By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Jan 26, 2007 at 5:28 AM

Today we take a little glance at two of the most compelling and dramatic sports in the world, two sports that millions of fans love, two sports that are struggling for mainstream attention -- soccer and NASCAR.

It may seem an odd pairing, but the two sports have recently been hit by developments that have sparked debate.

Let's go with soccer first, and the event, of course, is David Beckham.

Arguably the best-known soccer player in the world (except for the United States, of course), Beckham signed a gazillion-dollar contract to play with the Los Angeles Galaxy. His wife, the former Posh Spice, who has now become a plastic, big-breasted, permanently-pouting parody of her former self, have joined the A-list of Hollywood celebrities.

Brad Pitt, for heaven's sake, asked Beckham to give soccer lessons to his son. There's also a report that Tom Cruise has asked Posh Spice to give his child singing lessons, although that one can't be confirmed.

You can hardly keep from laughing, right?

Let's see, here we have a soccer player, who, while famous, isn't good enough to start for his Spanish team or good enough to play for his English national team. We have a player who is a good passer and a good scorer on direct free kicks. But, he's not a playmaker with flair that will carry a team on his shoulders and make them better.

Again, who really cares if an MLS team gets better or worse? Nobody pays much attention, anyhow.

Beckham is going to be on Leno, Letterman, Larry King and all the other talk shows, including Ellen. But while we may have some fascination with his celebrity status, we aren't going to buy tickets to the games or watch them on television. Check the ratings for MSL games and then check the ratings for test patterns. They are close.

I am one of the few who actually likes watching soccer games. But my living room is pretty empty when I'm tuned in.

For about a quarter of a century, soccer supporters have pointed to the legions of kids who play soccer and who will grow up to be huge soccer fans. Well, many of those kids now have their own kids, and they aren't flooding to soccer games. The simple fact is that soccer is fun to play and excruciating for people in this country to watch.

NASCAR is another example of a sport in struggle. It is a regional fad. NASCAR appeals to people who smoke, marry their sisters, drive trucks with shotguns in the back window and spit around the toothpick in their mouth. The rest of the country is lukewarm.

Now, for the third time in five years, the NASCAR bosses have changed the championship format.

It used to be that you earned points in NASCAR by winning races and then at the end of the year you won the championship. But that hasn't been good enough and they changed. Now they are changing again, they say to put more emphasis on winning races.

Here's how the official NASCAR Web site explains the new system.

"During the format's first three years, the top 10 drivers in points after the 26th race of the season qualified for the Chase; in addition, any other driver outside the top 10 but within 400 points of the standings' leader also was eligible. Starting this season, the 400-point cutoff is eliminated and the top 12 drivers in the points after Race 26 will qualify for the Chase.

"All 12 drivers will have their point totals reset to 5,000; each will then receive a 10-point bonus for each race victory they had during the first 26 races. The Chase drivers will be "seeded" to start the Chase based on the number of wins amassed during the regular season.

It is only slightly less confusing as a menu printed in Farsi.

What this is all about, of course, is what most of pro sports is about. Money.

The new conspirators of NASCAR, ABC and ESPN, want to reverse sagging television ratings, keep sponsors happy and get people to buy products. And so, they tinker, once again with a system and end up with a plan that will let almost half the full-time drivers get into the playoffs.

Ah, well, there's a reason these two are minor sports and are destined to remain so, until death do us part.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.