This week I have read with interest but have not been surprised at the L.A. Galaxy/David Beckham spectacle. In a recent soccer game Beckham was jeered and chided by fans which is not all that unusual except for the fact that they were not fans for the opposing team. No, they were fans of the Galaxy, the team that Beckham is a member of. To sum it up, the David Beckham experiment has basically failed and the love affair between him and American fans has all but fizzled.

 

        Just two years ago, the hype about Beckham coming to the United States to play soccer was off the charts. He was on the cover of magazines, shown nightly on television house shopping with his pal Tom Cruise, and was hailed as the man who was going to single handedly launch the sport of soccer to new heights in our country. The only problem is that Beckhams’s soccer performance never quite matched all the hype and consequently the L.A. Galaxy has not made it to the MLS playoffs in either of the two years that he has played for them.

 

        That fact alone, has demoted David  Beckham from the status of “soccer savior” to that of the maligned goat as he has recently been relentlessly booed at the last couple of games. One of the reasons for this recent hostility from fans is that Beckham is showing interest in playing once again for a major British team thus revealing that his heart is most likely not with the Galaxy but make no  mistake about it, the main reason for the jeers and object throwing at Beckham is he did not turn out to be a winner. He just didn’t get the job done on the field and when that happens in professional sports in the good ol’ US of A, one must be prepared for being the recipient of eventual and sometimes instant hate and discontent. That is how the business of sports works over here. If you ever wanted to witness fickle loyalty in action, one needs to look no further than the seats and stands of professional sports stadiums and arenas. If you are an athlete who is doing great and playing fabulously, American sports fans worship the ground that you walk on. They will buy up posters of you, shirts that display your numbers, and will gush about you non-stop. If however, you hit a slump of some sort or stop pitching, running, hitting, or shooting in the way that they expected that you would, you had better duck as you head to the locker room to avoid being lambasted by some foreign object on the forehead. Yes, the typical sports fan in America proves daily the validity of the saying “Winning is Everything”.

 

        I have no heartburn nor do I lose any sleep at night when a guy like David Beckham has to endure this sort of change in fan loyalty. I just don’t feel too awfully bad for an athlete at his level making millions of dollars having to survive some ridicule and critcism from some rabid fans in an L.A. stadium who call themselves the “Riot Squad”. He is an adult, a professional and should be able to handle it. What does concern me however is when I see youngsters, children at many different levels in both community and school sports who receive the similar treatment from fans, and particularly when those fans are their parents!

 

        I know a young man in highschool who plays several different sports and does an excellent job. He is a hard working, talented kid who gives it his all in both practices and games. He has won awards for being the top athlete on several of the teams of which he is a member, yet rarely have I seen his father cheer him on. We can give his dad credit for being there at least, but the support for his son pretty much ends there. Rarely if ever, have I seen this father be enthusiastic or excited about any of his son’s triumphs or great performances yet I have often seen him dissatisfied and disappointed in this boy over minor mistakes made out on that court or that field. On several occasions, when this boy has made some sort of blunder, I see his eyes immediately go right to his father with an almost embarrassed or anguished expression on his face. He simply knows what dad’s reaction is going to be and not only does he feel that disapproval right there at that moment, but he is subjected to a thorough chewing out later after the game is long over. I only know this because the boy himself has complained to me about it. I have encouraged him to talk this over with his dad but he is afraid and reluctant to do so. I am sad for this young man and hope that things can change for him.

 

        Parents, let’s be careful not to make this mistake. Let’s clearly know and understand the difference between us as fans of our children as opposed to fans of professional stars. The guy who jumped down out of his seat last week and rushed towards Beckham to challenge him to a fight because of his dissatisfaction should always be a far cry from us as moms and dads who were designed to be our childrens’ most loud and loyal cheerleaders. Our kids should always know that if they have just struck out, or missed a foul shot, that they can search for our faces in the bleachers and see nothing but acceptance and encouragement. They should see a smile, and us mouthing the words  "THAT’S OKAY, KEEP TRYING!”  My heart is grieved when I see kids who cannot count on that type of support from the two people who he or she needs it from the most.  .

 

Fan loyalty…it’s okay to be a flighty and fickle thing with most fans but not all.

It’s never okay if the player that you are watching calls you “mom” or “dad”.

How about your son…your daughter…are you their biggest cheerleader?

Do they know that you are?

They should.

Are you proud of them?

Do you tell them so?

You should.

 

A parent’s fan loyalty;  don’t let it waver…and be the winner…of your child’s heart!