Life isn’t like the movies … sometimes, it’s better

Sit down at a word processor and write the story of this Barça season, then shake your head. It’s crazy.

It’s always difficult to speak for everyone in a group, but these days are a pretty bizarre ride for this here culer.

And by “these days” I mean the last decade, from Ronaldinho’s samba football and Guardiola’s divine triangles to “Get em!” Enrique. What a time to be a culer, no matter when you came to the club.

It’s why it’s appalling when people want to make new fans somehow feel lesser because of when they came to the club. My interest in Barça started when the club was happy just to make Europe, much less dominate it. But that makes my joy no more or less real and valid than someone who just started following the club because they like Messi, and thought Guardiola was cool. Hell, people who are newer supporters find a lack of success even more wrenching than those who understand trophyless seasons and failure.

The culerverse is a big place.

But it’s still a bizarre ride because in this fairy tale season, a club and a team have embodied every single aspect of sport, and life. It’s still even deeper than that.

On April 27, 2014, Barça faced off against Villarreal. It was two days after the death of the club’s beloved Mister, Tito Vilanova. In a dark back room of a Chicago pub, lit only by the glow of flat-panel television sets, I sat on a bar stool and tried to hold it together during the moment of silence that preceded the match. It was impossible, just as it is impossible right now, as I type this.

And yet, in thinking about that time, staring at a laptop screen made blurry by a veil of tears and then thinking about today, comes the reminder that being culer is about everything. It’s rage, anger, mistrust, suspicion, delight, giddiness, exultation. It’s feeling betrayal as a favorite player is sold, it’s being happy when something wonderful happens to a millionaire in short pants who has no idea that you even exist. Sport consumes us because it is life, a crazy movie that lasts 90 minutes, breathless cliffhanger and love story.

I don’t care about the personal lives of the players, but you don’t have to look very hard to see magic and symbolism in the Iniestas welcoming a new child into the world in this amazing season, after the sadness of a miscarriage during a year that seemed cursed. If you were to write a story of a team and a season, this Barça and this season, and try to sell it as a book or movie, it would be rejected. “Make it more like real life, and we’ll think about it.”

Right down to Xavi lifting the Champions League trophy this has been a year of magic, culminating in making history and a club legend going out on top. This stuff is impossible to write. You wouldn’t dare. Too cheesy. The team’s last Champions League trophy was hoisted by a man who kicked cancer in the teeth, who left a note in the locker room of the stadium that hosted the final, a promissory note of greatness. And when that team’s Captain marched up to the podium, handing over the captain’s armband and letting that player hoist the trophy … “Make this story more like real life, and we’ll think about it.”

Xavi is past it. So many believed it. The line of fools has a spot reserved for me. Because Enrique knew better, he asked Xavi to stay. And when that player entered the pitch to finish what his successor in Iniesta started, to restore order and help the team that he spent his entire playing career at achieve ultimate success, the team that he almost left for fear he wouldn’t make it there …

“Make this story more like real life, and we’ll think about it.”

Belief and doubt. Even the most pessimistic among us has, deep down in their heart, hope and belief. You have to. People stomp around on Twitter, asserting that something is NEVER going to happen, but even they hope that it does. That’s the magic of it all, placing your joy in the hands of a complete stranger, then hugging a complete stranger when that joy is realized. But being culer is, in these emotional ways, no different than being a supporter of any other club. It would be wrong of us to assume otherwise, but it would also be wrong of us to feel those special moments any less, tears of joy and heartbreak. Their being universal helps us understand and explain them more easily.

Sport is life. I know people who don’t like sports, and it’s a little difficult to grasp their reasoning, because sport is life. In a match you can go from unparalleled joy to heartbreak in a few rotations of a spherical object. Great players do great things, great players fail. Journeymen have moments of divinity and become, for a few moments, superhuman. They often just as quickly return to mere mortality. It’s magic. The movies love sport because that world is bigger than real life in ways that make sane folks shake their heads. “No way. That didn’t just happen.”

It’s weird to wake up the day after something, and check to make sure it actually happened. Barça won a treble yesterday. Its supporters have a team for the ages, a team impossible to assemble so it was grown on-site, hewn from diminutive players who would have come up short elsewhere. Its superstar needed medical intervention to reach “normal” size, even as he is still physically a small man striding among giants, even as he has grown into the best player in the game, a genius who sets records and makes history with metronomic regularity.

Naaaah! Make this story more like real life, and we’ll think about it.

