Anticipation vs expectation vs entitlement

So. Something happened yesterday, and your view of what exactly transpired depends on your worldview:

–Barca kicked the crap out of its round of 16 opponent in Champions League play while also grabbing 3 away goals, to effectively kill off the tie.

–A ruffled, shaky Barca barely scraped by a weakened opponent, and it was a win, but it kinda sucked.

Whoa. That’s some “Rashomon” stuff going on there.

I came to this club a loooooong time go, when silver was a boon from the deities, rather than a birthright. I still retain the sort of shock that has me stunned and giddy when we win stuff. It’s like a birthday every day.

As I noted earlier this season, when things were still very different, to take note, and cherish this rare, beautiful collection of footballers that entertains and bedazzles us on a weekly basis, to be thankful for the joy because teams, like life, have a cycle.

So I admit to being a little surprised by some reactions to yesterday’s Champions League win after this club, used to drawing in away legs of knockout stage ties, won. With three of the most sumptuous goals you’re ever going to lay eyes on. Away goals. Killer away goals that make the coming home leg a lot easier to deal with. It was a pretty amazing thing, actually, given that everyone is already beginning to write the obituary for us. Was it the prettiest win in history? Nope. But it was decisive, and it was a win and an unexpected one — not just because of history. For me, all wins are unexpected.

Never forget that. Never expect this club to obliterate and crush any and all opponents, or even win. Any club can lose, on any day. Even the club that many are calling the greatest club footballing side evah. We should never, ever forget how amazing this club is. But that also means never, ever becoming the type cule who expects victory …. nay, destruction. Every. Last. Time. That path can only lead to disappointment.

And the goals. I have been screaming, clamoring for the kinds of bust-out, field-tilting, pace-based goals that Sanchez tallied, and there they were. In the Henry/Eto’o years we had greyhounds, straining at the traps. Defense won ball, slid to midfielder who popped it up the pitch for a streaking forward, ready to pounce on a defense that wasn’t set yet, that was still running backward for its natural life. Then bango! Goal! We got two of those yesterday, from two absurd passes. Then the third was a bull of a goal, a “doesn’t matter what you do to me, we need this!” kind of a goal where the smallest man on the pitch held off bigger ones who were bound and determined to deter him. Then he laid a flawless ball off to another determined man, who concentrated, and put that return ball in the perfect spot for our rampant little bull (no flea this time, no sir) to simply tap home, via nutmeg to boot. And that was after an earlier, post-thwarted run so remarkable that even the opposition defense was patting him on the back as if to say “Damn, dude. Sorry that didn’t go in.”

How in the hell can we ever expect such things to happen, to not smack ourselves upside the head in gape-mouthed astonishment when they do?

Even when we were, in the glory days, laying on gaudy scorelines, it was all still very surreal for me. If you remember the Rivaldo hat trick that secured fourth place for us, you know what I mean. This stuff that’s going on right now is amazing. Crazy. Pinch myself and look for the supermodel waiting to feed me ice cream crazy.

And I love it. Every last second of it. Because this club is amazing, no matter what it does. When it tastes victory, so much the better. The manner matters not. Am I a victim of my damaged past? Maybe. Probably. It wasn’t that long ago that it had been two seasons with no silver. Remember that victory is never ever expected, never assured. Even now, good cules can be identified by the nervousness that will accompany the return leg. They will be saying “What if they win 0-3 at the Camp? It could happen. Aieeeee!”

Enjoy. Cherish. Revel, even. But never, ever have expectation. This club, NO club, is ever that good. Even our coterie of magical woodland sprites.

Because as the late Al Davis said, “Just win, baby!” It mattered not to him how pretty, whether by a point or six touchdowns. Success is precious. Embrace it; but never expect it to be there.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. psqd
    February 15, 2012

    Expectation breeds disappointment.


    If you expect the manita you will not enjoy the manita.

    Nor will you enjoy a 3-1 away win in a place where you are the only team to have one more than once in the CL.

    cheers to the reality check!

  2. February 15, 2012

    We are too used to a good thing. The poor run of late is a good reality check for fans if anything.

    Thiago and the Lever keeper enjoying a ‘moment’ in the pic above. Tango anyone?

  3. February 15, 2012

    Copy paste from last post:

    Working on the review slowly at the moment (I can’t conjure brilliance out of thin air like Kxevin can).

    Interesting spread of comments. My brother (and Arsenal fan as you might know if you pay attention to me) watched the game and was texting me during it. Some direct quotes:

    “Barcelona is too good it’s almost boring to watch”

    “They dominated”

  4. kmlewis1980
    February 15, 2012

    Thanks you for this, Kxevin. I was appalled yesterday at some of the things I was reading around the Internet. Some cules are in need of a reality check of epic proportions.

