It was 00.46am, Barcelona time, when I read an email Sebastian sent me last night on the tiny screen of my smart-phone. He asked me if I wanted to write something about Barça winning its third title in a row and maybe snap some pictures of joyful and probably drunk Barça fans celebrating in Plaça Catalunya.
I immediately felt bad, ashamed, even guilty. For a few minutes, I thought about what I was supposed to answer. It was nearly 1am, three hours after the “blaugranes” clinched the title against Levante. I was not in Plaça Catalunya, actually I did not go to "Canaletes", the unassuming fountain at the beginning of Les Rambles that has become, through the decades, the historical celebratory place for the “culés”. How could I tell Sebastian? I thought about lying, I thought about telling him I was sick or something. Then I thought a little more about it and, finally, I talked myself into believing that telling the truth was the best thing I could do and that, actually, writing a piece about it was a pretty good idea.
So, why didn't I go to “Canaletes”?
To sum it up in a short albeit unsatisfactory way, I did not go to celebrate because, like Gabriel Roberts, I did not “feel a thing”. And I feel very bad for it. I should be much happier, even ecstatic. Hell, it's the third “La Liga” title in a row, how many times has this happened? It's not an easy feat, at all.
I remember when Barça won the UEFA Cup Winner's Cup in 1997, when Ronaldo (the original, much more awesome and less whiny one) was on board. At the time I was living in Italy and, just like most, if not all of you, I was the outcast, the only guy rooting for a foreign team among all my Milan or Inter-cheering friends. It was cool, it made me somewhat oddly proud to be the only one caring for a faraway team. At the time, to make matters worse, it was really hard to cheer for a foreign team. Internet was just in its early porn-email-and-not-much-else stages and many times, when there was a Barça game, the most I could do was listen to a Spanish or Catalan radio. Forget about HD streaming channels on your shiny 17 inch laptop screen. The inherent difficulties of being a “faraway fan” made it even more compelling and thrilling.
For all these reasons, that hard fought win against Paris St. Germain really felt good. I was overjoyed. I went to school with my now vintage Barça jersey, eager to proudly boast the win with my elementary school friends.
Now, considering that I live in Barcelona, you'd think I'd be the first to run to Plaça Catalunya and climb on lamps clutching a Barça scarf, screaming like I was in a “The Exorcist 7” audition or something. Actually, I was one of those fans a few years ago. When we finally won “La Liga”, after the infamous six years drought, I was there, chanting, celebrating, drinking and, yeah, even climbing on urban furniture. In fact, if you've ever been to Barcelona, you have surely been to Plaça Catalunya and seen the antique Café Zurich, right next to the shopping mall “El Triangle”. Just in front of the Café there's a big newsstand. On the night Rijkaard's Barça broke the six-year spell I actually climbed on that very newsstand, with a Ronaldinho jersey on, my hair dyed blue and red and a victory cigar in my mouth.
Yesterday, however, I just watched the game in a posh bar with a couple of friends, sipped beer and awkwardly high-fived them at the end. And that's about it. And I admit it, in a certain way, it sucks. It sucks to be so used to winning that you can't even appreciate it anymore. It sucks that you can't even think back at those six seemingly never-ending years and realize that these are, and probably will always be remembered as the best years of our lives as Barça fans. We might not realize it fully yet, but we'll never see such a subliminally successful and artistically entertaining team like this. Think about it, in the span of seven years Barça has won five “La Liga” titles, two Champions League titles (knock on wood for the thir), one “Copa del Rey”, one Club's World Cup, one European Supercup and four Spanish Supercups. Not to mention we won six titles in just one year, which is, how can I say, kinda awesome?
I like to joke with my friends and tell them that winning the “hexable”, or whatever you wanna call it, two years ago was the worst thing that could've happened to all of us. Now, there's nothing bigger than that and, more importantly, there will never be anything bigger than that. In a way, reaching the peak of soccer glory made all the ensuing years somewhat meaningless, or at least less meaningful.
It shouldn't be that way, I know. But that's how I feel right now. It doesn't help that the “La Liga” is so easy to win now. I mean, look at the rankings. Valencia, the third best team, it's 25 points behind, and just two weeks ago lost 6-3 at home against Real Madrid's reserves. How can you feel too good about winning when you take that into account?
Maybe I just think too much, maybe I just turned into a “bourgeois” boring fan. Maybe, as I said, I'm just getting used to it and I need some losing to remember what winning is all about.
But you know what, maybe I just need to shut up and act like what I, deep down, still am: a true, hard-core, fan. That's why, tomorrow, I'll be on the streets of Barcelona, wearing my old Luis Enrique jersey, chanting and celebrating what it's still, no matter what, a great success.
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