Passion is a magnificent thing. It stirs our hearts, makes our palms sweaty, serves as a goad for love.
Passion also makes us stupid and angry, slathering our vision with red mist that permeates the view of everything until all that we are is a blob of negative emotion.
One of the funniest things to consider amid this passion-fueled rush to rage and judgment now surrounding everything about FC Barcelona, is how passion makes calm impossible. At times such as these, or really all the time, it is necessary to separate club from team from board. They are all a part of Barça even as they are subsets within this overall thing.
Some support the team and could care less about politics. Others support the club but aren’t parsing any of it. Othere support a player and to hell with the rest of it.
Passion drives all of that, and is the biggest thing missing from the era after Pax Guardiolus, a time of hugs, tears, Coldplay songs, parades and unbridled passion.
During his too-short time with us, Tito Vilanova was more cerebral, his successors even less so. Luis Enrique seemed downright cold. Valverde looks to continue in the mode of chill. Can a board like a certain type of coach? Was Guardiola as emblematic of the “Hey, everybody! Cava!” style of Joan Laporta as the reserved choices are of Bartomeu and his money managers? Where is the passion?
Football is a business. It now has to be to support itself. But what is the role of passion in a business, and how should managers and the people who run clubs account for the presence of that emotion? Passion is related to joy. Happiness makes people passionate about stuff, makes them crave it. Passion is why Guardiola’s Barça is defined by its apogee rather than its dour conclusion. The absence of passion is why Luis Enrique’s time is considered a failure by so many, rather than three remarkable ssasons.
Businesses don’t have passion, even as they can benefit from its presence. Right now, the only passion that surrounds Barça is fueled by rage and a sense of loss, of people asking what happened, when in rrality what happened was an emotional change in the part of the club that everybody cares about — the team.
Success was still there, but emotion … passion wasn’t. Nostalgia for passion, for those special feelings that define nostalgia, makes us not fully comprehend what is going on. “Why do I feel different?” Because that is what time does.
A lot of people are asking what can be done to restore prime Barça, defined by that period of time in which sprites ran amok. Well, you would have to use one of those “Men in Black” memory-erasing pens on the game of football and coaches, so that they would forget what Barça did to them, and their reaction. You would also need a cloning machine — or a time machine to replicate Xavi and Iniesta at their peaks. You could use compliant opponents. Do all that and voila, prime Barça.
But passion makes us want that one, magical time rather than understanding that life is a sine wave. A spouse doesn’t cheat out of loss of love. They cheat out of a loss of passion. They want the goosebumps back, that giddy feeling of early days. The person being cheated with feels that passion and mistakes it for love but no, the spouse loves their current spouse, would never leave them. They just want some passion, some strange.
Sporting success is a series of peaks and valleys. Repeated periods (rather than sustained) of success are peaks in that wave. Some come from luck, some a series of happy events, others unfettered dominance. The path of success shouldn’t diminish the effect. Do the dollars of a lottery winner count less than those of the person who worked to earn their millions? Nope. Luis Enrique’s treble is worth the same as Guardiola’s even if the view of the former is greatly diminished, a “glory forever!” treble versus a “yeah, whatevs” treble.
Here’s a mind bender: What if the board is doing, in its own way, what they think is right for the club? Years ago, some socis from Girona came to visit the Chicago Penya. We talked, and they didn’t understand my passion as expressed in a dislike of the board and a desire to see them gone. They cited revenues, and strength of the club’s future because of big bank balances. Their biggest worry wasn’t a treble, but where the club would be thirty years from now not as this romantic “right way/wrong way” construct, but as a business entity. It was eye opening, to say the least, and changed a lot of my views on the role of the club as well as the triumvirate that comprises it and how they interact.
Retropect fuels a lot of it. Should have done this, should have done that. If it’s so obvious to everyone but it didn’t happen, is it worth taking a moment to consider why? NEVER, says passion. They did it because they hate, lie, want to kill the club, hate Cruijff and his legacy, etc, etc. There was a right way, and everything else is the wrong way. Off with their heads.
Here is something crazy: What if the board is doing, in its own way, what it thinks is best for the club. What if the lie about the contracts of Iniesta or Messi are fibs intended to reassure a supporter base that desperately needs good news, from a board that knows, behind the scenes, that neither player is going anywhere. That is a big “what if,” but from a place of calm, it’s a valid question to ask. When the kid asks, “Where is Fluffy,” does a parent say, “Dead. Remember the garbage truck? There ya go.” Or do they say, “There’s this place called the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, where Fluffy can have everything that he wants. I know you love him, but understand that he is in a happier place.”
