First things first. The new campaign from FC Barcelona, embodied by the Twitter hashtag #weareallMessi, is stupid. It’s like the club got some crackheads drunk and then asked, “Okay, what do we do?” It’s a club that, as Elvis Costello sang, can’t stand up for falling down.
But almost as silly are the people galloping along on horses named Dudgeon. The gesture was silly, and the board are a bunch of doofuses. But anyone who suggests that the campaign has anything at all to do with Messi being a tax cheat and the club supporting the fact that he got tapped, needs a hobby.
For years, the highways and byways of Barça Twitter have been full of people screaming about how the club doesn’t support Messi in his times of trouble. Rumors come up, allegations come up, and the club does nothing. The drug money laundering stuff, and nothing. Drug rumors, and nothing. Those same people called the board a passel of gits because they aren’t supporting their star, wondering “What is wrong with those fools?”
Well, apparently, those “fools” aren’t deaf. They listen, even if this “support” is the equivalent of running up with a match to a building that’s on fire, wondering why nobody is welcoming your assistance. “What? This doesn’t help?” No. What it does do is make the gesture look silly, which again, is what it is. But let’s be clear about what the club is doing:
The club is saying that it stands behind its star, that it understands the extracurricular intricacies of the tax case and subsequent conviction, that it stands behind the player as he prepares to appeal the case, and are confident that the appeal will find their diminutive Argentine no longer in the same illustrious camp as the late Al Capone, or Wesley Snipes. The club isn’t standing in support of a tax cheat. Et voila.
Hell, if anything, the hashtag should have been, in light of recent events, #weunderstandyouMessi. Neymargate, Bartomeu/Rosell making the club culpable for their boo-boo, land grabs popping up out of the past, transfer bans …
The gesture is, however, made to seem even more dimwitted in the wake of legitimate usages of such gestures, including #jesuischarlie, an expression of solidarity with the slain members of the Charlie Hebdo staff, the satirical magazine whose offices were attacked by extremists, seeking revenge for blasphemous depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
JesuisCharlie was meant, not to suggest that everyone is in support of blasphemous depictions, but rather that the world stands behind people at a time of unspeakable violence. It was a gesture that was pure, spontaneous and sincere. Which makes the Barça gesture even sillier and more frivolous.
But if the club wants to make a silly, misguided gesture that leaves it with egg on its face, let it. It doesn’t go against everything that the club stands for, or anything at all that the club stands for. Don’t let mes que un club mean something other than what it in fact means. You can’t defend the gesture, but you can understand the … um … thinking behind it.
But people in the world seem to have no chill when it comes to Barça. Anything that the club does is bereft of perspective. There probably isn’t anyone, including Messi (but excluding the board), who didn’t see the campaign and think, “What a bunch of jackasses.” Smart money says they end it soon.
When the verdict was handed down, the club issued a statement of support, and a belief in Messi’s ultimate innocence. Leave it at that. They didn’t. But don’t misunderstand the gesture.
Messi was found guilty of evading taxes. There are those who will assert that he knew nothing of this stuff, just wanted to play football and chase girls. Wrong. Sorry, but he had to know that something was funky. He chose not to ask questions, and that’s fine. But the contention of many that he is some wronged angel, or that this is a fast and slick political gesture aimed at “getting” Barça and persecuting its best player also doesn’t fly.
Did he know about the stuff, raise his eyebrows and ask, “Hey, is this legal.” and shrug when assured that it was? Maybe. Does this absolve him of some measure of culpability? No. Sorry. Nor does it matter who did what, be they a princess, midfielder or whomever. Both things can coexist. Somebody wanted to make a message out of Messi. Why not the princess? How many princesses are engaging in tax boondoggles? One. How many athletes are engaging in tax boondoggles? A LOT. So if you can get the biggest one, it sends a message. No shame in that game.
As one of the fraternity brothers said to another in the movie “Animal House,” “Hey, you f—– up. You trusted us.”
And this whole thing leaves us with two people who now know better, Messi and his tax people, and a club who chose to do the completely wrong thing, for all of the right reasons. It really is as simple as that.