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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.

24 Comments

  1. neel1975
    June 7, 2015

    Well said. There’s a video of Marc Bartra dancing on Messi’s Instagram that everyone should watch if they get the chance. From a young player’s unbridled excitement to Dani egging him on and Iniesta’s knowing approval, it is perfect. Pure joy for them, for me. Sometimes football is just a game, but sometimes it is life: the tragedy of Tito’s passing and also the beauty of what we have seen this season and especially last night. The latter is what we are lucky enough to experience right now. All thanks to this wonderful team.

  2. Lord Eddard Stark a.k.a. Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one!
    June 7, 2015

    .

    Absolutely spot on.
    This season has a tinge of almost cliched fairytale-ness to it.

    Atleti beat us to the liga title last year in our home?
    This year, we win the liga at their home.

    Xavi leaves with a treble in his last match in our colors?
    on 06-06 no less!

    EFF me sideways.
    I got nothing.

  3. barca96
    June 7, 2015

    Once again I watch Pirlo and wonder why he is so hyped up. Xavi is miles better except for the long range passes so I don’t understand why the people on the internet are raving about him. I do notice that there was a sudden hype after Italy beat England in 2010 through penalty when Pirlo did a panenka. Since then Pirlo became an untouchable legend everywhere on the internet. Same with Ibra after the famous 4 goals vs England.

    I was kinda impressed by Pogba, how he holds the ball, dribbles. Not bad. His defensive work is alright but could be better. He certainly is one for the future. His temperament is good too during the match and even after the match. He looks matured beyond his age.

    If his wage is lower than Busquets I would even accept a 70-80m transfer fee. Otherwise no thanks. No way does he deserve to earn more than Busquets or Iniesa and the other seniors. I understand he really likes Barca, so make sacrifices.

    Does anybody know if Messi had a discomfort prior to the match. He looked so sluggish and tired. No reason for him to “save for the WC(swap it with Copa America)” in a CL final. Can’t be nervous as he’s been in countless finals or big games. Something is not right. I did read Suarez saying that he felt tired before the match. Don’t know if that’s the case with Messi too. That said he is still effective. He played smart. A team player. A matured performance.

    • Davour
      June 7, 2015

      It reminded me a little of the WC-final, actually. Only Messi had better support this time. Towards the end of the game he looked to be suffering somewhat. Still, I watched a highlight-reel of Messi’s contributions, and I have to say it contained quite a few moments of influence – sharp passing and several runs which easily could have ended up with the ball in the net. Not to mention influence in setting up gaol 1 and 2, and I even think he was the one getting the ball to Neymar for his run towards 3-1. It is a CL-final, it is an immensely difficult game against a team bent on stopping his influence. He was kicked to the ground rather brutally on several occasions. A few poor touches? (like Neymar’s before 1-0…) Well, maybe even he cannot help but to be a bit nervous, or suffering from wanting it too much.

      Compare it to CR’s final last year, or indeed Ronaldinho’s 05/06 final. He simply can’t be divine all of the time. It is a long season…

    • ciaran
      June 7, 2015

      Not saying anything against Xavi but Pirlo is a year older and played the full match whereas Xavi played a late cameo to shore up the result.
      Pirlo is a classy footballer and seems like a classy man. He’s been at the heart of great victories for club and country and has rarely lined up with talent along the lines of Iniesta, Messi and Busquets; Gattuso?
      He’s a great freekick taker, far better than Xavi, he’s possibly better than Xavi at long balls too as you say.

      Now, I don’t for a second think that he’s better or even at the same level as Xavi but it’s certainly understandable that people compare the two.

    • Jim
      June 8, 2015

      I’ve long been an admirer of Pirlo, Ciaran, and he deserves our respect. He is a totally different player from Xavi in that he doesn’t try to control the rhythm of a game like Xavi does. He takes a lot of chances but what’s often not appreciated is that he does the legwork as well. Really like him as a player but sadly he’ll not be remembered as a major player through time because of the lack of trophies. Shame. Plenty of average players remembered just because they were lucky enough to play in a top team.

    • June 8, 2015

      Pirlo may not be looking as great as he was a few years before, but definitely he is among the greatest midfielders. He is amazing passer, have great vision – especially of what is happening far away from him : ) , and his long balls are better than Xabi Alonso. And all topped up with a brilliant attitude. It was very sad to watch him and Xavi together at the end.