Sure, it’s a lie, but a lie done out of strange sense of doing the right thing. To a supporter, the “Goddamn board didn’t buy the right players.” What if, to the board, they looked at the money, the potential gain and said, “We shouldn’t do this?” Remember they are money managers. On the last day of the window, hearing that Thomas Lemar cost 120m, Laporta would have said, “Send him. We’ll figure out where to find the money.” This board said, “That is too expensive. The market is crazy. Let’s stop.” The right or wrong of that view depends on what you want, what you want to see, and at its root is passion. You can think they have seny, or are stupid and don’t care about the team winning, etc.
The notion of being “woke,” as a modern-day construct, is silly. It implies a deeper knowledge of a situation by a certain group of people, as in, “They are finally woke about the club.” Its roots are, of course, from social media. Passion is now fueling a lot of the debate around Barça, and Twitter is the cauldron roiling it. There are people who consider themselves woke about the club. They scream about older, more brainwashed socis who fall for the board’s lies and nonsense, deluded by the likes of Sport and Munde Deportivo. It presumes, in other words, that people who aren’t woke, are stupid. Again, passion.
On Twitter, nuance and calm usually get someone branded as “cheerleader,” or “defender.” Again, passion. You see a lot of Tweets about “values,” a word that should inspire sideeye. Why? Because usually what the person means is winning. Values. That whole misinterpreted “mes que” ness. From their perspective, values are, therefore, absent. You find the right accounts on Twitter and you can find the right stuff to get outraged about. But again, that is linked to passion. You don’t know what to do, so you latch onto something that provides that passion.
UNICEF went to the front of the shirt to get people prepared for a paid sponsor being there, by the folks who sought and received permission from an assembly of socis to seek a paid sponsor. Why? Because the club needed money to assure its future. It wasn’t nobility. The club could have given UNICEF money without crowing about essentially paying the charity to be the shirt. But it got spun into a part of a grander notion of “values,” and people lapped it up. Hell, we all did. Why wouldn’t we? It makes us feel fantastic.
What makes players leaving La Masia now vs under previous boards any less vile? Do the necessities of talent change? How lucky we were to have a team in which Valdes, Puyol, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Pedro, Pique and others were all nurtured at the club’s bosom. But there are vastly more Cuencas than Iniestas. Now as then, they leave the club to seek fortunes elsewhere. Why is Jonathan Dos Santos a joke, when Alejandro Grimaldo a vile marker of an evil board? Dos Santos has had a career at a higher level than Grimaldo. So who is right and who is wrong, aside from what passion dictates? It’s hard to step back and just look at stuff.
The board hates La Masia and wants to kill it, is another skein, because Cruijff started it and they hate Cruijff. Passion. The brightest talents in the forms of Sergi Palencia, Marc Cucurella and Carles Alena have been nailed down by the club. Expect them to all feature for the first team next season as a natural part of their progression. Other players have been cut loose. What’s the difference?
Maybe football shouldn’t be a business. There is too much passion for it to be a business, no chill. Or businessmen need a front person, a Dr. Nick of “Simpsons” fame. “Hiii, everybody!” And you have a party while the money managers do their work. Many business firms are run like enterprises, partnerships where there should be nothing on the books at the end of the year. The partneshiip isn’t dissolved, but its members understand that each year is a new one, a new opportunity to start fresh. Should football teams turn profits and losses? Should there be press conferences at which a board member crows about profit and loss? Where is the passion in that?
For some socis, a strong bank balance is the sign of a strong club, a sustainable club. That is their passion, a club that will continue to feed their passsion as the years progress. A few less trebles and a few hundred more million, and they would be fine with that.
Other socis or supporters want the passion that comes with winning, with victory parades, with being able to wear the shirt out and about and have people say, “You guys are the best. Congratulations.” Their passion makes them have different things invested in a club, makes anything that threatens those things a point of outrage, and they take to the ramparts, ready for battle against those things.
There is even a coterie of supporters who want Messi to leave Barça, such is their passion-fueled enmity for what, exactly … the board? So would they damage the club and team because of the board? What of the players such as Busquets, Iniesta, the academy they scream “no es toca?” To hell with that, as well? Where is the balance, where does it stop? Should passion even have balance, or should it be this rush to the head and heart, this impulsive thing that doesn’t consider logic and calm?
A lot is happening at Barça right now, from mini player revolts via words, to a censure motion and a board that is feeling endangered. Lots of passion, lots of screaming about stuff. It’s okay to feel the way that you feel. But understand why you’re feeling that way, try to separate the passion from the reality, even if both lead you to the same conclusion. Most importantly, have some damn fun with a game. Because that’s what it is.