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Barça 2, Valencia 0, “A fraught, “easy” win”

enrique

A clean sheet and two goals as the home team strolled to a comfortable w …

Not so fast. This is a match with a scoreline that will in no way reflect how complex things were, making it almost a reverse of the Sevilla match in which the scoreline wasn’t reflective of how much Barça was in control.

It will also be considered for many an Enrique vindication and an example of the learning process that a coach goes through as he comes to grips with the immense task of controlling a world-class side. That Enrique has a capacity for learning is as without question as the unwillingness of too many to allow him the opportunity to get a handle on things.

Last week at Sevilla he made some controversial changes. Leaving aside the glaring errors that had more to do with the final result than anything Enrique did with his lineup, the focus of the culerverse is such that often the obvious is ignored for the more, shall we say, subtle. Pique cocked up the pass but the larger story was that Neymar was subbed off, as the one player capable of making Sevilla play more honest and press less because of the danger he represented in running behind their defense as they pushed forward.

Xavi was also controversial because he came on as Sevilla had decided that flooding the midfield with a pressing batch of as many as 8 players would be the way forward as on the key error, Busquets was stranded high and dry with one shot to influence that play. He just missed the ball, Reyes danced past him and that was that.

This week against Valencia, Enrique played a (shudder!) double pivot with Busquets and Mascherano, something that was a topic of discussion during the match, and deemed a failure by some because of the spirited Valencia display in that first half.

Yet what people fail to consider is what might have happened had Iniesta been in there instead of Mascherano, a player who, it is worth considering, might have made a difference against Sevilla last week. People also find it easy to lay failure at the feet of the aberration, but Adriano in effect had Barça playing with 10. Valencia decided the war would be fought in the midfield and after picking themselves up off the canvas in the wake of an absolutely stunning early Suarez goal, they set about grabbing the match by the scruff of the neck.

To say that they put Barça on the back foot would be an understatement, and they did it — as did Sevilla — in a way that demonstrated the necessity for change. If you have a midfield-based system and somebody presses the hell out of it, not allowing a clean pass, cutting off passing angles and contesting not only the passer but the receiver, what is a team to do besides evolve? People can have semantic daisy chains and chalkboard dissertations all they like, but Sevilla and Valencia showed exactly why Guardiola, Vilanova, Martino and now Enrique were experimenting with adaptations of the system that worked so well against a world that was unprepared for it.

And it wasn’t just Xavi, as once again the difference between running him out against fresh, pressing players vs tired ones late in a match became clear. It was the whole team, as well as a fundamental plank of the Barça attack going awry when Pique picked today of all days to have a poor match, falling prey to that unreliable beast called form. From a penalty to another wayward pass that almost resulted in a Valencia goal, this just wasn’t his day, even as he also turned in key interventions in the air and on the ground.

But because the defenders are key for attack starting at Barça by playing the right ball out of the back, this also makes that part of the Way subject to attack by a pressing opponent, particularly when the back line becomes the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

Despite all that, the biggest part of the problem was the passive defending that reared its head for some inexplicable reason, as Barça cowered on the rocks of its own box like a Segunda side being stalked by a Primera predator in an early-round Copa match. Guardiola said that “we are crap without the ball.” The secret is that most teams are crap without the ball. Give an opponent enough shots at you, and one of them will probably work. It was only luck (a post and poor finishing) that allowed Barça to take its 1-0 lead into the locker room, making halftime a fraught time for culers.

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And then — and the veracity of this will depend on your view of the Barça coach — Enrique changed the match with a series of subs. The first was a sub and a tactical change: Rakitic came on for Adriano, Mascherano moved to the back line and Mathieu became the left back.

These three changes yielded a completely different match because the right side gained the defensive solidity that Rakitic brings when he is on the pitch as a true box-to-box midfielder (rather than the non-Xaviniesta that many scorn him for being). He worked with Alves and others a number of times to dispossess, slow down and break up Valencia attacks, regaining possession. He also helped control possession with runs and passes, and picked up a key yellow card to stop a Valencia break that was leading to a golden scoring chance.

Mathieu at LB didn’t just mean that we now had a functioning FB on that side. It meant that we had, in effect, a giant Alba out there, an LB who can get up the pitch with speed to lead a break, make the right cross and defend with facility. No looping balls over the top of his big ass, either. On three occasions he sparked breaks, and crosses that resulted in corners for Barça, putting Valencia on the back foot and giving them another thing to worry about, which they didn’t have in the first half as Adriano functionally did nothing.

