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Alex Beam

Beckham hype won't play here

FOXBOROUGH -- Just a few minutes before the end of Sunday night's soccer game, a shot of David Beckham sitting on the bench flashed onto the stadium screen. Thousands of fans, almost all of whom had been forced to buy a four-game ticket package to see Beckham play -- or, in this case, not play -- at Gillette Stadium, starting booing.

So this is the vaunted "ambassador" for the sport that wants to build an audience among skeptical American fans? If anyone came to Gillette thinking that Major League Soccer might become an American pastime, they will be thinking again. Minus Beckham, the show on the field was the same old stuff: Triple-A soccer product featuring players not good enough to play in the real major leagues.

Here are three reasons why the hype-fueled, micro-marketed, "Americanization of David Beckham" -- the title of a splashy Vanity Fair cover story -- will fail:

1. It Can't Happen Here

The road to international soccer glory runs through EBA, Everywhere But America. (Well, it may run through New York. I doubt Becks will stiff the New York fans and media Saturday in the Meadowlands the way he stiffed us at Foxborough.) Beckham retains cred with the roundball-crazed hordes in Europe, Africa, and Asia because he remains on England's national team. When that ends -- and his perch there is quite precarious -- he'll be a handsome has-been touring the world with a mediocre soccer team no one has heard of.

2. The Soccer Angle

Forget for a moment that soccer will never crack the top five most popular American sports. There are some subtleties about David Beckham that will always elude the US sports fan. Bankable, American sports mega-heroes make the big plays: Tiger Woods sinks the putt; Tom Brady runs the two-minute drill; Alex Rodriguez hits the long ball. Beckham does make big plays, but here's the dirty little secret: David Beckham doesn't score many goals.

"Bend It Like Beckham" notwithstanding, Beckham is not a striker, as soccer scorers are called. He is a midfield player and a server. He can score, but his genius is distributing the ball. He is Scottie Pippen, not Michael Jordan. You want him on your team so your forwards can score goals. And they do. But 99 out of 100 American sports fans will never get why Beckham is great.

3. Posh Isn't Playing

"American Idol" svengali Simon Fuller isn't just hyping Beckham; the soccer star's wife, former Spice Girls singer Victoria Adams, turned Posh Spice turned Victoria Beckham, is 50 percent of the deal. Fuller is packaging the Beckhams as a hot "it" couple, although it's far from clear what "it" is. "It" seems to be a tattooed celebration of expensive champagne, make-pretend friendships with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and oft-expressed family values. Posh natters on about her children; when she wins her Mother of the Year award, I'm sure we'll be the first to know.

The sporting couple -- the woman is known as a "WAG," for wives and girl- friends -- are staples of the tabloid-fueled celebrity culture in Europe and especially in England, where marrying a "footballer" is seen as honest work, if you can get it. For five seasons, the BBC has been broadcasting a trashy show called "Footballers Wive$," featuring, among others, the ageless Joan Collins. But in America, athletes' wives are neither seen nor heard, except possibly come divorce time. Is David Ortiz married or dating? I have no idea.

For whatever reason, Victoria's Tonya Harding-like vulgarity -- are there trailer parks in England? -- isn't capturing the imagination of Hollywood, the couple's new home. Last month, NBC broadcast "Victoria Beckham Comes to America," which was meant to be a reality TV series but instead ended up as a one-hour television special. It's astonishing to think that Mrs. Beckham failed in a medium where Anna Nicole Smith and Paula Abdul have succeeded. I wonder how that bodes for the jeans, sunglasses, and the inevitable perfume she will be promoting.

Fuller has arranged for a Spice Girls reunion tour this winter, which may or may not breathe new life into Posh, "one whose bust size seems to increase as her record sales dwindle," according to Vanity Fair.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, Alex Beam's column in today's Living/Arts section, which was preprinted, incorrectly states that David Beckham has not scored a goal in more than a year. Beckham did score a goal for his former soccer club, Real Madrid, earlier this year.)

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