There must come a point in every man’s life when he realizes that he no longer cuts it with the younger generation. Having a young son, I no longer have to trawl the bars and clubs of the ATL looking for love (who am I kidding, just a very small, short specific part of it) but even when I was back in the UK, I was acutely aware of my own presence and had to make sure that I wasn’t, as Chris Rock had it, the oldest guy in the club.
There was always one too, a guy in a shirt slightly too old, looking slightly too enthusiastic to be out, usually recently divorced and still not realizing that the rules of the game have completely, irrevocably changed. It was different when he was dating, you could hear yourself speak, he still had most of his hair on his head, not coming out of his ears, an mp3 was a foreign sports car, girls didn’t drink pints and they certainly didn’t ignore him or look like something of the bottom of their incredibly expensive and elaborate shoes.
I observed him a lot in my day and whilst relieved I wasn’t him, I always felt sorry for him, knowing that he wasn’t up to it any more yet nobody had the good grace to tell him. I remembered this sad familiar feeling this week as I saw the once mighty David Beckham put in a cameo appearance at Old Trafford as his aging Milan team were firmly put to the sword by a rampant Manchester United spearheaded by his footballing heir-apparent – Wayne Rooney.
My wife often uses the phrase “A day late and a dollar short,” usually to describe one of my ham-fisted efforts and this perfectly fitted Beckham. His pace has gone, his energy levels are down, a completely willing worker, this was a cool Manchester evening in March, I can’t have been the only one thinking, “How’s he going to cope in the afternoon in Joburg?”
The worst gig I ever saw was Bob Dylan at Wembley Arena – literally so bad as to be intolerable, yet he still received a respectful response from the audience who were there to honor the man, not the performance. The same can also be said on Wednesday – Beckham received the greatest response from any ex-United player of recent times who turned out against the reds. Ever the consummate PR man, his brandishing of the green and gold scarf, symbol of the anti-Glazer rebellion sweeping Old Trafford, was a calculated and deliberate as any of the free-kicks and tattoos he’s dispatched over the years. A faded icon, yes, but an icon nonetheless. The trouble is despite being manager of the most sentimental country in world football; Cappello is not a sentimental man. Beckham better pop some goals in Serie A because the questions are now being asked.
And what of the heir apparent and the apparently hairless? Rooney now has 21 goals in 22 matches and looks as muscular and indomitable as Maradona in his 1986 peak. Because he is English, as am I, it is always easy to do him down because that’s our way and look for chinks in his armor but I can’t – he looks the perfect specimen; strong, aggressive, precise, controlled – the complete package. Every Englishman will be hoping he is wrapped up in cotton wool until the summer because literally, all our hopes hang on him. It will be a lot of fun looking forward to watching him grow in the next 10 years, until a young whippersnapper kicks his walking stick away in front of a weary and worried world audience.
Guy Bailey is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.