of the Riot Squad (L to R) Markus Conroy, Eddie Garcia, and Josue Lopez
stand by the throne they have readied for Victoria Beckham. The seat is
one of many gifts offered up to the celebrity soccer wife by the
Galaxy's fan club. (Michael Owen Baker / Staff photographer)
Beckham can pull up to the Home Depot Center in a chauffer-driven car
to a VIP entrance constructed especially for her, so she can be whisked
inside to the cool comfort of a private suite where she can sip wine
and watch her husband play soccer, all without being bothered by the
Or she can opt for the royal treatment.
of a Galaxy fan club called The Riot Squad have bought the Missus a
season ticket, constructed a red velvet throne, roped it off and
promise to supply enough muscle to keep ogling miscreants - or whatever
it is they call the English media - at arm's length.
To members of the club, who may be short on posh, but not
on spice, it seemed like the perfect way to welcome the Beckhams to
their new home.
"This is the Riot Squad," said Jeff Skinner, a member of the club. "Why not be classy?"
Mrs. Beckham briefly signed autographs and mingled with the crowd at
her husband's presentation last week, one member of the Riot Squad,
Eddie Garcia, extended a standing invitation to join them.
She looked up, a bit unsure, and said, "Okay," quickly continuing down the line.
If it came across as an indecent proposal, it probably was, judging
the amount of beer, raucous chants and rowdy behavior that emanates
from the 250 members of the Riot Squad who inhabit the southwest corner
of the stadium.
It might also manage, they say, to do something quite unusual - put a smile on her face.
all means, sit up in the box and eat a prawn sandwich before the game,"
said Leora Saul, one of about a dozen women in the Riot Squad. "But
then come down and be with the people."
Or, as Tommy Mack, who cooked up the scheme and put down
the $480 for the season ticket that's in her name with its own account
number, surmised: "What better way to see the Galaxy than with us?
She'll have the time of her life."
It may have been done as a lark, purchasing the season
ticket, upholstering the collapsible throne and dressing up as if they
were answering a casting call for "Reservoir Dogs".
But it's not unlike the Riot Squad approaches just about
everything in its following of the Galaxy - with a sense of humor,
creativity and attention to detail that usually manages to be over the
top without going over the line.
Their t-shirt, which is de rigueur on game days, is an
image of a cop in a gas mask with the inscription Veni, Imbibi, Vici
When Rangers came to play the Galaxy earlier this season,
the Scottish club was taunted with chants of "You're just a suburb of
England." When China arrived for a friendly game a couple years ago, it
was greeted by cheers of "Great Wall, (Lousy) Team."
At the end of games, they leave a cup of beer for
now-injured Galaxy defender Chris Albright, who dutifully stops by to
take a few gulps on his way to the locker room. Each year, they hand
out a player of the year award - the trophy being a beer keg that's
engraved with the winner's name and usually kept around the locker
room. Alexi Lalas, the inaugural winner who is now the team's
president, showed it to visitors at his home.
"Those guys are the heartbeat of the stadium," said Galaxy
midfielder Kyle Martino. "Sometimes when they get in unison, they put a
smile on your face that you've got to chase away and get back to the
The Riot Squad has also found that it helps to have low
friends in high places. Comedian Drew Carey sprang for 100 blow-up
dolls that the Riot Squad dressed like Chivas girls for a game against
It is the type of fandom that, with few exceptions, is
absent from American sports other than college basketball. This type of
organized involvement is what the Riot Squad - like other MLS fan
clubs, such as Section 8 in Chicago and the Barra Brava in Washington
D.C. - has tried to emulate from soccer clubs in Europe and South
Not that that doesn't require some explaining.
hear the name Riot Squad, see we wear black and think the worst," said
Skinner, who has elaborate tattoos running down the lengths of both
arms who is dressed in black boots, blue jeans and a black Riot Squad
t-shirt. "But we're not a hooligan group.
Unfortunately, most times they show Italians rioting with
police, Argentines climbing over fences onto the field. We fit in with
most supporters around the world - that is, we're non-violent."
A small group of Riot Squad members spoke with a reporter
last week after Beckham's introduction at the Home Depot Center. They
included a film editor, a graphic designer, an accountant, a pastor, a
college administrator and a what was described as a satellite engineer.
"Like at Cal Tech?" , Robert Bruce was asked.
At which point others started laughing.
"He's in the porn industry," said An Nguyen, an administrator at Chapman University.
"I'm not on the production side," Bruce explained.
"But I see it come through the door."
demographics are all over the place," said Bob Ramsey, the pastor and
also a biblical studies teacher from Glendora. "The perception of us is
we clean out dive bars at 3 a.m. to find our members, but really we're
from all over the place. We have people who work in entertainment, high
school teachers and a shocking number of accountants, controllers and
Ramsey joined in at the end of the Riot Squad's first season in 2002, the team's last at the Rose Bowl.
had watched from afar and then when the playoffs started, it was time
to leave the kids and the minivan at home and get serious," he said.
"The difference for me, and it's huge, is that you can be totally
engaged in the game. When you're in the general crowd, people are there
for all kinds of reasons and have all levels of engagement. Here you're
standing with people who are totally involved in the game."
It's that level of engagement that the Riot Squad says it
would be honored to offer, rather than give it away as they have each
game. They'd also be willing to spring for tickets for the Beckhams'
three children and remind Victoria that she'd be eligible for a 10
percent discount at the Galaxy's team store.
"And I promise we'll get her a Riot Squad tank top," Skinner said.
But, really, would she put aside TomKat to hang with hound dogs?
first, I thought she'd probably never come," Bruce said. "But after a
few brief conversations, seeing her on Leno, she seems to have this
oddball sense of humor. I think there's a chance. If she did, we'd make
it a great time for her."