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The Beckham Experiment: How the World's Most Famous Athlete Tried to Conquer America Paperback – June 1, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"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

From the Hardcover edition.

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307408590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307408594
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,217,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.
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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).
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I really enjoy Grant Wahl's articles in Sports Illustrated. Each one is a must-read. I think he's done more than anyone to bring soccer/football into the mainstream of American sporting consciousness. He's equal parts fan of both the international sport and the MLS. The world's full of experts who look condescendingly down their noses at the brand of the game practiced in the America's professional league. Wahl's not one of those. While he fully accepts the differences in quality of the MLS vs. European standard-bearers Premiere League/Serie A/Primer Liga/Bundesliga, he also takes the long view: who could of guessed 20 years ago how soccer has seeped into daily sporting life here? Wahl's world is one in which soccer will, ultimately, prevail as this country's Number 1 sport.

Think of "The Beckham Experiment" as a 'long read' form of the quality journalism that Wahl delivers to his SI readership. He has inside access to the first two years of David Beckham's move to the LA Galaxy. Despite the highest of expectations, those two years were - from a professional standpoint - a mess for Beckham. Beckham's first season (2007) could be called "the injury year," the second season, the...trainwreck. As Wahl aptly puts it, "Welcome to the 2008 Los Angeles Galaxy, aka Dysfunction Junction." After detailing an unfathomable 12-game losing streak, Wahl pronounces his verdict: "Beckham's American adventure had officially turned into...the soccer equivalent of Ishtar or the Spruce Goose."

Yes, three years on, the Galaxy ascended to the championship with Beckham still playing a leading role.
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