Everyone I spoke to about David Beckham and the Great Britain’s Olympic team said I was nuts for suggesting that he might not be named to it.
“England! Beckham! The Olympics! They are practically synonymous,” they protested.
But I had a theory. I wondered if this very thing might happen: Beckham was left off Team Great Britain’s roster today.
I understand how politics is like thick smoke from the next room; try as we might try to thwart its movement, the stuff seeps in relentlessly, under the door cracks and through the air vents.
So, I always allowed for a big possibility that Beckham would, indeed, land on the Stuart Pearce’s Olympic roster for Team Great Britain – even if his performance this year for the Los Angeles Galaxy was less that truly deserving.
“But what about this …” I asked?
What if Pearce actually wanted Beckham on the team, for all the politics involved but also for his leadership, for his set piece ability and for his ceremonial presence? England (and Great Britain by extension) is all about history and ceremony.
But what if Pearce decided that in the long run he wouldn’t be doing Beckham any favors by listing his name on the roster? What if he’s saving Beckham from himself?
Beckham desperately wanted a place, of course. But this is a young man’s tournament. (Every roster is a collection of “under-23” players, with three over-aged exceptions.) Beckham is 37 now and, like the rest of us, he’s not getting any younger.
My guess: there won’t be any 37-year-olds playing in the field (i.e., not a goalkeeper) in the Olympic tournament. There’s a reason.
What if Pearce watched Beckham here in the States and then considered what the flower of English soccer might look like on the low-cut fields of England, Wales and Scotland, surrounded by hot-footed 20- and 21-year-olds? There’s a chance a 37-year-old could really stand out – and not in a good way.
What if Pearce decided Beckham’s legacy wasn’t worth jeopardizing in this way? Because it really could have turned into a bad moment for an man who is practically royalty there.
Again, it’s all just a theory.
It may be nothing of the sort. Perhaps Pearce simply decided the team’s best chance to claim glory in the Summer Olympic Games on its very soil involved 23 players who aren’t David Beckham. Based on the way Beckham (and the Galaxy team around him) was performing back in the spring when Pearce came for personal observation, that wouldn’t be wholly surprising.