Friday, August 10, 2007

Beckhamania Strikes D.C.

What we ought to be writing today is about D.C.'s silly fairweather soccer fans, who barely turn out to support the home team, going crazy and turning out in swarms just to catch a glimpse of fading British soccer star David Beckham.

But we can't do that, because we were among the silly ones.

Yes, the travelling David Beckham circus came to town yesterday and we had virtually front row seats. Even before the warm-up acts--the D.C. United and L.A. Galaxy teams, ostensibly playing an important league match, serving as an excuse for 47,000 people to show up and ogle Becks--the Washington Post chronicled every bite of the Brit's stay in Washington, documenting his consumption of a porterhouse at Morton's and his coffee (coffee? thought this guy was English!) in the morning. (Really David B.--Morton's?--that's like the McDonald's of you rich guys, as there's one or two in every city. Next time you're here, let us take you out for a real steak at Ray's The Steaks.)
But back to the "game." There was much pomp, and much circumstance. Tickets traded at high prices on E-Bay. Frantic parents paid big sums to get their kids on the field in the pre-game, in the hope of getting close to the center of the Galaxy. (Those big sums, in turn, went to a charity that helps underprivileged kids go to regular soccer games.)
If you go to a typical D.C. United game, the fans tilt decidedly Latino. But with Beckham as a draw, all the white kids and their parents from the 'burbs (yes, the shoe fits here, so we'll wear it) braved major traffic jams to get to creaky RFK stadium.
It was glorious. A full stadium, with the bleachers bouncing up and down, just like the good ol' days of the Redskins, when they were winners, before they moved to sterile Fed-ex field. In the first half, D.C. United, a streaky team that can come up with some real stinkers, played some of its most inspired ball all year and took a 1-0 lead on a terrific strike. Too bad they were at the other end of the field from us.
Meanwhile, Beckham sat on the bench. Then, he got up and stretched. Cheers, cameras flashing. Then he did some jogging back and forth. More cheers and flashes. Oh, is there a game going on?
In the second half, when D.C. United was attacking our end of the pitch, they played poorly--too defensively. Still, the 1-0 lead held up. Soon, it started to rain, big cold drops at first, then heavier rain, which looked all the worse coming down through the field lights. A red card for one of the Galaxy players--now they're playing a man down.
The rain became steady, soaking us, but taking away the sticky film of sweat that had settled in earlier in the stifling heat. Then, a huge roar from the other side of the stadium. Becks had taken off his shirt. Now we see him. He's putting on his #23 Galaxy jersey!! The sign goes up showing a substitution. Huge roars as Beckham trots onto the field. Forget about the rain, man, Beckham's playing. Get out those camera phones!
And so it went. Becks played about 25 minutes--more than in any other MLS game so far. He didn't look like he was doing much--trotting around, taking it easy. Wouldn't want to make that ankle injury worse.
Oh, and now we have a Galaxy free kick. Beckham's taking it. WOW! That was some kick--maybe this guy's for real.
Notwithstanding their poor play in the second half, D.C. pulls out the 1-0 win. And afterwards, Mrs. Curmudgeon and our neighbor friend get their wish: Becks walks toward our end of the field and casually slips off his shirt, posing for the photographers and paparrazzi that had to ask for directions to RFK Stadium.
Okay, so despite the traffic going in and the 40 minute wait to get out of the parking lot after the game, despite the rain and the heat, it was a lot of fun. Who knows, maybe we'll even go back for a game when Beckham's not around.

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