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Becks-Bashers Do Galaxy Proud

July 20th, 2009 · 16 Comments · Galaxy, soccer

My oh my, talk about getting “a little verklempt.” I could feel a lump in my throat and a little moisture in the corners of my eyes. Excuse me. Talk amongst yourselves for a moment. Discuss “carpetbaggers we have known and loathed.”

OK, I’m better now.

There they were, the Riot Squad, the most loyal and best-informed fans of the Los Angeles Galaxy … giving David Beckham what they would call in England “a hiding.”

They booed the Golden Boy. They taunted him. They unfurled pithy, home-made signs of the sort that real fans make. And they let the biggest fraud in L.A. soccer history know he couldn’t sashay back into their lives and back into their team and back onto the Home Depot Center pitch … and expect adulation.

My goodness, they made me proud. And just when I had all but given up on Los Angeles fans.

L.A. fans are the ones who applaud drug cheat Manny Ramirez and arrive late and leave early and still, still don’t know a pitcher can step off the rubber and fake a pickoff throw and it is not a balk. L.A. fans are the ones who often drink to excess and brawl and occasionally kill each other … and also pay ridiculous prices to see bad teams play and fail to hold to account crappy management and idiotic coaching and half-hearted performances.

And then there is the Galaxy’s hardcore fandom — who gave David Beckham holy hell.

The occasion was Beckham’s first appearance at a Galaxy home match this year, Sunday night, in an international friendly with AC Milan.

AC Milan is, of course, Beckham’s real team, the one he wanted to play for so much that he bought himself out of his obligation to play the first half of the Major League Soccer season with the Galaxy. AC Milan, the serious soccer club in a serious soccer nation, the team he can’t wait to return to the moment he can ditch this motley crew of semi-pros in Los Angeles and get back over the pond to where fans appreciate a guy who looks good in a suit and wears a five-day growth of beard quite nicely and is really quite good at striking a sitting soccer ball (if not much else). Yes, get back to Europe, Sir David, and don’t come back. It is clear you are no longer required, or wanted.

Especially after Sunday night.

We can’t defend the fans who got a little too personal or a little too graphic, or the guy who jumped over the rail. But the basic approach of those fans — undisguised contempt and anger for the shabbiest mercenary in modern soccer history — was wonderfully righteous.

Yes. Some fans do get it. Some do know a scammer when they see one. Not all of them drink the Kool-aid.

Who knew?

Remember, David Beckham was going to save/popularize soccer in America. Really. That was his goal, he said, when he arrived two years ago with the pomp and circumstance of a papal visit. It was a noble goal he had, really. To carry the world’s game to its rightful place high in the American sports firmament by presenting his royal personage for inspection around MLS for five seasons. That, surely, would do the trick.

Well, yes, he was expecting to be enriched by some $250 million during those five years, but that money was practically being forced upon him, you see. He was about the Lord’s work first and foremost, proselytizing among those who had been raised in ignorance of the joga bonito.

Which was bloody bollocks, as the Brits might say, from Day 1. But hey, we’re gullible around here sometimes.

It really was about Brand Beckham, all along. Making money, burnishing his reputation, branching out to the New World, where revenue sources untapped were a sort of El Dorado beckoning to Becks and his image peddlers.

Cap’n Becks showed his true colors (think “skull and crossbones,” me hearties) when he mailed in the final three months of the 2008 season, allowing his team to circle the drain while he was allegedly its leader (well, he wore the armband, anyway) … followed by his pressing himself upon AC Milan in a desperate bid to escape the Galaxy for as long as possible. Paying for the pleasure of not competing in Los Angeles.

And we can understand, in a business sense (which is all that counts, in matters Beckham), that he had to get out. Because in Los Angeles, pop culture capital of the world, Becks was at real risk of disappearing from view. Or, much worse for a man who fancies himself a global icon, being rendered irrelevant. 

That’s the one thing a global icon can’t have. A lack of interest. And he was well on his way, at the end of last season. So he fled.

His one mistake was in coming back. At all. He should have bought himself out of the whole shootin’ match, the entirety of his financial commitment.

Once he had staged that two-step parlay — quit on his team, then abandoned it for half of the next season — he should have realized he is and will be persona non grata to real Galaxy fans. Like the folks in the Riot Squad, who actually care about this little club and do in fact understand the game, thank you very much, and know that consorting with Beckham only distracts the Galaxy from its ultimate goal of playing balanced, coherent, team-oriented (as opposed to star-oriented) soccer.

They surprised me, those fans.

