Keeping Track of the 3-Point Line: Expectations versus Reality

They’re like some strange cousin whose parents, your aunt and uncle that you invite over for the holidays every year, are always trying to get you to compete with. But you’re tired of having to re-explain the rules of driveway basketball (“No, the crack running parallel to the carport is the 3-point line”) and he can never seem to understand that the left side of the backboard is loose and so much softer than the right side. You can wang the ball into it as hard as you want and it’ll drop in. Yet your aunt and uncle, bless their hearts, can’t wait to tell you how much better he is than last year, how he benched some unreasonable amount at the gym last week, or how he goes for 10 mile runs on Saturday mornings before anyone is awake. And once there was that time he dunked during Horse.

When you’re not there, he’s Yo Yo Ma, but when you are there, he’s a first grader with a tuning problem. He’s always better equipped than anyone: he has the latest, greatest shoes; the best shorts; and even the James Worthy headband–a Stradivarius if we’re sticking with the classical thing. But sometimes he forgets to dribble or doesn’t know how to read sheet music. There’s so much hype surrounding him that when he shows up and stumbles over his own feet, drops his bow, or can’t open the door properly, you can’t help but feel disappointed, even when you know from the moment you hear “Thanksgiving with your aunt and uncle” that it’s coming.

Do you guys even know the rules?

That is Atletico de Madrid. They may be coached by a master motivator; they may have spent generous amounts over the last few seasons; or they may have, in their infinite wisdom, finally gotten rid of some of the superfluous pieces of their lineup, but they’re stuck in a hamster wheel. But what can you say about them without sounding something like a recording of yourself the last time you brought them up? What was a clever-ish insult a couple of seasons ago when you first heard it–“Patetico? Ha!”–is now just part of their identity. I’m sure there are people out there who think that is the team’s actual name.

They’re only 1 point ahead of the supposed 4th team from the capital, Rayo Vallecano, a team that nearly beat Real Madrid this past weekend. It’s been something like 250 years since Atleti beat Real and even Getafe has done it more recently than that. When Team Burger King seems the less laughable of the teams in the discussion, there’s something going on. And that something is the burden of expectation.

Every off season, Enrique Cerezo and whoever the current manager is go on a little spending spree. They offload a Torres, a Kun, or a de Gea and then turn around and purchase a slew of failed projects. Rademel Falcao is looking like a wonderful purchase at the moment, having scored 14 league goals (though 5 have been penalties) and 17 in all competitions, but unless they end up in the Champions League, such expenditure hardly seems worth it. The trouble is that trying to build a team while requiring immediate success is always hard. Arda Turan was brought in to be a star and while he’s quietly playing well, he’s not blowing the competition out of the water. In the twisted world of Atletico de Madrid, that is failure.

Look at their most recent league finishes (in reverse chronological order): 7th, 9th, 4th, 4th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 7th, 12th. Before that, during that 2001-02 season, they were in Segunda. What looks like an aberration in this list are the two seasons in 4th, when Champions League was suddenly on the menu. That they’re expected to win week-in, week-out, that they’re expected to finish in a Champions League match is partly their own fault and partly the fault of those who go to the Calderon in droves (the team is 3rd in the league in attendance at 46,791). Sustained self-aggrandizement can lead to others viewing you just how you want, but if you don’t come through on your own goals and promises, you end up looking like hapless fools.

What is all of this doing on a Barcelona blog? If it’s not careful, Barça will go the way of Atleti, coming to expect tripletes and constant barrages of trophies. That is already happening to a large degree. It’s easy to get carried away, to think that we should win, that we deserve to win simply because we’ve got [insert your favorite player] and (had) UNICEF scrawled across our chest and we play so beautifully and we’re member-owned and etc etc. There are probably Atleti fans out there who would be ecstatic to end up in a Europa League spot and there are no doubt Barça fans cheering for us to make the Champions League. But they’re not the norm and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

The point is: don’t be that cousin or that aunt and uncle. Pay attention to the expectations and when they become absurd (“We didn’t get a manita? Lame!”) you should reevaluate where you stand on some things. If trophies are the be-all and end-all of sports for you, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you’ll find yourself with a new favorite team in just a couple of months. Winning is fun, don’t get me wrong, but look at Atleti: you win some, you lose some, and in the end you just hope you remember that the crack parallel to the carport is the 3-point line.

Categorized as Thoughts

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. First of all, the 3-point line is behind the rose bush.

    Second, Simeone, Atleti’s “master motivator”, is ultra lame. They’ve got no style anymore. I just can’t get behind that. Manzano had them playing so pretty. If that makes me a fair-weather fan, so be it.

