I’m right on time to see Giovani Dos Santos arrive at LAX, but he’s running late. About 45 minutes late, in the end — but the crowd of 150 doesn’t seem to mind.
I wind up standing behind two guys who have been waiting much longer. Louis is wearing an LA Galaxy jersey, Donovan’s #10, and his friend Felix wears a Mexican National Team jersey: Dos Santos, also 10.
“He’s a Galaxy fan,” says Felix, pointing to Louis. Then, pointing back to himself: “I’m a new Galaxy fan.”
That’s the theme of the day, and I overhear it recurring all around me. To my right, a woman in blue and yellow asks two other women if they’re LA Galaxy fans. “We are now,” they reply in unison.
“He’s a Galaxy fan. I’m a new Galaxy fan.”
The crowd’s a near-even split of Galaxy blue and Mexico green, with maybe a slight advantage to the green. It’s hard to imagine these fans ever rooting for the same side. Now they’re all lumped together, pressed against a railing in Terminal 2, with baggage claim conveyor belts whirring endlessly to their left.
“He’s definitely a big signing, because he’s still in his prime.” That’s what Louis, the LA fan, tells me. Smart take. Felix goes a step further: “For me,” he says, “it’s bigger than Beckham.”
I don’t know what it was like when Beckham arrived. I wasn’t there. When Giovani Dos Santos arrives, finally, 45 minutes later, I’m there: it’s chaos. But he faces the mob with a six-million-dollar, unwavering smile, and he shakes hands, and he shares hugs, and he signs jerseys.
Louis and Felix get their jerseys signed first. They turn to each other, wide-eyed, ecstatic. “He took my pen!” says Louis. “What!” “He took my pen!” he says again, and to prove it Louis shows us his bare hands, like a magician at the end of a vanishing trick.
Giovani Dos Santos pushes through the crowd and to a waiting SUV. The fans surround the vehicle, blocking it in, alternating between Galaxy chants and Giovani’s song. It was hard to imagine these fans cheering together. Now I don’t have to imagine.
The SUV drives away. Now the crowd is cheering just for the cameras. Louis and Felix are still in awe, and I ask them if they’re going to the next Galaxy game.
It’s the first time they hesitate. “Probably,” says Felix.
It’s like they hadn’t thought that far ahead. And it’s clear that while the LA Galaxy PR team couldn’t have asked for a better day, they still have work to do.