They seem to have surprised Beckham, as well. He seemed to believe that just by smiling and waving that he could bring them round. Didn’t they realize he is a star? Of course they would be cheering soon. And when he turned around to look at them after taking the corner that turned into a goal off the head of Bryan Jordan … he showed just how much he does not understand the Galaxy’s best fans. Because instead of them suddenly jumping to his side in rapturous forgiveness, they took his arrogant appraisal of them as a “take that, punks” gesture that it almost certainly was.

I loved it all. The way the hardcore fans stuck to their guns, even when the Galaxy played well and Beckham contributed. They were booing still when he came out of the match, while some of the dopier and weaker-minded had begun to applaud.

How should the Riot Squad and other serious soccer fans handle Beckham’s final three months with the team?

They should continue to ride him. For sure. Don’t let up. Even if he plays well. They should expect him to play well because he is being paid $4.5 million a year (or would be if he actually played whole seasons here). Which is a fortune in MLS. Something like $50 million a year in NFL or NBA terms.

Fans should make clear to Galaxy management they know, they see and they understand that Beckham’s presence in this squad is a sort of malignancy that, for the moment, is inactive.

They should make it clear that American soccer fans are far, far past the point where some aging Eurostar can drop in on them and expect them to show up and watch him, and not the team. That is so NASL.

As long as Beckham is a part of the franchise — and not its behind-the-scenes puppet master, as he was for his first two seasons here — he will be allowed to play. As long as Bruce Arena clearly is running the show (and not some Becks fluffer from an office in London), well, OK, No. 23 can step on the pitch.

No one is required to cheer for him, however. And if they prefer to boo, well get busy.

And the first minute he starts to check out, when he puts a stamp on a performance and drops it in the mail box … they should let him have it. With both barrels. Show American soccer’s savior where he can take his cash-fueled missionary work.

What the fans’ acts of defiance toward David Beckham told us Sunday, what it validated, is that a real fan’s love and appreciation cannot be bought. It cannot be redeemed just by showing up three months late. It has to be earned, and sometimes the earning of it may not be possible. (Like, say, when your contempt for a team and its league is palpable.) This is not going to get better, either, when the inevitable rumors begin to heat up that he won’t be back at all, after this 2009 summer cameo.

Galaxy fans, I salute you. You are paying attention. Bravo. Keep up the good work. Sorry. I’m getting emotional again.


16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nell // Jul 20, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Couldn’t have said it better, Paul. That’s why you’re the writer and I’m not!

    Oh, and that fan that jumped over the rail to get at Beckham – apparently Beckham enticed him to do so. There’s YouTube video out there depicting it.

    Now, any other player in MLS does that, he gets a fine. Let’s see how MLS handles it.

    Beckham is getting just what he deserved. I think he thought the fans were stupid. True MLS fans are not stupid.

  • 2 David Lassen // Jul 20, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I’d be a little more impressed if the boos hadn’t so clearly faded as the game progressed, with Becks playing well. (And he did play well — as a response to the fans or in an attempt to impress Milan for a return engagement, we’ll never know, but whatever the reason his passing was spot on.)

    I have a hunch that if he keeps playing like he did last night, the boos will vanish. As the continuing Manny-fest shows, L.A. fans will cheer results regardless of anything else.

    (Oh, and Paul, that yelling for a balk occurs in EVERY major league stadium I’ve ever been in, not just here.)

  • 3 Haggis // Jul 20, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Finally, people/fans are seeing the truth to Judas and his actions.

    Lando was spot on about his comments in Sports Illustrated.

    LA Galaxy supporter and Riot Squad member from the beginning.

  • 4 RobertTheBruce // Jul 20, 2009 at 11:11 am

    A good read Paul. An excellent analysis of what this is really about.

    Someone else who gets it.

    Koo-Aid is not good for you.

  • 5 David Shamel // Jul 20, 2009 at 11:22 am

    David Lassen, you are not a true futbol fan. Were you there last night? With the Riot Squad? I was in the first row. I am the one that Goldenballs singled out before my friend jumped the wall. Only after Becks asked me to “come down here and fight.” What a professional. Who is he taking PR tips from, Ron Artest? It is not about how he played or plays. He is a talented footballer. But he is a liar and thief. He is also an egomaniac. So again I ask, Lassen, were you there?

  • 6 David Shamel // Jul 20, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Great article Paul. Thank you.

  • 7 JkR- // Jul 20, 2009 at 11:30 am

    The signs were pithy? Um, OK, but what they weren’t was clever or witty…

    This MLS season ticket holder saw nothing from the Riot Squad to admire. Going to the game and supporting your team is supposed to be fun. If being a team supporter makes that you that angry and boorish, then perhaps being an MMA fan is the better choice.