      Yes, I felt some of those fouls got into Messi, and rather than just being tired, he looked in pain. I dont have any complaints against those RM and Juve fans who think Messi was poor, but he was behind all our 3 goals. Our normal possession just got dangerous with his fabulous ball to Alba, and then the second, and then the ball to Neymar for the third. The chances created otherwise were in addition, including one great ball which Neymar only had to just touch, but couldnt. Pogba was excellent too. I was not very impressed with him against RM.

  4. stefan2k
    June 7, 2015

    Love it! The season has been an amazing ride and Kx cannot be thanked enough for his high quality articles day after day! Thank you Sir

  5. Tata2
    June 7, 2015

    This is a nasty barca

  6. ciaran
    June 7, 2015

    So Aleix Vidal is joining us. Deal agreed and he’s going to have his medical this week. We’ve got a fantastic track record of signing Sevilla players so I’m optimistic.
    I only saw a handful of full matches of Sevillas this season but they included his masterclass versus Fiorentina. Plenty of energy and good decision making.

    I suppose this cements Alves’ future away from Barca

    • G6O
      June 7, 2015

      It sure does.

      But the question of what we do in 5 months between August and January remains.

    • Chiu
      June 8, 2015

      we could still utilize Adriano or Montoya (if he stay) for the 1st semester. I think we’d still be fine till January and keep the all the title hope alive till the ban ends.

  7. agar2515
    June 7, 2015

    Oh man this Camp Nou celebration…chills followed by laughter and smiles. What a Legend Pique is lmao, Neymar absolutely wasted, Stegen speaking spanish better than some of the players (who are too drunk to function)

  8. Inamess
    June 8, 2015

    Congratulations everyone! What an incredible season but I think we should also honor some great efforts from other clubs and players that indirectly contributed to our success and made for fantastic viewing:

    1) Atletico’s destruction of RM in the league and the Cup. Especially an historic 4-0 win that helped turned the tide in the league.
    2) Valencia’s ending of RMs winning streak and the glorious work of Diego Alves in goal.
    3) PSGs brave 10 men victory against Mou’s Chelsea.
    4) Juventus’ decisive victory against RM and especially the work of the goal scorers Morata and Tevez.

    2010-11 was all about our struggles with RM and Mou in 5 acrimonious battles. One of the bonus of this year is that other teams helped us avoid much of this unwanted drama. In the end, we beat these teams while Real and Mou didn’t and that surely is a big part of the story of this amazing treble winnning year.

    • June 8, 2015

      Agree with all 4 points of yours. And add Real Sociedad too. If my memory is right, none of the big 3 could defeat them in Anoeta, isnt it.

    • mazimi
      June 8, 2015

      Apart from point 2, I don’t think the others are relative.

      Why PSG knocking Chelsea would benefit us? We faced PSG afterward and surely they were the better team to knock Chelsea out?

      The same thing with Atletico and Juventus knocking Madrid out of Copa and CL.

  9. Cyclops
    June 8, 2015

    Looking back, cant believe the first goal came at the 4th minute, thought it was the 150th minute- thats how tense it was…Was so nervous i somehow thought the 150th minute mark had come gone and they still havnt scored, lol, nervousness aint a good thing

    Spoiler Alert??: I was watching our UCL final with Manchester unt’d, and i’m freshly in awe at the level of football barca played
    Okay, cant really say this’s a spoiler, not trying to downplay the football barca played against juventus…Just had to make that clear

    The win against juve made me want to go back and rewatch our past finals, and i must say the Man ut’d dismantling especially, was just something from the top-most drawer
    Considering the comparison thats already inevitably being made about this barca and the ones of recent past, i had another reason to rewatch those teams

    From Pro-berlin barca point of view, i must say these eventuall comparison is simply unnecassary
    While personaly i might have my own reservation for this team, the facts says its all: they beat practically all the biggest guns in europe( RM inclusive, albeit at the league) so there’s just no way yo can categorically say that the wembley team or the Rome team were better

    All of them IMO, are great in their own right, recently i’ve been in environment where these comparisons are frequently being made, but then people who says the 2011 team were “way” better are more often than not saying that by subconsciously or consciously placing the emphasis on the way the sides monopolised possesion basically…In that regards no doubt the wembly team were better
    But generally, i doubt you can really say which is best, cause although i did said the wembley team played superb football against Man united, but that Man ut’d was unarguably dead weight, there were basically a bunch of mediocres, seriously
    Most expecially after Ronaldo left them, their team was simply a pack of average players, with Rooney being the only shining light
    Fergie was simply overachieving in those years with mediocre players- and i’ll give it to him that that was atleast quite brilliant

