Stoked for Beckham, Even in the Top Row

Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham made his much-anticipated MLS debut in the second half against D.C. United.
Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham made his much-anticipated MLS debut in the second half against D.C. United. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 10, 2007

While studying in Europe during college, Jessica Gould and Christine Raymond discovered the chaotic world of professional soccer, in Italy and England, respectively -- two nations that are much more passionate about the sport than the United States is.

They didn't become die-hard fĂștbol fans, but they did latch on to England's superstar midfielder, David Beckham. They never saw him play in person, so when he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy, the 26-year-old friends from Arlington immediately figured out when he, and the Galaxy, would play D.C. United.

So last night, they were part of a crowd of 46,686 at RFK Stadium who came -- and waited -- to see Beckham play.

"For a second I thought maybe I should just scalp the tickets and watch the game from home, but I'm glad I didn't," Gould said from her spot in the top row of Section 523. It was the first D.C. United match for her, Raymond and the rest of their group.

The pair brought their boyfriends along and passed binoculars among themselves, watching Beckham's every move whether on the sideline, bench or field.

"We deal with [the boyfriends'] football games all fall, so they can handle this," Gould said.

"Besides, they like sports," Raymond added.

When Beckham was late returning to the field after halftime, both stared anxiously at the visiting team's entrance. And when he finally did, 1 minute 5 seconds into the second half, it was hard to tell the game had started from the way both women and most of the crowd around them reacted.

"I told them earlier we should stay around until everyone leaves and ask if we can go sit where he sat on the bench," Gould said.

Beckham entered the game in the 72nd minute, to a loud and mixed reaction. Some fans booed him, but most cheered.

It was Gould's boyfriend, Al Grenfell, who got tickets for the group, at $35 apiece. It was cheap compared with the going rate in the parking lot before the game. Scalpers were getting about $75 for tickets at the top of the stadium under RFK's scalloped roof.

Depending on the seat location, desperate fans paid $75 to $125 for tickets at the last minute. A few even shelled out more than $200 -- with no guarantee Beckham would play a minute.

"Who honestly cares about him that much?" asked Sterling's Nick Prodanovich, a season ticket holder since MLS's inaugural season in 1996.

As it turned out, Beckham played about 21 uneventful minutes at the end of the match. His team lost, 1-0. It wasn't magic, but fans did get to see him play for the first time since July 21.

"I think I put so much expectation on him, that I don't know if he could ever live up to it," Gould said. "It was almost better when he was sitting."

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