  • 8 jamesey // Jul 20, 2009 at 11:34 am

    The boos subsided because it’s hard to boo for 90 minutes, especially if you’re singing other songs. LA Galaxy fans are definitely open to apology. We have little faith it will actually happen.

  • 9 Colin // Jul 20, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    I think it’s obvious who the true Galaxy fans were in the stands last night, and who the trendy sunglasses-wearing faux-fans were.

    Great writing, Mr. Oberjuerge. Beckham should have ignored the Riot Squad, as now he looks foolish for trying to fight a fan. I guess the Brand Beckham handlers were on vacation or something…

  • 10 Tally // Jul 20, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    LARS rule for calling Becks on his part-time-ee-ness. David is payed beyond full time and at the expense of the team being unable to hire his replacement in his absence (or a full team for the last two years – but we’re getting there…)

    David is a douche for being unprofessional for taunting a fan especially after he tells Donovan he was unprofessional for saying anything outside of the locker room (which he was.)

    Tim Lieweke is the biggest douche of all for bringing David here in the first place and trading away most of our team to get David and keep Donovan when he’d most likely never seen a soccer game EVER. Two players does not a team make, and top a scorer and assister cannot play keeper and defense simultaneously. Even Zidane can’t do that.

    I can’t blame David for thinking Lieweke had any clue about soccer when 90% of the world’s population does. I also can’t blame David for wanting to play at the top of his profession when, at his age, his next injury could be career-ending.

    I can’t blame David for loving this game as much as he does and wanting the rest of the world to love it as much as he does.

    I CAN blame David for not understanding that THIS IS LOS ANGELES. We are not star struck here. We work with them, we see them every day. You, David, are no bigger than any other of the hundreds of other stars that live, work, take their kids to school, eat at restaurants, or shop at Trader Joe’s. WE DON’T CARE. (I can also blame Lieweke for that as well.)

    I CAN blame David for not buying out the rest of his contract when he discovered what a douche Tim Lieweke is.

    Thank you David, I think your heart was in the right place. Everyone in MLS plays better when you are on the pitch and not mailing it in. HOWEVER, you owe LARS, the Galaxy, the Galaxy FO, all Galaxy fans, and ALL FANS across the country who bought tickets to LA away games JUST TO SEE YOU PLAY before you decided to stay in Milan for half the MLS season, AN APOLOGY.

  • 11 Doug // Jul 20, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    It was interesting to watch FSC post-match coverage. Some Brit-sounding sycophant, who I don’t think was ever identified, fed Becks marshmallow questions and made it sound like only a small minority of fans booed him and he won them over with his play. Hah!

  • 12 Alan Moran // Jul 21, 2009 at 9:01 am


  • 13 Becks Making a Hash of Things // Jul 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    […] get a sense of fan reaction, check the comments under my blog post from Monday. Not many fans rising to his […]

  • 14 David Lassen // Jul 21, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Yes, Shamel, I was there. Not in the Riot Squad section, but not far away, either, in section 102. From where i sat, it clearly lost steam as the evening progressed. Possibly, in the middle of the Riot Squad, it didn’t seem that way. Oh, and just to be clear, I don’t have a problem with the booing.

  • 15 Dustin // Jul 24, 2009 at 12:53 am

    Riot Squad are pitiful sad people who can’t do anything but form hatreds against other people. Stop coming to Galaxy games if you don’t like it. Stop ruining the game for the people who are their to cheer their team on. Stop thinking that you hold the trump card for an entire sports organization. And stop applauding people who spread hatred instead of being fans that cheer and support our beautiful game. I don’t care if Becks is there or not, I only care if he plays hard and so far that’s what he’s doing. You don’t like it, then you can go someplace else.

  • 16 Jeff // Jul 24, 2009 at 10:26 am

    If I were affiliated with LARS, I would have been more upset at the overwhelming amount of Los Angeles natives rooting for AC milan at a Galaxy home game.

    In terms of arguing for or against Beckham on the field, if it makes Bruce a better coach (in his words, not mine), I’m behind the coaching staff making these decisions. If anyone can get me a statement from any Galaxy player who would prefer to play the remainder of the season without Beckham on the field, I will denounce my disagreement with the LARS reaction to #23 on Sunday (and Landon doesn’t count, he already apologized for his lack of professionalism). I’ll even show up to the Sounders game with a boom box looping “We are 138” by the Misfits and join the “true” fans.

    I enjoyed cheering for the Galaxy this past Sunday, and I will enjoy rooting for them at KC tomorrow.

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