Elections, politics and who to trust

While the import of both is nowhere near equal, it’s odd how the United States and Barça parallel each other.

–Both had presidents who many considered magic, had some successes and many still swoon at the memory of.
–Both presidents were replaced by men who were rooted in politics of grievance, and set about to undo everything done by their predecessor.
–Both country and club suffered under a petty, despotic reign of men who didn’t have best interests at heart.
–Both presidents faced impeachment, with one successful.
–Both country and club are about to get new presidents, which fills denizens with hope.

The list of presidential candidates for FC Barcelona is hefty, but really contains two names that matter: Joan Laporta and Victor Font. Both arouse passion, both have groups of devoted followers. And it’s probably best at this point to list the political candidates, or politicians, who I trust:

Okay. Most significantly, also with the U.S. as with Barça, the next president will face a set of extreme difficulties that will shape his tenure right from the beginning, difficulties created by his predecessor, difficulties that have a fairly limited number of potential ways to solve them.

For Barça as with any business facing troubled fiscal times, there are really only two options (or a variant of both): sell stuff or cut stuff. What a particular candidate chooses to cut or sell will depend on the person. But the list of things facing a new president is daunting:

–A club in fiscal trouble, money machine though it is.
–A team, the pride of that club, that needs an expensive overhaul.
–A icon of the club is unhappy, and last we heard, wants out.
–A stadium project, expensive and grand, looms.
–The biggest wage bill in football.

The only thing that interests me is how a candidate is going to solve the club’s institutional issues. Signings? Don’t care. Who or what coach you will try to bring? Don’t care. How will you assure the future of the club that we all love is the only thing that any of them should be talking about. Period.

My distrust of politicians is rooted in life experience, but also in reality. Think of a politician as a single dude, trying to convince a woman to go out with him. He will say and do anything to make that happen, and manage the consequences later. That’s politics in a nutshell, and it stuns me that anyone trusts a politician at any level. Even the ones who don’t intend to lie, lie, convincing themselves that they will somehow strive to hew to their ideals. It’s a safe bet that Barack Obama didn’t take office thinking he would be deporting people or signing off on drone strikes. Yet there he was. Politics is, at best, a shit trench that feeds directly into a shit valley, and you’re naked as you navigate the rapids. It’s a vile, ugly thing that always makes me surprised when people approach it with hope and optimism.

Laporta was president of the club at an extraordinary time, in many ways like getting struck by lightning. Would people be as enamored of him had the Guardiola teams had all the beauty of play, all the tender moments, but hardly any of the trophies? Some will say, “Of course,” and I would trust that assessment about as much as I trust a politician. What made the Laporta presidency magical was the performance of the team, and his devotion to doing his job, which was making sure the team had everything that it needed. Recall that one of the first actions Sandro Rosell did when he took over was to strip Johan Cruijff of an honorary title. Then he sold a CB that Guardiola had brought in.

“I’ll show them who’s boss.”

It was rank and ugly. When Bartomeu won the election, on the heels of big revenue numbers and a treble, the adult thing to do was to say, “Let’s give him a chance.” We did, and he failed, completely and miserably, so utterly so that socis drummed up the votes necessary for a censure motion during a pandemic, when travel and social gatherings were curtailed under government mandate. And two of the men who helped that movement, Jordi Farre and Font, are in the running for office this time.

On Twitter, people are beating the bushes in favor of this or that candidate. I didn’t in 2015, and won’t now because that isn’t my place. Not only because I don’t have any influence, but I’m not supposed to. It isn’t proper. I don’t trust anyone who is too vehemently in favor of any candidate, no matter who they are. Fervor is unsettling and often makes us miss things that should give us pause. The way voting and politics work, ideally, is you look at what the candidates have to offer, weigh your likes, dislikes and needs against what each one has to offer, and you vote, if that is an option for you. It’s a very personal decision. Because the United States is essentially a giant sea of COVID, this coming election will have to happen without my vote, and I hate that reality because this is likely the most pivotal election in the club’s history (another instance in which Barça parallels the United States).

There is more than a month before the vote, and a lot can happen between now and then. But remember this: love the club, trust no politician and keep your own counsel.

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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.