Top positive review
The best sports book of 2009!
on 27 April 2010
I have to confess that I don't read many sports books - and those I do read tend to be biographies of cricket/rugby players, with a sprinkling of football books thrown in. Those books don't tend to be anything special. But "The Beckham Experiment" has to be hands down the best sports book I've read. Not only is it about Beckham the football player, but it is also about Beckham the brand - a combination of sports and business. This had the potential to be off putting for a sports fan, but the author has done a fantastic job of combining these two elements of the Beckham Experiment, writing a readily accessible and enjoyable read of Beckham's ill fated dabble in the MLS.
Beckham's move to the US was always going to be either a spectacular success or a spectacular failure, and quite clearly by mid 2009 it is the latter. I can't claim to be a devoted follower of football, but I was certainly aware of Beckham's move to the Galaxy. But until I read this book, I had no real knowledge of the MLS - Wahl has done a good job of introducing the workings of the MLS without impacting on the pace of the story. There is also consideration given to the politics and business decisions that can be involved in the running of a football club. The involvement of big business (AEG) in Beckham's shift to the Galaxy is not surprising - but the degree of manipulation and control over the management of the team is quite astonishing. Right from the start, it is readily apparent that signing with the Galaxy also represented a skillful business move by Beckham and his advisers.
Wahl has delved deep into the personalities in the team in the course of preparing this book, and has done a warts and all expose. There is some fingerpointing here - but Wahl is reasonable in his criticism, and puts a good case forward as to why just about everyone needs to take some responsibility for the fiasco that resulted during the LA Galaxy's campaign in the 2007 and particularly the 2008 season. One of the most surprising relevations from the book is Ruud Gullit's performance as a coach. I was astonished that he appears to have little idea what he was doing, and was unable to adjust to the US scene. I felt some sympathy for the players - I guess I fell victim to the general perception that as professional sportsmen in a first world country, they would be well paid, which as it transpires is not the case for the majority of the players. This is one of the highlights of the book - the perspectives of some of the lesser lights in the team on Beckham, and the impact he had on the team.
This book has everything going for it - a superstar football player, a team falling apart, outspoken former associates of the team, all skillfully put together in a totally enjoyable - and easy (I read this in the course of a weekend) - read. Easily the best sports book I've ever read, and probably one of the best books of the year for me. Recommended to anyone interested in football, learning about the MLS, and the global phenomenon that is David Beckham.