In 2018, you’d be hard-pressed to find a news story about the famed soccer star David Beckham that didn’t, in some way, shape or form, include reference to the 42-year-old being a doting dad of four.
Such is the idea that time heals all wounds, Beckham, in his middle-age and mellowed reputation, is known far more today for being a loving family man than one with a history-making right foot and casual bravado to boot.
A scroll through his various, and very public, social media accounts paints a picture of family holidays, football throwbacks and birthday tributes to various loves of his life. As far as frivolous Instagram accounts go, David Beckham’s does as much for his public image as any public relations expert could with full-time employment.
It gives us the only image the former Manchester United star seeks to put out to the universe; David Beckham is loving, loyal and a good dad. That’s the whole story and the end of the story. Move on, keep scrolling.
Of course, those with 14-year long memories will know this has not always been the case.
In fact, the remarkable transformation of David Beckham’s public image over the last decade and a half, withstanding email scandals and various affair allegations, suggests the man is coated with Teflon.
In 2004, a 25-year-old personal assistant by the name of Rebecca Loos came forward, alleging she and the soccer star had a months-long affair after Beckham moved from his native London to Madrid.
At the time, he had been married to pop star Victoria Beckham for nearly five years.
Loos claimed the duo had sex at least four times in an interview with Sky News.
“That was the night. September 18th. We had all been out with a group of people for dinner, having a few drinks and relaxing, there had been some flirting and I was getting a few innuendos but I kept saying, ‘No he doesn’t fancy you’.
“I would always say to myself ‘don’t risk your job’ and I knew there was a huge risk involved if I got involved with this man.
“That night we just really hit it off. It was the first time, we were just locked into each other all night conversation wise. We just connected. People noticed it.”
She went on:
“I think the problems were in their marriage long before I came into the picture. I in no way intended to break up their marriage especially when there are young children involved. I hope they stay together.”
Days later, a Malaysian-born Australian model by the name of Sarah Marbeck, then 29, came forward with her own affair allegations.
"He said he felt he'd been hit by a sledgehammer from the first time he saw me. He said he loved the way I tied my hair back," she told News of the World at the time.
"The first time he said he loved me was after we spoke on the phone and he said he didn't think the lines were safe so he'd send a text. He sent one saying, 'I love you.' "
Beckham labelled the claims as "ludicrous", and within months, was lodging legal action against In Touch magazine after a sex worker named Irma Nici claimed she also had sex with the married sporting star.
As put so eloquently by The Sydney Morning Herald at the time, it was a "descent from global icon and good guy to alleged text-messaging Lothario."
So how did he put it all back together?
Save for a tiny, almost laughable hiccup in 2017 - where Beckham's private emails were leaked to the world and detailed his almost childish, pathological desire to be knighted (there are records of Beckham calling the knighting committee "unappreciative c**ts" and saying, “Unless it’s a knighthood f*ck off”) - little has shaken the Beckham brand as Britain's own man-made royalty, a kind of royal family in waiting.
For one, credit where credit is due: Next year, David and Victoria will be married for 20 years. Twenty years of any marriage is a marathon, but with fame and affairs in the mix, two decades is a notable lifetime. Our thought process here is a simple, uncomplicated one. Any man who can maintain a marriage for nearly 20 years must be doing something right. And perhaps there's merit to that school of thought.
Listen: Esther Perel talks to Mia Freedman abut why happy couples cheat. (Post continues...)
There's another point to be made about the timing of the affairs, in 2004, when the internet was on the fringes of booming and news a little less permanent. Backlash culture was a good 10 years from inception and Twitter a faraway vision of the internet's brightest minds.
And then, of course, there's the notion David Beckham is famous for a reason. David Beckham is one of Britain's most decorated athletes, and humans are notorious for forgiving decorated athletes. They can fall, and we can hold them down for a just little while, but give us time and we'll be helping them back up. Give us time, and like a school of goldfish, will forget athletes' moral crimes and be back to waxing lyrical about their on-field scores.
Beckham is a hero to millions of sport fans around the globe and so, we're much more forgiving. He is a winner and so, we're much more forgiving. His name and what it represents gives us so much joy and so, we're much more forgiving.
Beckham went from being the man who betrayed his wife, to the one who took a backseat for her career. And for that, the world is still applauding.
Naturally, we'll never see past the Beckham shine or the Beckham PR spin, and so, will never know for sure if David Beckham's public image and David Beckham's private personality marry together.
We can, however, note that the world's most famous soccer star has a remarkable knack for dodging the consequences of bad press like a man with an agile pivot.
Cut the crap.