Mascherano to the back line gave Pique what he needs when he isn’t being a boss: a fireman. Puyol ran around and put out fires when he stomped the terra for Barça. Was he a great CB? In the traditional sense, some might quibble even as in the fullest sense, nobody would argue for a microsecond about his greatness. But his greatest attribute for me was an essential rightness. Right spot, right pass, right intervention, right tackle. Mascherano, despite the assertion of many that he doesn’t have any real business playing CB, brings many of those Puyol-like qualities to the back line.

His fitness for being in the XI was being debated as he was making play after play, one described by Phil Schoen as a clearance “off the S on his chest.” More than that, Mascherano also brought some more Puyol to the dance as he brought the ball up to disarm the Valencia press, rather than passing it up.

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Enrique got the moves right which meant that where Valencia enjoyed the run of things in the first half, that team was now facing a complete Barça, with attackers on the right and left as well as a solid center that was as willing to battle for the ball as the flank players were. And there was also danger from all three directions. Distances were compressed, which meant that there were fewer spaces for Valencia defenders to chase balls, and the Enrique version of match control took full shape.

After a mess of a first half fraught with danger and complexity, the second was something of a assertive stroll through the woods in a match bracketed by goals in its first and last minutes.

That first goal was magnificent, and as sumptuous a warp-speed bit of football as you are likely to see this season. From the back line to Busquets to Messi to Suarez to the back of the net, each player dwelling on the ball for a fraction of a moment. The ball from Busquets to Messi was about as flawless a pass are you are going to see in football this season because it gave Messi all the time in the world. He didn’t even have to slow down, and he didn’t dally as he fed Suarez. The striker’s finish was unstoppable because he took it first time rather than controlling and waiting for Diego Alves to get set. Again, it’s the quality of the pass for him from Messi.

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The second goal was a consequence of Valencia (my hands keep wanting to type Sevilla) pressing for the late equalizer, and Messi getting behind the defense on a bust-out.

Another player who showed a capacity for learning is Claudio Bravo, who is as much in the running for MOTM as Mascherano. Guess who didn’t fist any balls away this week, coming at the world with palms out? Pique gives up the penalty and Enrique turned away in disgust, which turned to delight when Bravo made the save. And he didn’t just make the save. He caught it. Yes, it was a crap penalty, but lots of crap penalties go in if the keeper guesses wrong. Bravo nailed it, and two other immense saves today.

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Speculation about whether he is the right man for the job has long since dissipated even as he understands that he is a place holder for a young, talented German named Ter Stegen.

As I write this, it is with no idea if the points gap at the end of the Liga round is going to be 2 or 4 for Barça, but it doesn’t matter, because the only people this team need depend on share a locker room. This week, a Mathieu quote made news as he said, “Luis Enrique is a special person. He doesn’t talk a lot with us. We know what to do, but we don’t know what he thinks.”

There are many ways to interpret that statement:

“He isn’t cuddly. We don’t know if he likes horror movies or action films, but we know what he wants us to do on the pitch.”

“He tells us what we need to know to get the job done.”

“He doesn’t talk to the players. Told you his man-management skills sucked.”

The way that a culer chooses to interpret that Mathieu quote will of course depend on worldview, even as the results that the team is having this year as well as the way that the team is going about getting those results, points to a clear, communicative coach both on the pitch and in the locker room. It’s been said before, but set pieces and defending aren’t individual brilliance but work in a system.

Getting results is about clarity of vision, respect and execution. All three were on view today at the Camp Nou, and the result was a fraught-but-effective 2-0 win that keeps the slim Liga lead. And the team has to depend on itself to see this out. As with any other talented group, it’s hard to imagine they would want it any other way.

P.S. 400 goals for Messi. Holy crap. He’s only 27.

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Posted in Analysis, La Liga, Messi, Thoughts8 Comments

The dimmer switch of opinion

“He’s the greatest!”
“He’s NOT the greatest!”

Being a football fan is being exposed to reactions like an on/off switch in a world that often requires a volume knob. Maybe the player, coach or technical director is neither the best nor the worst. Maybe he just is.

No, your manager, your star player, your icon sucks because he is human. He sucks because he is subject to the frailties that humans suffer: mental errors, a failing body, aging, crafty opponents, teams who want nothing more than to get something, anything against him.

