- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2003

Soccer sales

“Wildly overspending on athletes is a venerable tradition, in America and beyond. But Manchester United’s plan to sell David Beckham, the foppish glamour boy of English soccer, is something new. Usually, sports teams justify their expenditure by hyping their new purchase’s talent. (‘We brought Jeff George to Washington to win a Super Bowl.’) In the case of Beckham, the organization that was willing to pay more than $41 million for him barely seems interested in his famously curvaceous free kicks or amazing passing.

“Jorge Valdano, sporting director of Real Madrid, the club that has sealed the deal, has said, ‘There are icons in soccer and Beckham is one of them. We have in our team a lot of [players] from the south. … And Beckham is the north. I think he’s a complement which seems especially attractive, above all for the media. …

“The purchase of David Beckham isn’t about building the world’s best soccer club; it’s about building its biggest brand.

“This past year, the NBA began using Yao Ming to crack Asian markets. But the NBA’s global reach looks like RC Cola compared to the Cokes and Pepsis of European soccer. … Beckham could be the final piece that makes Madrid the top conglomerate. He will give Madrid a foothold in Asia, where he is literally a demigod. … And, for the first time, Madrid will have a British following.”

Franklin Foer, writing on “Bye, Bye, Becks,” Wednesday in Slate magazine at www.slate.com

School’s out

“There are some spoil-sports out there who say that schools should not take such a long summer break. The tradition of the summer vacation, say these critics of leisure, derives from an agricultural economy in which children were needed to labor in the harvest. In our modern, industrial world, we should work children year-round, just as we do adults. … To reform education in this country, should not policy-makers and teachers lobby for a 12-month academic year with only modest vacations in December and June?

“The opinion of this teacher is most certainly not. The nine-month school year is not merely a vestige of an agricultural economy. … From the 16th through the 19th centuries the European elite sent their boys to classical boarding schools that offered generous time off during the summers. … It would seem, then, that the long summer vacations descend from a culture that understood and appreciated leisure.

“The idea that teachers get off scot-free in the summer is also an illusion. … The working life of a good teacher … is not composed of 40-hour weeks.

“So if you want good teachers, protect their summers.”

Terrence Moore, principal of Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins, Colo., writing on “A Good Teacher’s Summer is Still Busy,” a June editorial by the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at www.ashbrook.org

Sexy frauds

“The sex appeal of dubious, semi-fraudulent characters like Che [Guevara] and Castro goes beyond images — if not very far beyond. It’s clear that Cuba, the society they manufactured together, is as oppressive and miserable as any on earth. But we seem not to care. Or, at least, our filmmakers seem not to care.

“They can latch onto a rhetoric of ‘social justice,’ ever vague and undefined. After all, as Jane Fonda once said, ‘To be a revolutionary, you have to be a human being. You have to care about other people.’ That’s sexy. But what about Che’s genuflections to Comrade Stalin? A bit less sexy. …

“Guevara’s early Stalinism had implications for his lifelong public attitudes and actions. What appealed to him in Marx, Stalin and the young Mussolini, after all, was a strain of visionary apocalypse, of globalized conflict, which effortlessly opened the door to jejune gangsterism.

“As it is, the language of revolutionaries, from Lenin to Osama bin Laden, with its metaphors of weaponry, trenches and assaults, is as dreary in Che’s bad prose as it is anywhere else.”

Lawrence Osborne, writing on “Che Trippers,” in the June 16 issue of the New York Observer

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