional soccer player. Many of whom toil in obscurity, and earn a minute fraction of Beckham's salary. They fly coach, stay in modest hotels, and have a $45 per diem. But in true American fashion and spirit, they dealt with a Hollywood reality show replete with Machiavellian behind the scenes maneuvers, and enough twists and turns to unseat the most balanced of people. Alan Gordon, an oft quoted player who earned $30,870 annually during his first three years with the Galaxy, summed it up best: "I'm just trying to make this team, so I don't give a ****. I don't care who is fighting with who as long as I'm on the team and have a salary."

Despite the increased awareness of American soccer domestically and internationally, along with the global demand of David Beckham, you can't escape the field. Even if you can bend it like Beckham.

Please Note

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not monetarily compensated by any
party that would benefit from a positive review.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Far more enjoyable than I expected Sept. 20 2009
By Paul Allaer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Let me state upfront that, having grown up in Europe, I was (and still am) a huge soccer fan. So when the annoucenment came in 2007 that David Beckham would be joining the LA Galaxy, I was mightily surprised--and intruiged.

In "The Beckham Experiment: How the Wold's Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America" (302 pages), auhtor Grant Wahl (from Sports Illustrated) brings us the juice background details of the transfer that brought Beckham from Real Madris to the Galaxy, and how the grand experiment evolved from there. I will admit that I don't follow the MLS that closely, and so for me a lot of new details emerged in this book that I was unaware of. The book really shines in the second half, when we get insight on how the 2008 season unfolds, with a promising start for the Galaxy, followed by a 15 game (that's half the regular season) downward spiral in which it can manage only 1 win. The author is not kind in his assessment of Beckham, in perticular his lack of leaqdership which comes back time and again, moreover because Beckham was made team captain before he even played a single minute. "The questions about Beckham's lack of leadership dodn't come just from Donovan, but from other players who liked Beckham personally and shared dinners with him on road trips." At one point in the season both the coach (Ruud Gullit) and the GM (Alexi Lalas) are fired, and the author makes an assessment of each of the main parties. He comments dryly on Lalas: "In the end, it came down to this: Lalas had a three year contract, and in those three years never once made the playoffs".

Beckham clearly became disinterested in the Galaxy as the losing streak mounted. His trip to the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games were totally unnecessary (and that's just one example). It came as very little surprise then that Beckham joined AC Milan after the 2008 MLS season. This book concludes before Beckham's return to the Galaxy this summer. It is highly surprising to me that Beckham has played better this year than he did in 2008, and it looks like the Galaxy will make the MLS play-offs for the first time since 2005. As to the book, I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish, and would readily recommend this to any soccer fan.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
ably captures the culture clash between Becks and Galaxy Aug. 14 2009
By JoshJosh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
When David Beckham arrived in LA, a lot of people were understandably shocked. Beckham is one of the world's most successful and recognized athletes. He was arriving in one of the world's most cosmpolitan and famous cities, backed by a PR machine unrivaled in the English speaking world. But he was doing it to play America's 5th most popular (at best) sport in a league that is currently ranked as the 77th best soccer league in the world, between Algeria and Macedonia.

What happened was fairly predictable. Sure, Becks made a splash and sold lots of t-shirts and was a hit with the gossip rags. But Beckham didn't fit in with the players and the players did not fit in with him. The two alpha males of the Galaxy clashed almost instantly. Beckham was shocked by the bush league operations of the MLS. The fans did not like him once the honeymoon wore off. Club management was alienated and unqualified people got too much control over the club. Worst of all, the club did not improve.

Grant Wahl's book ably captures these dynamics. It's easy to tell the man knows his US soccer, being on this thankless beat for many years for Sports Illustrated. Some folks come off worse than others, but the book is fair, even-handed, and consistent. This is no hatchet job.

The ending of this story has not been written, so we will have to see what happens with David Beckham, Landon Donovan, the LA Galaxy, the MLS, and World Cup 2010. But this book is a good way to catch upo.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Great read-- even for non soccer fans Aug. 16 2009
By L. Shafer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I am a 20 year old girl who thinks that David Beckham is hot. Don't stop reading here-- I'm just letting you know. I don't follow soccer and don't care for it. I live in Ohio, so I know about the Columbus Crew and even thought about going to a game just to see Beckham play.

One day I saw on ESPN that Landon Donovan was criticizing Beckham and I heard of the book as well in a magazine. I thought, "why not?" and added it to my summer reading collection. I am a fan of sports, and thought it would be interesting to learn of this so called "experiment."

