This is a guest post from Isaiah. You can follow him on Twitter at @rockofthune.
I’m headed to Berlin in the morning to join a good friend in trying to turn a German city into one big mass of blaugrana merrymaking. For a portion of the day we’ll be partying at the fan zone near the Zoo in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district (or anyway, very near to that district—I’m still a bit hazy on neighborhood boundaries) and for the game itself we’ll be at the Berlin Penya’s location in Friedrichshain.
I’ve never been to a Champions League final and I most certainly won’t be in the stadium tomorrow, but I’m pretty excited to see the sights and sounds of a Berlin full of passionate fans. There’s the ever-present possibility of running into an angry crowd of Juve fans (regardless of the game’s results, or if it has even started), so there’s a tinge of danger, but mostly I’m just super excited to be there. I gave up fear and a little over 24 hours before kickoff as I write this, I’m somewhat surprised to find that it hasn’t crept back in.
What has crept in, though, is a lot of excitement. There’s joy to be had in getting together not only with a friend you rarely see thanks to the distance between our homes, but also in standing in a crowd of like-minded individuals all cheering for the same thing. Sure, in my intellectual life I like to be challenged, but these are moments when I’d rather stand with those who aren’t going to gloat if I lose or need to be consoled if I win.
When I was much younger, back in the heady and hot days of June 2010, I was watching the United States play Algeria in the World Cup group stage. I first went to a bar that had a lot of English fans cheering on their team against Slovenia, but at halftime I was tired of splitting my attention between 2 games and of sweating mercilessly in an unairconditioned bar on a 90+F day. So I walked down the street to join a few friends who had succumbed to the heat far earlier and I ended up living the brilliant Landon Donovan goal moment with a crowd of partisan fans. I hugged a random stranger. I danced with that man, whoever he is, and probably could have and should have kissed him just because, well, that was awesome.
It’s not necessarily that I’m hoping to get physical with another stranger this weekend, but I’m hoping that the joy and the fun of these last few months with the team continues on through the game itself, whatever the tensions, however well we think Paul Pogba can play, wherever we believe our own midfield to be in comparison to the halcyon days of June 2011 or some other fairly arbitrary “peak” we’ve tried to define with our desire for narrative arc.
This is the peak. This is the moment that this team has and it doesn’t matter the historical artifacts of a legend we’d all like to live through again: Xavi is leaving, Puyol is gone, Abidal will not lift this trophy, but there are other stories, regardless of who wins. I very much want Barcelona to win, to give Xavi the perfect sendoff, but if it’s Pirlo instead, that’s hard to argue. If he loses, poor Andrea Pirlo will have been beaten in something like 8,000 straight finals by the tiki-taka machine that he once considered joining. Still, I’m hoping that that happens, just not maliciously. I hope Iniesta lets Pirlo visit his vineyard in the offseason or something.
There’s another subset of fans whose lives are as wrapped up in their team as I am in mine and while I don’t happen to like their team, I’m impressed with their passion. And their legs. 683 miles in 9 days? Holy hell, that’s impressive. That’s 75 miles a day! I don’t even know if I’ve walked 75 miles in my whole life. That far every day for more than a week in order to get a single ticket? That’s dedication. So I guess I hope that Iniesta also invites him to his vineyard as a consolation prize. And also doesn’t make him walk there.
The subset of fans I’ll be with tomorrow might be a nervous wreck, but I suspect German malts, hops, and barley will assuage many of their fears pre kickoff. And that should be a lot of fun. I’ll try to snap some pictures in interesting places and get some thoughts on (digital) paper when I come back, but for now, I’m just thrilled to be going, to be taking part in a final. Whatever happens next year, tomorrow is going to be fun and let’s try not to lose sight of that: this is a party, try and have a good time. And let’s hope I hug some sweaty strangers.