I don’t like soccer, but I do have a soft spot for David Beckham. Let me explain.

My father-in-law told me the other day he was looking forward to relaxing in front of an American football game. The New York Giants were playing another group of steroidal mutants. Though it was the end of the season, eight teams were still in for the playoffs. “So the games have some meaning,” said Ike.

Of course, I know about meaningless occasions—I covered the Mideast peace process for more than a decade. I saw what Ike was getting at, but it made me think about the way we search for meaning in life.

Which lead me to David Beckham.

Some of you (New York Giants fans, for example) may have no idea who he is. Well, he’s a soccer player. His teams: England, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and presently the LA Galaxy.

Some of you (Giants types, again) may have no idea what the LA Galaxy is. Frankly neither do I. They play soccer. Not so very well, compared to Manchester and Madrid, but well enough to make the final of the US Major League Soccer thingy this year.

What’s a nice boy from the East End of London doing prancing about in a second-rate league in a country that traditionally requires its major sportsmen to be either 300 pounds, 7-feet tall, chewing-tobacco addicts, or toothless? (You know which sports I mean.)

The answer: he’s having a bloody good time.

I made the connection recently while heading through Rome’s Termini rail station. The main concourse was plastered with enormous billboards pushing a particular brand of underwear. Sporting their skivvies, tanned to an unnatural degree, from platform 1 to platform 25: David and his distressingly ferrel wife Victoria, probably the least interesting of the group of singers once called The Spice Girls. (The most interesting ones have, since splitting up the group, appeared on the London stage and claimed to have fathered Eddie Murphy’s love child.)

David, or “Becks” as he’s known to British tabloids, squeezed his chunky little abs and had his hair slicked down for the photos. He looked like Herman Goering’s wet dream. Right down to the strange traces of a Hitlerian mustache and the feathering of pubic hair creeping over the top of his tightie whities.

My first instinct was to be thankful that Israel’s train system is so bad I never find myself on a station concourse, forced to regard the posturings of ill-educated millionaires and their over-priced grape-smugglers.

But as my train rumbled south to Naples, I reconsidered.

I like the fact that Becks has, essentially, put football behind him and gone off to ply his trade in a country where his celebrity is all he has. Only when you’ve left the youthful urge to “compete” can you uncover what really makes you tick. In my case that meant ditching journalism for fiction; for Becks, it was dropping out of European soccer.

He isn’t competing for “meaningful” goals like the European Champions League. He played in the final of the MLS, but to most of the world’s soccer buffs that’s somewhat less important than women’s beach soccer.

It’s a sharp contrast to his former teammates who slog through the English winter for the chance to get kicked black and blue by the best defenses in Italy, while enduring a spray of spittle and swear-words each time they approach the “fans” at the sidelines.

No one wants to see them in their underwear.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that Becks has something in common with we International Crime Authors on this blog. We’ve eschewed the traditional writing route (whatever that is, but it seems to involve going to the University of Iowa—no, thanks) and we often write about obscure places and un-American people that make our agents groan. That is, as Colin Cotterill wrote here last week, heroes who can’t reasonably be played in a movie by anyone on the Hollywood A-list for reasons of ethnicity. (Though my wife maintains Al Pacino would do a good job as Omar Yussef, my Palestinian detective.)

And so Becks has taken himself off to a place where he can live a life more interesting than the one he left behind. Not a smart career move, many journalists wrote, when he crossed the Atlantic. Like writing a novel set in the Palestinian town of Nablus, which apparently is a gap on the map to most Americans.

So I say, Becks, try putting together a slim volume of noir. Throw in a few lines about “heading south on La Cienaga,” dropping in at a boutique on Rodeo Drive, and winding along Mulholland for a party at Madonna’s place. Some nude sunbathing with Nic Cage on a deck overlooking the beach at Malibu. Oh and it’s a mystery, so don’t forget the victim: maybe a former British pop singer found dead in Emporio Armani underwear, preferably in the first chapter before we have to hear her speak.

Do this, and we’ll be prepared to offer you a spot as a guest blogger.

As for me, I’ve been working out, swimming, doing some pilates. What about a contract for underwear modeling? I currently wear Celio, but I’m prepared to endorse a wide range of “banana hammocks.” Offers to the comments section of this blog, please.

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