Remember when people ever-so-briefly cared about David Beckham? Ah, halcyon days. ESPN devoted legitimate space on Sportscenter -- the top of the broadcast for several nights in a row, if we remember correctly -- to Beckham's first game. L.A. Galaxy shirts flew off the racks. Beckham was L.A.'s biggest sports star at a time when Kobe Bryant was still fighting to repair his image and his franchise.
Oh, how times have changed.
Beckham is now as unpopular as it gets in American soccer circles. His experiment -- to be the face of the MLS internationally, the star the league needed to take it to the next level -- failed on just about every level. It ended momentarily with Beckham escaping to A.C. Milan on loan for a season (in soccer, players may be loaned out and their salaries may be absorbed for one year by other clubs; they return to their original club at the end of the loan) in the hopes of making England's World Cup 2010 side.
Before that, though Beckham was injured for much of his first season and lost nearly every game in his second, and now, as he prepares to return to L.A. to fulfill the rest of his contract, the MLS's leading scorer and fellow Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan is being uncharacteristically outspoken in his distaste.
"All that we care about at a minimum is that he committed himself to us," Donovan told the Guardian. "As time has gone on, that has not proven to be the case in many ways – on the field, off the field. Show up and train hard. Show up and play hard. Maybe he's not a leader, maybe he's not a captain. Fair enough. But at a minimum you should bust your ass every day. That hasn't happened. And I don't think that's too much for us to expect. Especially when he's brought all this on us.
"I can't even say he's a good team-mate any more. He's not shown that. I can't think of another guy where I'd say he wasn't a good team-mate, he didn't give everything through all this, he didn't still care."
Anyone familiar with Landon Donovan will realize how unusual it is for him to speak out like this. He's usually much more tame and reserved. But he's made it clear that not only are MLS executives and fans basically through with Beckham's act. So are his teammates. This will not end well. Then again, it wasn't exactly go well anyway.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.