  2. Great post, Isaiah! And something that every “fan” should keep in mind.

    Here, have some blitzen awards for your trouble:

    Messi Never Dives Award: I know Kari already put the video up in her previous post, but I am still gobsmacked at Messi’s absolute determination to get that ball back after getting knocked to the ground and swarmed by Atleti defenders. I could see that feisty little kid who used to play with his older brothers in the barrio.

    U Mad? Award: Sadly, the Atleti Ultras were in fine form during this game, and Dani Alves received his usual round of monkey chants and racial abuse. In typical Dani style, he chose to respond to this abuse by scoring a lovely goal and celebrating wildly in front of the camera. If anyone out there is a lip-reader and can tell me what he said to the camera, I would be very grateful!

    Life’s A Pitch Award: The Calderon groundskeepers. That thing looked more like a potato patch than a football pitch. When Iniesta and Messi (Messi!) can’t stay on their feet, you know something is very wrong.

    MOTM Award: This one’s a gimme, it’s Victor Valdes, of course. Brilliant brilliant saves showing once again why he is the best keeper in the world. Was on his toes when his defense was caught napping and can’t really be blamed for the goal he let in.

    Thinking Outside The Box Award: As in way outside the box and in someone else’s box. This one goes to Atleti keeper Thibaut Courtois, and I think you can see why from the picture Isaiah included in his post above.

    Jesus Wept! Award: It’s true that Iniesta had a quiet match by his standards, but after watching the game again I am more in awe than ever of his sheer brilliance with the ball. There is one moment around the 21:20 mark where he literally dances through three defenders who are closing in on him, passing the ball from foot to foot and back again. Also, Iniesta got shirty with the ref. I love it when Iniesta gets shirty with the ref. Only he and Xavi are allowed to be mouthy, everyone else can STFU. 🙂

    Was There A Group Rate? Award: Cesc, Alexis, Xavi & Puyol were all sporting new ‘dos. I suspect a local barber was having a 2-for-1 special and Rosell rubber-stamped the expense. Or maybe Fontas is using his time off to learn a new skill and practising on his teammates. I approve.

    Ring My Bell Award: Cesc Fabregas, for that nasty come-from-behind revenge tackle on Juanfran, which earned him a yellow card and a well-deserved knock to the face for his trouble. From Juanfran’s ass. 😛 Could easily have gotten him sent off. Bad Cesc.

    Whiny Little Bitch Award: Cesc, again! Seriously, does he have to get in the ref’s face about every little thing? Has that ever, even once, worked? I love the boy, but he needs to concentrate on his own performance, not the referee’s.

    And that’s your lot.

    1. Also, Iniesta got shirty with the ref. I love it when Iniesta gets shirty with the ref. Only he and Xavi are allowed to be mouthy, everyone else can STFU.
      I’d give Puyi a pass for allowed shirtiness, too! Just because… well because it’s Puyi and everything Puyi does is awesome.


      Deserves its own award!

    2. As always, a pleasure. Literally lol-ed at the shirty Iniesta comment because it’s so true.

      Masche needs some kind of award for the CB 101 refresher course that he tried to teach to Pique on Sunday.

    3. I forgot one:

      3+1+1+3+4+1+2 Award: Self-confessed Scrabble champion Gerard Pique. Can anyone guess what word he spelled?

    4. Dani: according to twitter, he dedicated the goal to his kids: “Papa loves you, this one is for you.”

  3. There are a lot of interesting storylines concerning internationals this week, even though they are poorly placed and easily ignored.

    Most interesting to me is who will don the captains armband for France. I think Abidal is the obvious choice. Other options include Mexes, Lloris, and maybe someone like Gourcuff (would be a huge mistake in my mind – remember when he was the next big thing and everyone was clamoring about how good he was?). It’s just hard to see how any of the French players deserve the armband over Abidal.

    Abidal however hasn’t exactly been at his best lately. To be fair he was playing like a beast both before and after his surgery last season, and was one of the best defenders in the world. I’m not sure if he has been struggling tactically due to the switching between the 3 and 4 man defense, or if it’s something else. Not trying to rag on him, but he hasn’t been the absolute rock he was for long periods last season.

    1. Sounds like he and the pleasant folks over at Punto Pelota are singing the same tune. I watched Monday nights episode where they responded to being banned, they feel they did nothing wrong and instead the host got on his soap box and put on blast the journalists and media outlets who claim PP used hidden cameras and microphones and mocked them for thinking they are credible journalists.

      For those interested here are the links:

  4. Great goal from Marcelo to open Brazil’s account against Bosnia and Herzegovina. I thought that the assist came from Dani, but they’re crediting Hernanes.

    1. Was expecting more from Ronnie, to be honest, but he played centrally and very deep. Just didn’t have the accuracy with the passes to send anyone streaking forward on a fast run.

