Friday, March 09, 2007

Visca Barça!

I can't call it soccer, because that's the game where suburban American kids run around a field in a tight pack (presumably surrounding a ball of some kind) while their parents stand on the sidelines alternately drinking giant coffees and yelling, "Go, go, go!" at their kids. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I fully expect to be a coffee-swilling, yelling soccer-watcher one of these days.

I can't call it football, because that's the interminable TV show where giant black men either stand around waiting for something to happen or charge at each other as hard as they can while little white men with wires in their ears yell, "Go, go, go!" at them from the sidelines. Not that there's anything wrong with that either. They're all getting paid a whole lot of money, and I can't say I would pass up millions of dollars to run around in tight pants and be in soup commercials.

I can't be all ex-pat about it and call it futbol, because that's even worse than "amuse bouche" in terms of slap-worthy pretension. So I'm stumped. But whatever it should be called, it was fantastic. It was maybe the fifth professional sports game I've ever been to, but it's the first one that made me understand what all the fuss is about. The stadium holds 100,000 people, but it was a slow night, so there were only 70,000 there. Only 70,000 people all holding their breath together, all jumping up and screaming together, all chanting, "Hijo de puta!" together. I've never had so much fun swearing. And swearing is fun! I got so into it that I twisted my ankle leaping to my feet after a goal. I even found myself doing the back-seat-driver-shuffle with my feet, but instead of mashing on an imaginary brake pedal, I kept trying to nudge an imaginary ball.

The game we saw was an extra-exciting one, because there were four goals scored. I know the joke is that it's a boring game because nothing ever happens, but it's actually more exciting. There might not be any goals scored at all, or there might be one or two, so when one happens, it's a huge deal. All 70,000 people leap out of their seats simultaneously, screaming. There is hugging. There is even a little crying. There are flags as big as bed sheets. I was sitting next to a guy who clearly spends his days being very quiet and respectable, and for most of the game, he wouldn't do any more than mutter, "Venga, venga, venga!" under his breath. But he leapt up and yelled with everyone else at the first goal, and even threw his hands up for a moment before he composed himself. After sitting next to him for two hours, leaping and yelling and muttering together, I felt like we'd been through quite an experience, and I half wanted to kiss him on the cheek and wish him a safe trip home, but I didn't want to cause an international incident ("American Terrorist Assaults Local Accountant"), so I let him go without even a handshake.

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