[It's been a bit since I wrote something of value for BFB. Time, you know. Not much of it. Still, sorry!]
As I stare at my laptop screen, I wonder how I should frame this post. Should I explore the blame route where the coach, players, the fandom are taken to task? Or should it be the sadness route where we relive the destruction of the sporting project that has seen an entire core of players either misused or sold? Maybe stroll down anger road and blast this useless board and their financial agenda? Perhaps make parallels between the fall of Cryuff’s Dream Team and the Sir Bobby Robson era, and Pep’s Dream Team and Tata Martino era?
The answer is: I don’t know. I really don’t.
Following Barca these days is a lot like seeing a Greek tragedy write itself before your eyes. You’re the unseen audience and no matter how hard you yell at the hapless protagonists to not do that stupid thing you’re about to do or bang on the window glass of the clueless voting populace to alert them of incoming stupidity, you’re still invisible, the observers without a voice.
It has all the tropes you could think of and all the plot twists and red herrings of popular media. Old foes clash in a battle of ideologues, priorities and wit. Betrayals and alliances. Naive Newcomer Tata Martino jumps into a snake pit of insidious media and skeptical fans to lead a jaded group to new glory; only he’s having a tough time as his incompetent bosses need to appease their non-existent shareholders and make a 30m profit for their dividends. Just when Villain Protagonist Sandro Rosell comes out with a signing of a brilliant rising star, Spanner in the Works Jordi Cases appears with a lawsuit. Oh, but another twist, Anti-Hero Martyr Rosell engineers a resignation so his more media-friendly number two takes the helm. And round and round we go.
There was a journalist on Twitter who quipped a few minutes after the loss to a Valladolid that’s only one four games previously, “By the way, Puyol’s been smart…’ To jump ship, went without saying. But has this Barca had a true exodus yet? On the one hand, you can say yes: Pep, Cryuff, Abidal, Thiago, Valdes, Puyol to name a few. But on the other hand, Messi, Iniesta, Busi, Neymar to name a few are still around to make up the core of the team. We know Xavi, complaints about pitches aside, will go down with this ship — if he has his way, which is still not guaranteed despite his record appearances for the club. And that’s part of it, isn’t it?
To say fans are ruled by their passion is to say Messi might be decent at this football business (or maybe that’s a bad comparison, seeing how people have been talking about him lately…) They demand excellence at all times; this has its pros and cons. It leaves the team with standards. If the local hero isn’t at that level, they’ll turn on him. In the heat of the moment, past glory means nothing. On the flip side, play well and you’re untouchable. When times are good, it’s freaking awesome. When it’s bad, it’s nightmarish.
But like a true tragedy it’s those ruled by their passion that fizzle out the hardest. Pep Guardiola left because he was burnt out. Mentally fatigued Valdes decided he needs to outsource his talents to new employers after a pressure cooker career. Puyol’s body couldn’t take the punishment the soul it housed demanded it endure. And in the end, no one can change the mind of a passionate and principled individual (except their parents, maybe). That leaves the fans more inclined to thinking trying to make sense of the body of work, of what’s left. Where did it all go wrong? Nowhere or everywhere. Maybe it was a disaster, maybe it’s the natural progression of events. Maybe too much stuff happened off-screen that we’re not privy to.
In a moderately received post I made some time ago, there was a hastily made flow-chart of fan arguments in response to big games. Fans being fans, there is always a way to make any possible scenario turn into some kind of online victory when they are debating an ‘outsider.’
The cule reactions would be much shorter of course; Did we win? By how many goals? How well did we play? All of that satisfied? Ok, we’re the best in the world. Fail to reach any of those and we go, depending on the aforementioned conditions, from an underachieving, lazy band of dimming icons to the fungus underneath the dying hopes of an entire fandom.
As usual, the answer is somewhere in between. The team definitely has a lot of fat that needs to be trimmed, for those who like stock pundit phrases, it needs to be reinvigorated but more importantly it needs a good head on its shoulders to lead it. No, I don’t mean the coach; I mean the people up top. But that’s just one opinion. For some it’s the manager, others the gutless players.
At the end of a disappointing day, week, season, years, we’re left trying to analyse the work and find some answers. I don’t really know what to say, honestly. There will be an exodus at Barça, but will it be the board or the players? I just pray it doesn’t end in a real Greek tragedy.
Question of the Day: If you could change one thing at Barça on or off the pitch, what would it be?