    2. Looks to me like Dani was the one with the dribble and pass to Marcelo. Those 2 seem the best players tonight for Brazil, but that’s not saying a whole lot.

    3. From what little I’ve seen of it Brazil is playing pretty poorly. Dani and Marcelo do seem to be the best out there. But just why does Brazil let Dani take freekicks? Doesn’t the coach watch any Barca games?

    4. Yeah – it was like watching Barca on a bad night when the tika takka goes wrong. Too much short passing and unable to string more than a couple of passes together at once.

      Neymar got the “welcome to Europe” treatment from the big Bosnians – spent a lot of time eating grass. 😀

      Marcelo was the liveliest Brazil player on the pitch. Towards the end it looked like he picked up an injury – lots of stretching going on – maybe just cramp.

      Dani was the usual – good one next, mediocre the next. I was shouting at Row 10 to catch his freekick before he kicked it. 🙂

    5. They let Ronnie take one earlier on. It was poor and in to the wall. Figured Dani would at least avoid the wall (but not the 20th row).

    1. Yeah – mom4’s 5 top reason why she like this:
      1. Xavi’s modelling it
      2. Xavi’s modelling it
      3. Xavi’s modelling it
      4. Xavi’s modelling it
      5. Xavi’s modelling it


      Hey – it could belong to Argentina. Think that Messi could be tricked into wearing it?

    2. Haha, I thought exactly the same.

      Damn, that would be awesome. Would swing back the pendulum to la Furia Roja, right now I see Germany ahead. And Messi would finally have a real chance of winning a major title with a national team.

      I bet Argentina will once more shock with their line-up and tactics tomorrow 🙁

    3. Messi being tricked into playing for Spain because of the kit?
      Then again there’s the joke:
      How do you stop Messi?

      Make him wear white and blue.

      I hope they surround him with the proper supporting cats tomorrow.

    4. cats is okay, some players like Demichelis know as much about football as our neighbour’s cat 🙂

    5. Now now, nzm, that is only one reason. Honestly, I had a very visceral reaction to seeing our guys wear that white away kit lately. If I never have to see Xavi, Iniesta, or Puyol in white again it’s a good thing. Puyol in white, ugh! Sooooo wrong! But yeah, they picked the right guy to model it. imvho

    6. Yeah – but Iniesta in white was the worst – he looked like a lemonade popsicle without the stick. 🙂

      Hope you got the pics of you, Dad4 and J (on La Rambla, by the Font de Canaletes, after the RM-Barca CdR match), that I sent you earlier today. I finally got them out of the camera!

  5. ahahahahaahahhhhaahhahaha

    oh my lord, are you seriously comparing Barça with Pathetico?

    the high expectations fans have from Barça are completely justified year in year out. we’re talking about ‘[at least] Spain’s second team, so if you don’t shoot for la liga every year, then whatever for?

    ah, being realistic and not believing own hype, that’s another story. even in seasons like 2001-2003, Barca stared out with liga expectations, them dying on the way being a different matter.

  6. from
    “España reacciona gracias a Tello

    España remontó un partido que tuvo siempre dominado pero que cambió con la entrada del barcelonista, que fue el mejor del partido.”

    Visca Tello!

    1. what where the main talking points? Too bad the site i used to watch it on, the person stopped uploading.

  7. Thanks Isaiah for ‘keeping it real’. As a football fan that fell in love with Barca when Romario scored ‘that goal’ against Real Sociedad I certainly appreciate it.

    1. Actually, it’s an alleged wunderkind named Ruben Loftus-Cheek. And the interest is also alleged, because it’s a story from the Daily Mail, and you know what that means.

    1. Not enough screens, not enough eyes, not enough brain capacity to watch 4 to 5 matches simultaneously 🙂

    2. I have everything available: all the ESPNs including Deportes, Fox Soccer, GolTV, even the Spanish language package so that I can get TVE, which one year was the only place to watch the Barca/Sevilla SuperCopa on TV. Weird. I also have TV5/Monde, for France NT matches (whew!)

    3. I’ve got the DVR set to record Swi. v Arg.(GOLTV) and Italy v USA(ESPN2). My DVR can only do 2 shows at a time. I’m counting on ESPN3 for the rest. My priorities are Esp then Arg but I will dutifully force myself to watch and cheer for the USA later tonight (love my country—hate the ugly football).

      Your Germany v France game should be a good one. Don’t think France stands much of a chance, though. Sorry. Go Abi!

    4. ESPN2, 3, Deportes is pay-tv, right?

      They show Germany-France later on on ESPN Deportes.

      I’m once again amazed how many football matches the US pay tv offers. And disappointed that in Germany, there’s only one live match and no internationals on pay tv at all :/

    5. ESPN3 is internet based. It’s like a live streaming thing that is part of my Comcast internet account. Access can probably be purchased by anyone, I assume. The games can be replayed for at least a month.

