“How could he win, after everything that we have done?”
The screams of a segment of the populace for whom electing this … man as president was something inconceivable, suddenly had to confront a grim reality that for years, seemingly endless years, a man who they not only didn’t vote for but who they actively detest, will be president. President of all of them, even if he isn’t their choice and never would be.
Yeah, it was pretty weird when Barack Obama won that second term in office as president of the United States. There were people who claimed, who honestly believed that they had him cold, had evidence of his various misdeeds, that surely a thinking electorate would see these things and vote the bum out. The talk shows blared, and many considered him the worst president EVAH, in the history of presidents.
And yet he won that second term comfortably, and a segment of the populace had to realize that things were different, before they were better or worse, conditions that depended upon who was asked. Which brings us to Josep Bartomeu, the new and justly elected president of FC Barcelona.
There is a segment of Barça Twitter that finds this appalling, that thinks the stadium and club will become wholly owned subsidiaries of Qatar, who believe that our youth players will be auctioned off to the highest bidder as the first team never again sees a talented young’un crack that exalted roster. Messi will leave, the crops will wither and die and the wells will be salted. Panic.
Yet there are culers, and there are socis, sometimes both in the same person. Those socis voted overwhelmingly for Bartomeu. People can talk about how 10k fewer votes were cast so even though he won by a significant percentage, look at the raw numbers. Succor can be sought there. But the raw numbers say that even with the total votes of Laporta, Benedito and Freixa combined, Bartomeu would still have won, which means what, exactly?
Let’s start with one of the more unsettling qualities that we have seen so much this past season, hysteria. It’s human nature to imagine the worst. It’s also human nature to be outraged when something doesn’t go the way that you think it should. Kids throw their toys out of the pram, and culers scream and have a high-quality tantrum in various aspects of social media. “If you can’t see what is about to happen, why this president is evil, you’re stupid.”
Socis who voted are called blind, xenophobic fools who are ignorant of what is best for their club, and on it goes. But just as it is when Americans spout stuff about the sitting president, it’s worth asking how much of the ire, the gloom and doom, exists in reality and how much exists in that psychic space where only the worst can happen.
“He’s not our president.”
Yes, he is. If you support and love Barça, then Bartomeu is your president, too. That you didn’t vote for him is immaterial. He’s your president, because the democratic process worked itself out and the electorate chose.
Is that electorate stupid, misguided and all of the things they are being accused of in various corners of social media? Again, it depends on whom you ask. I recall meeting a pair of socis from the Barcelona region, who visited the Chicago Penya. I ranted and railed about Rosell and the board, and all of their acts of evil, and the two socis said, in effect, “Huh? What? We like what they are doing to save the club.” And that was that.
Those socis were a splash of cold water to the face because they made me realize a lot of things, from the silliness of hashtag activism to the fact that these socis were perfectly fine with a board that I suggested is the living, breathing epitome of Hell. What they were seeing, how their needs were being met by that entity, were entirely different from mine. And even as I wondered whether these socis actually cared about the club, the reality is that such a notion doesn’t matter. Everyone has something that they need, something that they believe, and they bring that to an election.
There are people who still believe that a sitting American president isn’t a U.S. citizen, that he is a Muslim and a Socialist. That’s what hysteria, and rage over an event that didn’t go their way, does to people. It’s ideology, which is nasty and pervasive, and skews opinions just as completely as ideologues say that various Catalan media skew opinion.
And then we get sage opinions, as people attempt to explain exactly why that electorate was stupid and misguided. One of the biggest is identity politics, the exclusionary nature of being a soci and how that affected the outcome of an election. This is easy to cling to, because one of the more rank acts that the Rosell board did was to close membership, except via a 3-year Commitment Card, renewable annually in person, and at the end of that process they might decide to let you become a soci. No guarantees.
Controlling membership rolls means controlling the message, means controlling the electorate, means only getting old, sated, dimwitted socis voting who only care about the final score. And yet, some 97% of socis are in or near Barcelona. This was true even before the membership rolls were closed. Barça has always been a local thang, and those locals know what they want.
