While Beckham remains one of Major League Soccer's handful of recognizable stars - along with Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry, and a few others - his skills have been fading for some time. He spent the last World Cup watching England from the sidelines in a natty new suit instead of a kit (football lingo). And while the 36-year-old remains a worldwide celebrity, he isn't nearly the novelty he was a decade ago or even five years ago, when he announced he was following Akeem and Semmi and Coming to America. He's sort of like soccer's Rubik's cube that way - he'll always be a pop culture phenomenon, but people don't seem quite as mesmerized by him or his wife as they once were.
It's been nine long years since he could bend a ball well enough to inspire a movie - or at least a movie title. That film helped introduce Keira Knightley to the world. That was arguably his most important contribution to society. He was wildly popular then.
Sadly, he's slipped. His fellow Brits - who have always been fascinated by him and gave rise to his fame with their endless fanboy slobber - don't drool and obsess over Beckham quite as much now. The British tabloids have moved on to Pippa and other current curiosities. He's not even in the top 5 Davids on Google at the moment, trailing such other Davids in Internet search fame as David Yurman, David Foster, David Bowie (he's still alive), David Goetta, and David Letterman. Like Michelangelo's David, Posh Spice's David gets no online love these days.
Beckham's primary talent - ahead of his incredible ability to launch curved crosses into the box with pinpoint precision - was always getting attention. Now that's in question. His fleeting hold on the casual sports fan has long since relaxed, while his grip on the devoted soccer/football/futbol/
foot-to-ball fan isn't nearly as tight anymore.
When I learned Beckham wasn't making the trip to Philly on Wednesday, I went looking for my neighbor Stew to get his reaction. Stew moved here from Scotland and remains a hard-core soccer fan. By Scottish law he's required to love soccer; it's one of the only forms of exercise there, along with rugby, the caber toss, and reenacting certain scenes from Braveheart.
I asked Stew if he was disappointed that Beckham wouldn't play against the Union/Bimbos. Stew - who follows all things soccer-related and watches more games from around the globe than anyone I know - was well-informed and knew all about it.
"Wait," Stew said. "He's not coming?"
And so it goes for Beckham. He's one step away from becoming the soccer version of Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson. It won't be long now until he packs on a few pounds and we're treated to footage of him playing pickup games against unknown amateur mouth breathers.
I was watching part of the royal wedding on CNN when I realized just how far he's fallen. The network showed David and Victoria Beckham, strolling arm-in-arm and looking typically glamorous, as they arrived for the event. And then, just as suddenly as they popped up on screen, the couple vanished. They were replaced by some woman I've never seen. She was wearing a giant hat - the sort you might see worn at the Kentucky Derby or by your elderly aunt.
"There's a good story," CNN's Piers Morgan said about Tara Palmer Tomkinson, who's apparently a British socialite. Think Paris Hilton, only without the night-vision tape. I think. "She had an operation on her nose last week. It had been completely desecrated by drug use. There we are. So, the first juicy revelation of the day. . . . That's a new nose. A royal wedding hooter, and it's entirely true. She had a massive cocaine problem. It ruined her nose, and she's had it redone."
Morgan and Anderson Cooper discussed her nose for a while. I didn't see Beckham again after that. Remaining relevant isn't easy. If only he had a drug problem or a mangled nose.
Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gonzophilly