    6. You’re right about France. The one attractive thing about AT&T Uverse is you can record 4 shows at the same time, I think. I almost considered them, until they told me it would take a MONTH to get service installed at the new digs. I said to them “You people clearly don’t want my money, as Comcast will come to me tomorrow. Thanks.”

      Then after researching a bit more deeply, I was very happy I made the Comcast call, even if they don’t still offer GolTV HD in my area yet.

    7. Ah. I dream of the day I have the disposable income to have all those channels, instead of my current interest accumulating pile of debt.

    1. Some people like to keep track of how their (club) players are performing on an international level. Others like to watch the evolution of the NT they cheer for. Some, like me, are excited to see how players like Iker Muniain and Roberto Soldado will fit into the team.

      And some just enjoy watching football no matter who is playing. You are of course welcome to not watch or comment if you don’t.

    2. I’m European, and I care about it.

      Not the result per se, but how the Barca players perform, that nobody gets injured.
      I care about England’s reaction to Capello’s exit, how France will take on Germany in the first serious test before the Euro etc.

      There’s no silverware to win today, but insight into the development of each team.

      I also admit that I feel schadenfreude if Portugal and CR play rather bad, even if it’s just a friendly. A frustrated and crying Crynaldo is always fun to watch! I’m already looking forward to Portugal getting smashed by Germany in the first match of the groupstage 🙂

    3. Well…I care about nobody getting injured, which is the biggest reason I wished these friendlies never took place. I would have loved for Messi to actually have 10 days of rest because of his suspension.

      And good point about enjoying watching a crying Ronaldo, LOLZ, but other than that friendlies are boooooring and meeeeaningless to me.

      I don’t even care how our Barça players do for their national teams…why would I if they are not wearing the blaugrana?

      I don’t care about my country’s friendlies, not even when we play Germany. It’s a friendly. Nothing is at stake. The players play like nothing is at stake, while they should rest instead.

      I don’t get to watch the qualifying matches any more but I used to when I still lived in my own country, but the EUROs or WC, it’s on!

    1. Maybe now Kun can start.

      What a play between el Kun and Messi!!

      Ray Hudson quote (maybe not verbatum):
      Like a happily married couple. Messi washes; Aguero dries.

  8. I’m just going to DVR everything, and have a fast-fowarding orgy after work this evening.

    My life. Sometimes I don’t even get to fast-forward through everything. I’m such a hoarder, too. I hardly have any working memory for future recordings.

    1. Ummmmm. When they talked about Barca they mentioned how Cruyff as manager of Barca in 1992 also called the league to be lost when Madrid were leading only for us to go on and win it on the last day.

      Then they interpreted that Pep is either looking for a response from the team when he said the league is lost quote or is fuming at the calls that are going Madrid way and against us. They even went as far to say that Pep has instructed or discussed with the squad to focus on the King’s Cup and UCL more and just stay competitive in the league.

      Guillem implied that Pep is itching to say about those calls but is holding back. Then they talked about Ramos intentionally elbowing the Rayo player in the box and not even a yellow card was shown or PK given.

      Graham Hunter talked about Torres being left out of the Spain squad and what he can do to get back into the national team.

      There is much more but can’t remember exactly word for word.

    1. change that:

      Sui 1 : Messi 3

      “and he didn’t really have a spectacular game, he was only magnificient.” ( Ray Hudson)

    1. Yes, it was. Happy for Messi.
      Nonetheless nobody should get carried away, a draw would have been a fair result. Still no identity, no gameplan to be seen at Argentina. And the defense, no comment.
      It’s terrifying, I cannot see a positive development. Independant of the coach, it’s always everything up to Messi, whole responsibility on his shoulders. You might win friendlies, even against teams like Brazil or France this way, but never a tournament. It’s deadlock for Argentina since 3 or more years, and I fear this will continue for a long time. Whole AFA needs to be re-structured, but some or many fans have been saying this for nearly decades :/

  9. Messi hattrick, Spain winning, England losing, Germany losing. Looks like this is a good day of international futbol for me so far.

  10. Former Barcelona vice-president Albert Perrin has launched an attack on the club’s directors in an interview with COMRadio Barcelona on Wednesday.

    “The current board is not making it easy for Guardiola to renew,” Perrin said. “There is not a good atmosphere. They don’t defend him – it is Guardiola who has to make statements when it should be the president. These things eat away at you. There is no feeling between Rosell and Guardiola, at least not like before.

    “It is difficult. When you come into office, you take over something you haven’t made. This is the team that we built and the coach who we took a chance on. I hope, I think and I wish that Guardiola will continue for the good of Barcelona.”

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