But most of all, he sucks because we as supporters understand so little about what really happens on and (more importantly) off the pitch. We think we understand what we think we know, and rush to judgment often based on little more than ignorance and a hunch. “He can’t be like that, I know him too well.” Sorry, but for all we know Xavi dresses like Genghis Khan in his private life, and worships Satan. It isn’t possible for anyone to be as good as their devoted supporters believe.

So much that we see about a team we support, the players we slavishly follow is artifice. Laurence Fishburne can’t fly off a building. That’s Morpheus, a character he played in a movie. The players, the coaches aren’t pretending to be what they appear to be. But they are controlling, crafting and creating something for us. What is so beautiful about a player like Messi is that he just wants to play, just wants the ball. But if you think that some of the negative stuff that is ascribed to him can’t have happened because “He would never do that,” if you rush to his defense based on nothing more than a sheepish grin and a love of the game, reconsider.

We don’t know. We can’t know. But that very simple statement will cause someone to think, “He hates Messi.”

Something strange has happened to our game. Before there was Twitter and a world that moved at the speed of a voice with thousands of followers, things seemed more measured. There was a volume knob rather than an on/off switch. “Greatest ever!” “Sucks!” In between those two poles is a chasm of thoughtful discourse that gets plowed over like a tank rolling through a daisy patch.

It’s now, it’s immediate, it’s a need for a right now reaction. When the Bayern physio resigned Thursday, nobody knew why. That didn’t stop people from knowing exactly why. Some asked questions, and were called haters. Others seemed to criticize Guardiola and were excoriated for being blasphemers rather than for people who committed the simple error of a rush to judgment based on incomplete data. Reasons are essential. Barça drew because Enrique made the wrong subs. It isn’t the goal conceded through an error but the goal not scored that is the culprit. And here are tactical diagrams to prove it!

Like Barça, Bayern is a roiling cauldron of a fanbase, a team that comes with an expectation set that is even more oppressive than that of the Liga big two because there is only the big one in the Bundesliga. Sport, MD, AS and Marca all combined to go wacky on a single team. The most money, the biggest stars, the brightest transfers and two seasons ago, the most desirable coach in the game. Put all that stuff in a pot and you have the makings of a stew called crazytown.

When something happens, when anything that isn’t supposed to happen happens, it all begins. Culers understand this because we live and perpetrate it. In November, Enrique was a dead duck. It was criminal that the board didn’t fire him. He was arrogant, hated the press and treated them like crap. Probably treated his players the same way. Lucho out, with vehemence, aggression and extreme prejudice. Woe betide the person who said that we didn’t know yet, that we should give it time.

But football is old, wise and patient. It knows even when we don’t, and there are so many things that we are never, ever going to know. Enrique and Messi were on the outs. Lucho out! Just a training match row over a call? No! Never! How real was the crisis that the team faced after the inevitability of dropping points after an international break away to La Real? It depends on who you ask, but the simple thing is that we have absolutely no idea.

In many ways what the 24-hour news cycle, fueled by social media has done is create unmeetable expectations, a hunger that fuels extremism. A fanbase hears that a respected physio has resigned, a Vine of a manager reacting to something gets out and before you know it, lines are drawn and villains created.

What made Sir Alex Ferguson so extraordinary is that for decades, in a tempest of a league, he remained at or near the top. If you look at the Premiership champions list over the last two decades plus, United won 13 of 22 times. That is stupefying. What makes it even more incredible is that money and talent came to the Prem. Chelsea had a turn, then United resumed. Arsenal had a glorious year, then United returned. City got a couple, then United returned. And when Ferguson left, United stopped winning titles.

This is so astonishing not because of what United is and what it accomplished, but because that just doesn’t happen in this day and age. Strong squads, weak squads, injuries and clunky transfer decisions and United kept winning, defying the odds of everything that makes a manager suddenly suck. A couple of key injuries can reduce a contending squad to a Europa league aspirant. Through it all, Ferguson kept on winning. Guardiola amassed a crazy pile of titles during his Barcelona tenure, but time caught up to him, and he moved on to Bayern. Mourinho strikes sparks in the places he goes, but never stays long enough to establish a record, a tenure that makes a colossus. Wenger has stayed, but hasn’t won in a matter attendant to his status.

This all happens as men in short pants scurry about in a sea of expectations. Bayern lost 3-1 to a Porto team that played out of its mind, and capitalized on a couple of defensive errors. Sound familiar, culers, in that world where a draw is a loss?

