David Hirshey writes regularly for Deadspin about soccer.
I did not endure three nerve-jangling hours stuck on the tarmac without so much as a drop of alcohol simply to witness David Beckham gimp around the field for 13 minutes, however life-altering those minutes may have been. Nor did I fly 3,000 miles to savor the fact that within the celebrity-drenched throng at the Home Depot Center, I found myself for a blood-engorging minute (before someone called security) the Hebrew National Salami in a Brooke Shields/ Alicia Silverstone sandwich.
No, I was in LA for something greater — the mother of all money shots, that moment when months of media foreplay culminated in a flood of worldwide recognition that would once and for all legitimize the future of American soccer.
But what I got was Alexa, and let's just say that her work rate later that night at the Silver Reign Gentleman's Club was every bit as impressive as the Galaxy's in the first half against Chelsea.
Stung by the bitch slap from the august British newspaper The Sun that they had played like "a pub team" earlier in the week against Tigres of Mexico and the patronizing remark from the Special One that if the game was already decided (meaning Chelsea had won in a walk), he would "allow" Beckham to bend one in, the Galaxy forgot that they were a MLS bottom-feeder and displayed the grit and physical commitment of a Premiership team. Not a minute had passed before Drogba was welcomed to LA by Abel Xavier, the 34-year-old Portuguese defender with the mad white hair and Othello-like face. body-slamming the Chelsea hitman to the turf. He seemed to be saying "Not in our house, bro, especially today when there are 27,000 singing, drinking, squealing fans and more ESPN cameras than they deployed for the Competitive Eating Championships."
In fact, had Kyle Martino's diving header in the 19th minute been a yard to the left, the Galaxy would have taken the lead and wiped the smirk off Mourinho's newly hirsute face (hmmm...was the beard compensation for a thinning dome? Just asking). As is, the crowd, equal parts former action heroes (Arnold and Heidi Fleiss), NBA players (Kevin Garnett, Tony Parker, and yes, Tyronn Lue), desperate housewives (Eva Longoria and Bianca Kajilich — she's married to Landycakes, after all), British ex-pats (the line for Guinness was even longer than the line for Beckham jerseys) and pre-pubescent girls who shrieked every time Becks bent down to loosen the strap on his bum ankle were in a lather from the opening whistle.
This was a Premiership-worthy atmosphere right down to the chants of "Chelsea sucks" (note to Unsilent Majority: I swear I didn't start it). The truth, of course, is that the gulf in class between Chelsea and the Galaxy is almost as wide as the one between Alexa and the other dancers at Silver Reign. It was only a matter of time — actually the 49th minute — til the Blues decided to concentrate and play the kind of powerful and efficient football that made them EPL champions two of the last three years. When John Terry, playing on a broken toe, lashed the ball in off the post to make it 1-0, only the beastly presence of Xavier in the Galaxy defense plus some profligate finishing kept the game close enough for ESPN's comfort zone. When Beckham began stretching in the 68th minute and the crowd erupted in an orgiastic release, Landycakes had a chance to prove that Golden Balls was not the only soccer star in town. But when he missed a wide open header, we were once again reminded that while he can terrorize the MLS and Concacaf competitions all he wants, he is still not ready for "the next level", be it the Bundasliga, the World Cup or a friendly against a top English club.
Whether Becks can galvanize him to fulfill his potential remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: Landycakes will no longer be taking the Galaxy free kicks after shanking a couple onto Sunset Boulevard on Saturday. Becks' first official touch as a Galaxy player, in fact, could easily have been meant as a tutorial for young Landon. In the 81st minute, he launched a 40-yard crossfield laser right to the head of Quavas Kirk, who, unlike, say, Van Nistelrooy, had no idea what to do with it . The only other significant moment in Becks' 13 minute made-for-TV cameo came in the 91st minute, when Reading old boy Steve Sidwell, playing for a place in the star-studded Chelsea lineup, must not have heard Mourinho's instructions to not "get stuck in" on Beckham and instead went clattering into him. The crunch could be heard all the way on Madison Avenue as American soccer's meal ticket crashed head over heels onto the turf, holding his left ankle.
As he lay there, I couldn't help but wondering if he had finally grasped the enormity of the challenge facing him — the task of hauling not only himself up from a crumbled state but an entire sport.
Later that night, I put this existential question to Alexa: What is it like to be the most beautiful, the most desirable woman in a cheap taco stand of a strip club? Alexa, who is an assistant in an art gallery when she is not grinding her pelvis into the lap of a customer — in this case, my best friend Roger, who was celebrating his birthday. She had the answer and it only cost $45— or $205 less than my Galaxy ticket.
"The secret," she said, "is to treat everyone equally, whether they're some poor writer from New York or David Beckham." With that, Roger handed her a $40 tip.