    I think if barca hadnt been so generous with scoring goals against juve in the 1st half, we’d have gone on to see a more dominant game, and juve would probably never had gotten even a thumb-hold on that game

    In Pep days, there were no Teams with the quality of PSG, Bayern, manchester city, RM, while not taking away anything from PeP team, i’m just merely stating that if barca had played either of the aforementioned four clubs in wembley, they’d had gotten a firsthand definition on what a tough match means
    Still 2015 barca were able to dispose those guys off, particularly the bayern game 1st leg which i think, with a lil tactical alteration, we’d have battered bayern, and if it hadnt been for some laid back tactics in the 2nd leg we’d have maybe beaten them

    So among other things, i’m just saying these arguments/comaparison is pointless

  10. June 8, 2015

    Aleix Vidal has had his presentation. Also confirmed that Enrique will stay for next season, and Bartomeu says that the club is interested in Pogba.

    For those who don’t know, Bartomeu will resign tomorrow along with the board, as the first step in the election process.

    • Jim
      June 8, 2015

      Now that will be an interesting process. Pity, as there has been a good feeling about the club the last few months but it’ll now turn ugly. I’m not really fired up by board politics but I am strong in my feeling that Bartomeu hasn’t put a foot wrong, imo.

    • Jim
      June 8, 2015

      Just for the record, not yet convinced by Pogba or his attitude. Watched him only twice tbf, but he hasn’t done it for me on either occasion. Just hope this doesn’t become an I’ll bring R10 if you elect me situation.

    • ciaran
      June 8, 2015

      The election will be incredibly interesting. For those who view Bartomeu as an extention of Sandro Rosell then I fully understand wanting him to go. I, and I might be the only one, see Bartomeu as a man who took over a terrible situation and is trying to make the best of things.
      If it is a straight choice between him and Laporta then I would be really torn. Everyone loves Laporta and his fun loving attitude but I do believe that he was irresponsible with funds and left the club in a far worse financial situation than he led us to believe.

      Either way it’ll be an interesting summer. Funnily enough if may be an election that might not be dependent on who can offer the the shiniest new signing.

    • Jim
      June 8, 2015

      Eh, maybe I wasn’t clear enough in the comment above, Ciaran. I’ve already said I don’t think he’s put a foot wrong. It was just a small thing but what really firmed it for me was the way he dealt with Tito’s passing, especially the small comment at the end about keeping the grass just the way he liked it. You just don’t think that way if you’re out for yourself and lacking humanity.

  11. Cyclops
    June 8, 2015

    For me, we’ve gotten Alex vidal, the next step is to get Ilkay Gundogan- who reports suggest barca are on the verge of getting, then bring back Deulofuo

    Alex vidal, ilkay gundogan, Gerard Deulofuo, and i tell you we’d be ready to rock and roll, seriously..
    I’d defend those buys anyday anytime, even as i can tell yo with all confidence that thats just all the reinforcement thats barca need

    For a little explanation; Sergi samper no doubt should be promoted next season, i’m assuming here he’ll be played at central Midfield( though whether he’s played at the DM or CM really dosnt change much) Ilkay gundogan could be brought in to provide atleast two options in CM… Samper can learn a lot from him i think, and based on the Rotational policy, its only logical you have atleast two players in one position…
    At advanced Mid, Iniesta could go back to playing his natural game in that position, plus we’ve got Rakitic and Rafinha

    Forget about the whole tracking back stuff and everything, Deulofuo is a very good player- he’s even as good a playmaker as Neymar is..

    Point is, the skills he’s got on his skills cabinet can come in handy for us, so just by that alone he’ll definately be usefull, couple with the fact that we’d all expect him to smooth out his rough edges as he plays with the team..
    Anywhich way, its quite clear that we need atleast another striker, again the Rotational system demands that; the MSN would need to be rested more next season, and i honestly dont see any striker upward from pedro quality coming to seat on the bench as a second choice striker, highly unlikely..
    With Deulofuo there’s no pressure on him, and the player will definately be aware of that, and like i said Deulofuo as he is, is really usefull, moreso if he improves along the way…
    We’ve got Grimaldo coming along the way in leftback no need to get another leftback, barring adriano, Montoya could deputise for Alba if he stays- as well as deputise for Vidal at RB

    So thats my take, and i bet its not half bad

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