The simple reality is that sustained excellence of the type that sees off challenger after challenger, that allows a single coach to keep winning and winning at the same club, is as impossible as supporters having a clue what is going on. The whole game has become like the transfer rumor business. “X player is coming for Y million. Talks are ongoing.” X player’s representative says that “Nothing is happening.” Supporters who are against the transfer say, “See? There?” Supporters who are for the transfer say, “But what else would they say?” Nobody knows and everybody knows.

In this space we have seen posts that there is no real right, no real knowledge until something actually happens. Suarez to Barça popped up and many including me called it crazy, based on what? Nothing at all, not even anything purporting to be logic. Wild-eyed supposition? Sure, why not? A doctor resigns, and sides are drawn. “Pep is right, Bayern’s injury record is ridiculous.” “Bayern started having a lot of injuries when Pep took over. His fault!”

The arguments fly, based on nothing more than like or dislike, because we don’t know and nobody will ever say for sure. So we chase logic and answers like the powder-faced fiends in Mack Sennett silent shorts. “It’s over there!” “No! Wait! Over there!” And the people who know don’t say, and don’t show.

Step back, sit tight. Because if this Bayern medicos business hasn’t taught the game something, it’s doubtful we will ever learn – not only about the value of knowledge, but about moderating a worldview. It isn’t what we like, it’s what we know. Not knowing should give us pause, rather than making us charge into a battle armored in little more than supporter-forged confirmation bias.

Posted in Analysis, Thoughts33 Comments

PSG 1, Barça 3, aka “This team, people!”

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This team.

There is speculation, nattering, punditry and all that other stuff but at the end it all comes down to this team, the players and how its supporters manage to deal with it. And for too much of this season, a lot of how supporters have dealt with this team has been like villagers with pitchforks and torches, running around looking for the monster.

This space has been ahead of the curve on things such as the team taking shape, noticing its pragmatism and that it is taking on the character of its coach, as many teams do. That isn’t a point of pride or any sort of forward thinking as much as just seeing what is there. If you find a dollar on the street, that’s all it is.

“Hmph. Some rich jerk just tosses money around. What about the poor, who could use that dollar. Hmph.”

It’s just a dollar on the street that you can choose to pick up or not.

When watching Barça, and this has been written about before here, it’s easy to get into believing what you want to see because a football team offers that possibility. A team choosing to go over the top because an opponent has flooded the midfield is said to “Not have a midfield.” Nostalgia makes things not as good as they are, and a coach is to blame. Not time, not players who are not what they once were, not the passage of time. It’s one all-powerful man.

But when the team begins to play better and better, to become what many wondered if it had the quality to become, it’s the players, doing this in spite of the coach and meanwhile, this or that player that someone doesn’t like still has deficiencies, still shouldn’t be on the pitch.

It’s all nonsense that like so many leaves on a windy fall day, are blown away because it’s always been about this team. It was, today, a group that dismantled a top European side in Paris St.-Germain, dealing them their first home defeat in European competition since 2006. That’s 33 matches, and the last 22 in all competitions. Some will say “Well, how much have they been in Europe,” “Barça was supposed to win,” “Should have been 3-0,” etc. But again, none of that is the point.

The point is this team. Xavi to Messi to Neymar to Suarez. That’s a fantasy, not a team, something so exceedingly rare as to beggar description. The best, to the best, for the best, finished by the best. That just doesn’t happen.

There have been crises, most of them imagined, this season. When some said of the Anoeta result that Barça dropping points at that place after an international break is like the sun rising, that was immaterial. Crisis. When Neymar threw a strop on the weekend over being subbed off at Sevilla, crisis as some press outlets penned hooey about the rift between Neymar and Enrique destroying the dressing room harmony. The headlines get clicks and move papers, but it’s nonsense from people who are often just about as knowledgeable about what really goes on as the average, well-informed fan.

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And still, none of it matters because of this team, an extraordinary group of athletes who continue to do what they do, which is be among the best players in the world at one of the best clubs in the world, doing what they are paid exceptional sums of money to do. In a recent interview Messi described a year during which he scored more than 40 goals as a bad one, with a lot of personal stuff to overcome.

We have a team that includes a player who thinks that 40 goals is a bad season. We have a player who starts for, and is the captain of his national team, Brazil, but is still considered a flash in the pan and a YouTube sensation by too many culers. We have a midfield peopled by a pair of linchpins who, though still brilliant if an opponent lets them have their way, are not the players they used to be. And there is a coach who has to deal with all of that, and bring it together in a way that helps the players achieve their goals.

