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A quick one, on migration, from casual viewer, to fan, to lover, to cule. I can imagine some long-time FCB fans, making this speech that Yoda made as he dismissed a young Luke Skywalker:
Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Cules. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained. A Cule must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away … to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Cule craves not these things. You are reckless.
If, tomorrow, your local news program said that a meteor was going to be visible, streaking across the night sky, what would you do? Damn right, you would. You’d get yourself to the best observation point, and watch that once-in-a-lifetime sucker, gawking at it like the marvel that it is. Now imagine this Barcelona team as that meteor.
Not only here at BFB but in the world at large, we fans are many, spanning a range from “They lost. Whatevs,” to “They lost. I’ll be in my room with a pillow over my head.”
And constantly, whatever the sport, long-time fans scoff at bandwagon fans, as if they are these silly Johnny Come Latelys, who have no right to discuss or enjoy a team. But you know what? Many years and a pile of soci cards ago, I too was a newbie, stumbling across a highlight of a wonder goal and thinking “Boy, what the hell was that!”
Today, I love my club. Over everything. Players, presidents, boards, sponsorships, comings and goings. It is always, and always will be, the club. Does that make me any more of a fan than the person who saw that meteor streaking across the footballing sky, and said “I’m in!” No. Many of us, at the end of this season, have said “Well, the bandwagon will be a little lighter, now,” and we’ve said it for different reasons. I wrote a while back that you know you’re a true fan when a team can break your heart. And I believe that. But you can still be a fan.
Further, the glory that is Barca isn’t diminished because people are flocking to it because suddenly, our club is all the rage. It’s pretty funny to go from wearing a Barca shirt and having nobody react, to having strangers scream “Meessssiiiii,” at you, or give you the thumbs up. And that’s good funny, because casual fans become devoted fans become cules become (if someone decides to undo what RoSELL did) socis. And the club’s beating global heart continues to get stronger.
There is a certain arrogance endemic to sport, contained in the “Oh yeah? Well I’ve been a fan since even before the club was born. When the Big Bang was about to happen and that first piece of matter split, I was a fan. Neener!”
I have a seatmate at work who is a crazed Chicago White Sox fan. She has followed the club her entire life, as has her husband. One part of me wouldn’t be surprised if it was a condition of marriage. Her three children are all Sox fans. She has had a season ticket for decades, and bought a townhome in the shadow of the ballpark, as soon as they went on offer. In 2005, the White Sox won the World Series, and they did it in a swashbuckling, home run-bashing way that for many, was as captivating as our Barca is for casual baseball viewers. And she said of those casual fans, “Good! Bring them on. Even if they don’t become real fans, the team that I love deserves the attention.”
And it’s true, even as it runs deeper. Every now and again, during a particularly heated battle with a Premiership club, we will get some of those divine fans, who say “Hmph, how can you be a fan of Barca. You don’t even go to matches and probably don’t live in Barcelona! Hmph!”
As if that freakin’ matters. This season was the first in some time that I didn’t have a chance to get to Barcelona for a vacation, and matches. Life, circumstance all conspired to deprive me of the singular joy of clutching that ticket in my hand, sliding it under the scanner and having my heart leap as it beeps and goes green, even now, as if this is somehow a dream that can be snatched away — the scanner will buzz, flash red and I will wake up from my nightmare. And you walk into the Camp Nou …. and even when it’s empty, you swear you can hear things …. screams, bellows of rage, echoes of long-gone joy and sorrow. I didn’t go, and I miss it so.
None of which makes me a damn bit better than a Barca fan who lives in Canada, or India, or Nigeria, who might never get to a match, who follows matches on a craptastic Web feed and would say “Gesundheit!” if someone walked up to them and said “Benvingut!”
This place is extraordinary, in that there is none of that institutional arrogance. A fan who just decided to follow the club this season is as welcomed by the family as those who watched Gaspart grow up. And this is as it should be. Because nobody owns a meteor. It’s there for the world to look at, marvel at and discuss for years to come. The more the merrier. Welcome. Ain’t it pretty?