Soci numbers grew under Laporta, and declined under Rosell, as would be expected when membership is closed. But this election wasn’t about identity politics or any of the other stuff that people like to think might or might not have happened. This election was about results, on the pitch and in the boardroom. Locals puff out their chests with pride at a championship team, stick them out a bit more at the idea that their club can buy pretty much any player it likes in Europe. The idea of a new stadium fills them with pride, as again the Camp Nou represents different things to different people. To some it’s a hallowed ground. To others it’s a musty, rickety old entity that doesn’t suit the bold, new Catalunya that wants to be an independent world player on the big stage. Again, it all depends.
It’s intellectually lazy to stomp our feet and say that all those socis who voted Bartomeu in care about is the treble, that they don’t care about the rest of the club. That’s easy to say, even as we have absolutely zero idea whether that is true. “All they care about is their season tickets,” is another one that we hear. We don’t know that, either. But in our carefully curated social media worlds, filled with people who think as we do, it’s easy to forget that not everybody thinks and feels like that. We are ALL culers, some of us are socis and we all matter.
People can parse, and rant, and rave all they like but what I do know is that there has never, EVER been a more important time for culers and socis to pull together than this. My views on the Rosell board are well known. What I don’t yet know is if Bartomeu will be more of the same, or if the guy who served as president, who seems interested in doing the right things for the club and its teams, will get his act together, pick the right people to run La Masia, stop the crumbling of the other sports and make Barça a full and complete club at ALL levels of sport.
I have to believe this, I have to have hope in this because the future is too bleak to contemplate. The poor Masia management could continue, the 600m stadium project could cost twice that, and turn Barça into a club that is hamstrung by crushing debt, with a stagnating football team and other sports that might as well go away, a frozen membership buttressing a mess of a club. If you don’t expect, hope for the best from someone, why get out of bed in the morning? The world is just going to kick me in the face. I’ll just stay here.
People have asked what Bartomeu has done wrong since he was president. I asked those very questions. Everything that he inherited was already in process, including the poor management at La Masia and a succession of practice dummies coaching the B team. I am willing to give him the chance to fix it before I excoriate and dismiss him as just another in a string of recent lousy Barça presidents.
Laporta ran a crap campaign. Sorry, but he did. Whispering about the past isn’t going to do it for an electorate who was tired of his crap in the first place, even as he would still be president had the term limits not forced him to step down. It takes a LOT for an incumbent to be ousted. And for all of the hope people had that Laporta would be the man to oust Bartomeu, King Joan got run over by a machine.
It wasn’t just the treble. Laporta didn’t give people a reason to vote for him, except that he wasn’t Bartomeu. That isn’t enough. As I said in a previous piece, he and Bartomeu are two of mostly the same thing, only Bartomeu is potentially worse. But he might also be potentially better. With Laporta, you knew what you were going to get, and socis didn’t want that. Conservative voters will always vote for the success that they have, and that success was embodied in Josep Bartomeu. It’s as simple as that.
I don’t know what is going to happen with this presidency. Giving a man who sat at the right hand of Rosell, who has many of the same board members, a 6-year mandate scares the crap out of me as a soci who loves his football club. But at this point in time, my choice is clear: give the man a chance. I will not rant, I will not scream, I will not throw my toys out of the pram in an effort to display my righteous indignation over a poor presidential choice. This isn’t the time for that.
To my view, it’s the time to be calm, measured and look at all aspects of what might happen. Bartomeu might turn out to be an excellent president, who jettisons a sponsor that so many take issue with (my issue is that we have any sponsor. I don’t have time to parse them.), fix La Masia’s management and tighten up the other sports, who understands that a strong Barça doesn’t just mean the first team at the football club.
It’s easy to assume that he is going to be a rank despot who will kill the club, selling its soul a chunk at a time. It’s easy because it’s seductive. The hashtag activism, ranting and bullying carry the day in some aspects. The question is, has anything been learned from #luchoout.
Meanwhile in other worlds, where people don’t even have Twitter much less care about it and their social media is dinner at a local restaurant or drinks at the local pub, socis are nodding their heads in satisfaction that their man won. That man is our president. We owe it to the club that we love and the players we follow the exploits of to, simply put, be cool. The future will come when it does. For now, let’s watch, wait and hope because sometimes, hope is all that you have.