    • Messiah10
      February 15, 2012

      I haven’t seen much from other internet sites b/c been crazy busy lately. What’s the word??? Some ignorant Cules(bandwagon fans) complaining we didn’t score in the 1st 35 minutes? Messi’s pass was so Out Of This World that he picked out 2, yes TWO, players!!! SICK! I was so ecstatic to see Shaqira sit yesterday. Oh, wait, she was being attacked by a Sea Lion! lmao! Seriously, he needed that. Pep couldn’t have made a more clear point to Pique. “The team is what matters, not your girlfriend, not your beard(where Shaqira’s been hiding during games, that’s why he’s been beaten so many times this year). You sit this one out and think bout how the team needs you refocused. Bring that DESIRE back and you’ll get your spot back.” Anyway, that’s what I hope Pep said.

  5. February 15, 2012

    Nice piece, Kxevin.

    A quote from Guardiola in the presser yesterday sums up the situation for me.

    Guardiola: “It seems that not winning the CL would be a failure, as if it’s that easy to win it… What we want is to compete every game.”

    Retaining no state from previous seasons, perhaps the inconsistencies creeping into Liga games (or randomness as Pep puts it) have been a tad disappointing, but taking into context the mind boggling level this team has been playing at for the past 3.5 years, it’s entirely natural that this is happening. There’s also too much fixation on “end of an era”, not every loss signals a decline, sometimes its just a readjustment needed before winning again.

    To add some historical perspective, an extract from a Miguel Delaney piece.

    “Of course, part of the problem with Barca is the high standards and expectations they have set for themselves over the last three incredible seasons.

    But, when you place this campaign in a proper historical context, it becomes a lot more comprehensible.

    Because, first off, none of Europe’s genuinely great teams have ever won four domestic titles in a row. Real Madrid only won two while racking up five European Cups in the ’50s, Ajax 1967-73 never even won a three in a row, Bayern finished 10th in the league in 1975 and Liverpool 1975-85 saw one run of titles interrupted by Aston Villa. Perhaps most astonishingly of all, Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan only won one Serie A in four years.

    Furthermore, it has proven almost impossible for any team to win four-in-a-row in one of Europe’s major leagues in recent history. In Spain, it hasn’t happened since 1994. In Italy, it’s only happened once since the ’40s and that was because of Calciopoli. In England and Germany, it’s never happened.”

    So if we’re just routinely expecting Barca to win 6 Liga titles and 4 CLs in a row, scoring manitas in every game, with an opponent as strong as current Real Madrid to compete against, we have to pause and think where the problem lies. 🙂

    • Messiah10
      February 15, 2012

      Fantastic Post! Couldn’t have quoted better myself! I guess I may have fallen victim to expecting “easy wins”, maybe not easy, but definitely wins. I know the odd loss or draw is expected, but this team has set such high expectations that their away form is astonishing considering their play the last 3.5(as you put it)years. It really makes you stop and reflect just how SPECIAL this team is and what they’ve accomplished. I will be PROUD of this team, this year, regardless of a trophy haul. With all that said, I still have enough belief, confidence, and pride, to say they WILL win the CL.

  6. February 15, 2012

    Some relevant excerpts from the Guardiola presser today:

    “I am not dealing with footballers, I am dealing with people. They have fears and worry about failing and making fools of themselves in front of 80,000 people. I have to make them see that without each other they are nothing.”

  7. ooga aga
    February 15, 2012

    just saw on soccernet that in 15 appearances (8 starts, 7 subs) nolito has 8 goals in the portuguese liga for benfica.

    go nolito!

  8. mom4
    February 15, 2012

    Dreadfully off topic but…

    Go Arsenal!

  9. Hassan Chakroun
    February 15, 2012

    when Rivaldo was the maestro.. he was the pupil
    when we were going thru a dry spell.. he was contemplating

    when we had Deco.. he was watching
    when we had Ronnie.. he was learning
    when Rijkaard left.. he was there
    when Pep came.. he was there

    when we are wishing.. its up to him
    when we are good..its because of him
    when we are bad.. he is here to pick us up
    when we dream.. he fulfills
    when we achieve.. he humbly disappears
    when we celebrate.. he sets a new goal

    when his foot touches the field.. he achieves
    when he plays at the camp nou.. he is a king
    when he misses.. he improves

    when he receives his ballon d’or.. he credits others
    when he is talked about.. he smiles
    when is criticized.. he listens

    When we are Barca.. he is Leo Messi

    we love you king Leo

  10. Jafri
    February 15, 2012

    I acknowledge the trophy-less years, the times when our team was consistently abysmal. I know we can’t take victory for granted. That every win is precious. I won’t blame the referee if we lose, or whine about the quality of our play if we win.

    But this here may just be the best team ever. It’s not a sense of entitlement, a win’s not something I take for granted, but I’ll be damned if I don’t think Barcelona will beat every single opponent that takes the field against them. It’s not arrogance, it’s just the amount of faith I have in this team.

