My friend Andy’s brother, Father Matt Buening, was interviewed by Baltimore radio station WBAL about a four-day pilgrimage he is leading which will include a stop in Cooperstown for Cal Ripken Jr’s induction into the Hall of Fame. If you grew up near Baltimore in the 1980s and 1990s you pretty much have to love Ripken. He is the reason I always wanted to play short stop and why I still do when I play softball. Even before the consecutive games streak, we loved Ripken for his passion for his profession and his work ethic. He had several stellar offensive years, especially MVP years 1983 and 1991, but I admired him for his defensive attributes. At 6’4″ and not the fleetest feet, he relied on his knowledge and intellect to play exceptional defense.
Like Ripken, David Beckham is a team-first, hard-working, world class athlete. His debut for the LA Galaxy tonight was a Hollywood spectacle, but it should not take away from the wonderful attributes Beckham exhibits and consistently espouses. If you know anything about Beckham you know he is passionate about his family and football. His approach to the game is true and his determinedness is inspirational. After signing with the LA Galaxy, Beckham’s manager at Real Madrid said he would never play for Madrid again. Just a few months later the Beckham-led los galácticos were celebrating their first La Liga title since 2002/2003 and Capello said he wished Beckham could stay for another two or three years. After the 2002 World Cup Beckham resigned his England captaincy. England hired a new manager, Steve McLaren, and one of McLaren’s first acts was to call Beckham and tell him that he was a “casualty” of the coaching change. Twelve months later Beckham was back in the squad, leading England to a tie with Brazil and then wins in Euro qualifiers. The list goes on and on. What is so admirable about Beckham is that he has remained humble and has never even hinted an “I told you so”. He takes nothing for granted.
Beckham’s move to LA has been sharing the headlines with Michael Vick’s federal indictment related to his involvement in a dogfighting ring. This after Vick was detained in an airport earlier this off-season for allegedly trying to smuggle marijuana in the bottom of a water bottle. Last year, in the midst of his 2004-signed 10-year $130 million contract, Vick got negative press for going to a free STD clinic under the assumed name Ron Mexico. Perhaps worst of all, he has recently resorted to referring to himself in the third-person. I am hoping that Vick’s story takes a redemptive turn. He would do well to follow the examples of athletes like Beckham, Ripken, or other NFL players like Donovan McNabb and Peyton Manning.