Cheers jeers & beers
Lorrie Reyes / The Bull
The cheering starts … and it doesn’t stop. “L-A GAL-AXY (Clap, clap…clap, clap, clap)! L-A GAL-AXY (Clap, clap…clap, clap, clap)!
The constant sound of a beating drum echoes throughout The Home Depot Center. No one sits if you have tickets in sections 137 and 138. That’s where the Los Angeles Riot Squad (LARS) stands.
LARS is no ordinary supporter’s group. They don’t wave pom-poms or make clever signs to get on TV. They stand-the entire game. They yell, sing, chant, cheer, and even chastise players-sometimes even ones on the Galaxy.
If a Galaxy player is doing well on the “pitch,” they’re name will be heard in custom flattering chants. And throughout theGalaxy matches some of their more pleasant songs include an ode to the Partridge Family’s, “I Think I Love You” and “Nothing But a G Thang” by rappers Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg usually lead by LARS members. This includes former Pierce College student Andrew Alesana and Edward Rodriguez both have attended games since the Galaxy’s inception in 1996 among others.
But if you are hurting the team’s chances of winning you will know that too. A plethora of boos and taunting will hover the LARS sections if you’re a player or a fan with the opposing teams’ jersey. And if you’re the referee, well you’re the enemy for both sides. The LA Riot Squad is proud of being the “anti-supporter” group. No one is safe from ridicule.
“We’re going to call you out, right now, when it happens,” said the LA Riot Squad co-founder Jeff Skinner. “If we, as fans, are not going to criticize our team who will?”
That was the case in 2009 when the $250 million dollar man, David Beckham, received an endless amount of discontent from the home crowd in his first game back after being on loan with Italian soccer club AC Milan. After a half of taunting Beckham, he approached the LARS corner.
Even now a year later, animosity is still the norm. Curse words and slurs fly Beckham’s way. Some members of LARS still don’t like Beckham, not because of the incident in 2009, not because he hasn’t produced on the field, but because his commitment hasn’t been evident.
“We expect loyalty, heart, hard work. We expect to see that you’re trying. Even if you’re the worst player out there, as long as you’re trying we’ll like you,” LARS member Christopher Tucker said.
The “world famous Riot Squad” has been top story on ESPN, has had their name mentioned on TMZ and Perez Hilton with the Beckham feud. But they are ultimately in their own dedicated section in The Home Depot Center to support the Galaxy and its players. They have their own dedicated blog, Facebook and Twitter page and even a player of the year trophy.
In 2002, LARS made a trophy that is given to the player of the year who best embodies the LARS spirit. Last month, once online voting is completed and was tabulated, LARS chose Galaxy starting forward Edson Buddle as 2010′s player of the year.
“I know that they’re here every game every game cheering us on and encouraging us to win,” Buddle said. “It’s an honor. I didn’t expect to win.”
Approaching their 10-year anniversary this fall, there currently are more than 250 season ticket holders associated with LARS. Although some don’t have season tickets, many LARS members don’t miss a game increasing the number jump to 350 members or more per game.
“It started with 32 names, 10 year ago,” said Skinner. LARS’ passion for the Galaxy has them driving for away
games. Some games as far as New York to see them face one of their many rivals in the New York Red Bulls. Many will make their way up to Seattle for first round playoff action. The Galaxy finished the 2010 regular season with the best overall record and will play the Sounders Nov. 7.
Not only do they share the love of the team and what happens on the field, but they are forming life long friendships and bonds with each other. They are more than just a supporters group.
“As corny as it sounds, the people in LARS are my family,” said Tucker. “Sometimes you can’t stand some members in your family, but I still have each of their backs in a second.”
Since the MLS is still relatively young and only in it’s 14th season, the LARS family is still growing. With future generations beginning to grow up around the Riot Squad and continuing to come back, the future looks to be bright.
“Our group has come from such a diverse cross section.” Skinner said. “It’s the team and the group that’s brought these people together.”
From police officers to college students, LARS has all kinds of members. But they all come together for two common purposes: the Galaxy and the Riot Squad.
The LA Riot Squad welcomes anyone who is passionate about soccer and the Galaxy. Together they will remain standing and chanting in the infamous sections of 138 and 139 at the Home Depot Center cheering on the Galaxy. As LARS member Rodriguez says, “If the team wins, loses or ties, we’re going to be there no matter what.”
For more on the LA Riot Squad visit their website: LARiotSquad.org.