  11. February 15, 2012

    Gotta say, I hate everything Ibra ever said about Pep and our goody two shoes team, but when he’s on, he’s brilliant to watch. So elegant and technically adept.

  12. hansh
    February 15, 2012

    I’m the first to admit that I only started watching Barca recently (last April), and I haven’t watched a Barca team that isn’t successful. However, my hometown baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, has a long and distinguished history of screwing up spectacularly just when you finally think they’re gonna win something, and they have conditioned me to believe that all my favorite teams are inevitably going to fail. Every time Barca is defending a lead I expect them to concede.

    But here’s the flip side: every time Barca is trailing with a few minutes left, I equally believe that someone will start making magic runs for us, someone will pull out an impossible assist, and we will score a goal. I believe in this team and this team’s ability to create magic, even when a magical play seems laughably improbably in the context of a badly played game.

    Anyway, I’m pleased with yesterday’s performance. You nailed it Kvexin – the *goals*! I’m nervous about the return leg because I know that any team can crumble at any time, but this team does beautiful things on the field, and what more can a fan ask for?

    • mom4
      February 15, 2012

      my hometown baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, has a long and distinguished history of screwing up spectacularly just when you finally think they’re gonna win something

      Yeah…well my hometown team is the Orioles so if you’re disappointed by yours, I ought to be clinically depressed by mine 🙂 (although I can’t bring myself to watch much baseball any more…watching paint dry is more exciting)

      But here’s the flip side: every time Barca is trailing with a few minutes left, I equally believe that someone will start making magic runs for us, someone will pull out an impossible assist, and we will score a goal. I believe in this team and this team’s ability to create magic, even when a magical play seems laughably improbably in the context of a badly played game.

      I’ve only been a fan since 2009/2010 so I’m feelin’ you on this. We’ve only seen the wonder and not the hardship. Many think this makes us “bandwagoners” but I think also that can make us more appreciative. Since you’re American like me, I’m assuming that you happened accross this brand of magic quite by accident as well (I was introduced by friends. I came for the Messi, stayed for the Xavi club). I personally never knew soccer like this existed. It is magic!

      …what more can a fan ask for ?


      • hansh
        February 15, 2012

        But the Orioles are bad enough that you can just give up on them (sorry). The Red Sox demand your attention because they actually play well, and then they break your heart all the more when they lose!

        Funny story about how I became a Barca fan. I watched the last World Cup religiously, though I had never watched pro soccer outside MLS. My cousin is a fan of La Roja, so I rooted for them too and was introduced to a bunch of blaugrana stars. Then last year a Spanish teacher mentioned the cultural significance of clásicos, I decided on a whim to watch them, and here I am!

        I still feel like a bit of an outsider with Barca, but I can definitely appreciate the club’s achievements.

  13. Dave
    February 15, 2012

    The negatives of Ibrahimovich far outweigh the positives. Just not a Barca player. Barca don’t need prima donnas
    Arsenal look absolutely rubbish. No aggression, no fight and no leadership. There midfield are lightweight and show no personalty. If I was an Arsenal fan I would be ashamed and refuse to pay to watch them until they showed some fight. Walcott still looks like a lost child, their cbs are being bullied by Zlatan

    • Dave
      February 15, 2012

      Robinho is scoring, that says it all.

  14. Blau-Grenade
    February 15, 2012

    Alexis’s two goals reminded me of Eto’o. They were both Eto’esque. He has a similar pace and finishing capability. I l loved the three goals scored yesterday.

    • Ron Mexico
      February 15, 2012

      I got the same feeling. His explosiveness is something we’ve not seen from a forward outside of Messi since the treble winning season. And I mentioned this in the previous thread, but his finishing is something I was concerned about prior to this season, but wow, he can really finish can’t he?

    • February 15, 2012

      Yes quite similar. Good comparison. Dare I say Alexis is more skilled on the ball. Eto’o was perhaps a bit quicker but not by much. Sanchez is more placement on his shots (not to say Eto’o wasn’t) but Eto’o had a far more powerful strike. Also was one of the few players (though in fairness was already established on team when Messi was rising) not to always look for Messi first. He would do whatever the hell he wanted and bang in goals for fun. It worked for us. Quite well.

  15. mom4
    February 15, 2012

    My second team is losing magnificently. 4-0 now. Go ahead, Milan, you might as well lay a manita on them. Imma go purge myself by watching last night’s game again. 🙁

    • Ron Mexico
      February 15, 2012

      You’ve got to be kidding me..

  16. Lev
    February 15, 2012

    Awwwwwwww does this mean we don’t get to play Arsenal in the CL this year? 🙁

  17. February 15, 2012

    Reviews up.

    Good call on likening Sanchez to Eto’o, had that thought the other day.

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