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THE INSIDE TRACK | SUNDAY SCENE / BILL PLASCHKE

If Your Goal Is Fun, Rose Bowl Is the Place

June 16, 1996|BILL PLASCHKE

Fifteen reasons you should be among the 90,000 at the Rose Bowl for today's Major League Soccer game between your undefeated Los Angeles Galaxy and the Tampa Bay Something-or-others:

1--During a recent two-month period, the Galaxy had one more win (10) than the Detroit Tigers.

2--You can buy your pregame breakfast outside the front gate from a place called "Here Today, Gone Tamales."

3--You can walk past fat guys executing perfect slide tackles over empty potato salad tins.

The tailgaters' soccer games in the Rose Bowl parking lot look like tryouts for Hooligans A.C. There is much hooting, hood-rattling and pants that drop halfway down butts.

The winner is the one who has enough breath left to kick the ball between two pineapple cans. The neighborhood may be Pasadena, but the parking lot is wonderfully Los Angeles.

4--The Galaxy is the only team in Los Angeles with an official jalapeno.

5--Among the end-zone fans known as the Galaxians--your usual group of painted faces screaming odd cheers--there is a guy who spends the entire game wearing an unmarked motorcycle helmet.

He doesn't lead cheers or do anything special, he just wears the helmet. As if he forgot to take it off.

6--The Galaxy had the guts to hire Nick D'Egidio.

D'Egidio is a Las Vegas crooner who claims to do a pretty good national anthem. The Galaxy bought it and flew him to Pasadena late last month to begin a game against the Columbus Watchamacallits.

He arrived in his Las Vegas tux and expensive smile. What he didn't bring were the words.

What followed was something like this: "Oh say can you see, de-de-do-do-dah, what so proudly we dum, de-do-dah-dah last gleaming."

But, like the Galaxy, Nick wouldn't go away. Halfway through, he spread his arms, stopped, and started from the beginning.

"Hysterical," said Galaxy defender Dan Calichman.

7--The Galaxy has the most exciting pro athlete in town this summer. He's faster than Troy Percival, more versatile than Rex Hudler and more popular than Mike Piazza.

His name is Jorge Campos, a Mexican goalkeeper who has so enamored the fans with his outlandish clothes and saves, they think he is Superman. In the most recent home game, he darn near proved it.

Late in the game he was pulled from goal and moved to a forward position. This required a change of clothes. No big deal. He undressed right on the sidelines, dropping his goalkeeper's shorts to reveal another pair underneath.

He ran out to midfield to a standing ovation. Within 10 seconds, he had slapped one of the opponents in the nose.

He was later escorted from the locker room surrounded by four security guards.

You wonder what it would be like if Jorge Campos were any taller than Chad Fonville.

8--The play has the intensity of World Cup games, with the large fan involvement of World Cup games, without the absolute confusion of World Cup games.

Because there is a large game clock in the end zone. And it actually works.

(Another important timepiece note: Barring a shootout, two hours and you're out of there.)

9--The Galaxy is the only team in town with a player--Cobi Jones--who is host of a show on MTV.

It is the only team with two players--Jones and Campos--who appear on a box of nationally distributed cereal.

The Galaxy is also the only team with a player who is a regular on prime-time television. His name is Andrew Shue. His teammates called him "Melrose." Sometimes they even kick it to him.

10--After every home game, Galaxy players run around the edges of the field waving to the crowd and mouthing two words rarely heard from professional athletes: "Thank you."

11--Galaxy players apply ice to their sore joints in plastic bags taken from the fruit and vegetable section of Vons.

12--Galaxy players party together at one place after the games like other teams, with one twist. The fans are invited.

"We're not $10-million players you can't touch," said Calichman, who was recently studying science at Harvard. "I'm 28, single, don't own a house, don't own a suit."

With an average salary of about $75,000, they also don't complain when they fly commercial airlines and share rooms in mid-level hotels.

"Hey, I work 2 1/2 hours a day, and I get to play a game," Calichman said. "I'm loving this."

13--With one more win, the Galaxy will tie the record for best start by a Los Angeles professional football team. Under George Allen, the Rams began the 1969 season with 11 consecutive victories.

14--When you return to your car in the Rose Bowl parking lot, there will be a flier on the window advertising an upcoming wrestling match featuring the likes of Jim "the Anvil" Neidhart and the Great Sasuke.

15--The Galaxy is the greatest team in Major League Soccer history.

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