Like I said, I don't know the sport of soccer. I was afraid that Grant Wahl would throw a bunch of soccer terminology in my way and I'd be fishing the internet to learn the terms. However, he presented the book in a way that I felt as though I'd been watching forever once I was finished. Even for a "dummy" like me, I read through the book with ease and found it VERY interesting of the arrival of Beckham to present day. A lot of insight was brought about from all perspectives-- the players, coaches, and executive personnel with the Galaxy.

At first I was thinking that the book would feature all the faults of Beckham and expose him of wanting to be a celebrity over an athlete. Wahl presents it in a way that Beckham is merely juggling the two aspects... which didn't work out.

Aside from being a book all about Beckham, I found it interesting to learn about the MLS in general, which Wahl clearly paints a picture of the structure of it versus European clubs. Including the salary cap, the hotels/meals, and just the players salaries in general... was all tidbits I never knew of.

In conclusion, this book is a must read for any sports fan. Whether you like soccer or not, that's not the point. Soccer is hardly the main intention of the book, but it rather chronicles the major downs (and a few ups) since Beckham's arrival in the US.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Bending it July 19 2009
By JoAnne Goldberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you've read anything about this much-hyped book, you already know all the juicy anecdotes, from David Beckham's failure to pick up the check ("alligator arms") at Galaxy team meals to the insistence that Landon Donovan relinquish the captain's armband to the English star. According to Wahl, Beckham's people were solely responsible for Machiavellian manipulations, usurping general manager Alexi Lalas' authority over the team and hiring inept coach Ruud Gullit, that sent the team to the bottom of the heap. Wahl plumped up these anecdotes with filler, added game summaries, and mailed in his manuscript. He says he traveled with the team for 16 months doing research, but there's a notable lack of substance.

The book evidently bypassed a few editorial reviews and was rushed into print to coincide with Beckham's return to the Galaxy last week. Turgid prose is exemplified by sentences like this: "Gordon was amazed by what Sandi would put up with: the bass thump from Veris's stereo would sometimes shake the walls until 3:30 a.m., even though Sandi had to get up at 5 a.m. to attend classes." And 80 pages later: "He [Gordon] was living...with teammates Gavin Glinton and Kyle Veris, who often blasted his music until 3:30 a.m., even though Gordon's girlfriend had to wake up at 5 a.m. every day for her nursing school classes." We hear, not once, not twice, but a few times about the disparity between the dollar amount of the publicized deal ($250 million) and what the team was actually paying Beckham. We are repeatedly told that Beckham has a feminine side, a steely-eyed wife, and bad teeth. Entire sentences reappear in multiple places.

But let's get past the lack of editing - many readers may not even notice--to the one-sidedness of the reporting. Alexi Lalas and Landon Donovan are the heroes of this book, struggling amidst the confusion of the Beckham juggernaut to do their best for the team they love. AEG, the Galaxy's owners, are good guys caught in the middle. And 19 Entertainment, its CEO Simon Fuller (Beckham's manager) and Terry Byrne (Beckham's best friend and personal manager) are the villains. Minor baddies, like "sexy football" Gullit, add drama but little bite to the tale.

Having taken sides before the action begins, the author fails to explain key elements of the back story. Although he talks about the salary cap (every Major League Soccer team is required to keep its total salary amount under a set limit), he ignores the fact that the rules were amended to create a new "designated player" category so that the Galaxy could snag Beckham and changed again to enable the Galaxy to keep both Donovan and Beckham on a single team. Although one of MLS' objectives is to create a level playing field (vs leagues in other countries, where a few rich teams dominate), the Galaxy have repeatedly received favorite treatment. The Galaxy's inability to translate this advantage - no other MLS team has two world-class players on its roster -- into a winning record might have been the theme of the book had it been written by an author less beholden to Lalas and Donovan.

Still, all criticism would be moot had Beckham achieved his purported objective: to make soccer a big league sport in the United States. There's no question that he's sold a lot of tickets and jerseys, but nowhere amidst the bloated gossip and anecdotes is an analysis of why the experiment failed.

Five stars for entertainment value (it's a fast read), two stars for content, one star for editing.

Disclosure: I am a San Jose Earthquakes fan and a regular visitor to Big Soccer, the site frequently cited by Wahl. Anyone who wants to read other perspectives on the Beckham phenomenon may want to check out the site; I highly recommend the August 4, 2008 "Ultimatum" post by Galaxy fan TequilaJoal for a much more colorful (albeit fictitious) portrait of the Galaxy locker room culture.


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