But still, it’s the team, a team that often can’t win for losing. Today’s goal tally included a sublime bit of build-up play that culminated in a seemingly effortless goal that was in fact difficult. It also included two bits of transcendent skill, that “individual brilliance” that disappoints so many when it rears its unpopular (in some quarters) head. It’s a team where a Messi run is genius but a Neymar golazo is “individual brilliance” that isn’t the proper way to score. People talk about “right” and “wrong” ways, then someone like Thierry Henry says that “Barça is playing how it always has, and Eto’o and I used to run out behind the defense.” And it’s interesting because Henry was there, so he knows. He received and processed instruction from a Barça legend, and he knows.

But he also knows what he sees, rather that what he might want to see. And even after all that there is this wonderful team, a group that retains that status even when it is disappointing us, because it is a group that is made up of spectacular talent. And every now and again that talent coalesces in a way that makes us shake our heads in wonder, but those matches for me aren’t as magical because they are the one-offs … like finding a dollar on the street. You can’t expect that every day any more than you can expect a transcendent performance every match.

Matches such as today’s PSG takedown are more fascinating to me, more lustrous because the team wasn’t at its best, didn’t play anything like at the level of which it is capable. The beauty is in the fact that it didn’t need to, that it could roll along in second or third gear and it was enough to not completely end the tie but confront PSG with the reality that it will have to score three times at the Camp Nou and not concede once to advance. It has to do that because a team of brilliant players didn’t need to be brilliant. It won a football match by being a team and doing what a team does, which is its job.

The Sevilla match breakdown discussed those three moments that turned that match, and one of them was a Suarez miss. Compare those simple finishes to the bits of athletic extravagance that he presented today and wonder about the meltdowns that occurred after Barça dropped a couple of points on the weekend. In some ways the analogy is like a guy who can split an atom but can’t boil water for tea, but that’s part of being an athlete who is part of a team, but not just any team.

People throw up their hands when Mascherano starts a match in defense or midfield, this man who was an immense part of the reason Argentina made the World Cup final. Any world in which he isn’t good enough is one that is off kilter, one that can be assessed as this oddity that isn’t linked to reality. Maradona, when he was coaching Argentina, said that his XI is Mascherano and 10 others. Enrique made it a priority to lock him down, and play him. Vilanova played him, Guardiola played him, Martino played him even as for many culers he isn’t good enough, has shortcomings that make them consider him a liability.

Whatever. So much of thinking, writing and nattering about football is theory, an ideal universe in which everything is perfect. Athletes nurse injuries, have good and bad days just like the rest of us, have all sorts of things go on that affect their confidence. Supporters come to blogs such as this one and say that such moments of humanity are unacceptable, as the players on the team we support somehow become superhuman based on the simple act of donning a shirt.

So today as Barça misplayed passes, got a little loose in defense and dealt with all of the crises that a team has to deal with as it tries to dispatch an opponent, the beauty of today’s match was the ease it evinced. PSG at times chased shadows. And Enrique had the luxury of calling a living legend in Xavi off the bench. And it’s easy to wonder how a team that can use the best midfielder in footballing history as a sub can be in any way deficient. Human? Sure. Not meeting fullest expectation every match? Absolutely. Needing to improve and take steps toward being better? You bet. But deficient? No.

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It’s difficult to think of any of the brickbats that have been hurled at this group of extraordinary athletes this season as holding any sort of water, long term. Form comes and goes, but class is permanent. Barça has class, a quality that is evident not in the hammerings of an opponent, but in the “another day at the office” matches where the reality of just how good this team is gets driven home. Neymar scored a goal today that looked so easy. “He should have scored that goal,” so many said. But notice the touch that opens up the angle, recall all the players we see, week after week, who have a heavy touch that gets smothered by the keeper, who skim the outside of the post. But in a case of the delightful seeming workmanlike, a goal was scored.

It isn’t always wonderful, isn’t always perfect but it is always exceptional in one of the meanings for the word, because there are exceptional people doing things that sometimes veer into the exceptional.

This isn’t an admonition, or a way that calls out supporters in any way. But it is an acknowledgement that something extraordinary happened today, because of this team … this wonderful team. It isn’t wonderful because of what it does, but rather because of what it is. A sunrise only seems routine, but is a truly staggering thing to contemplate.

I had the great pleasure of working with a photojournalist, John White, who photographed the sunrise every day. For decades. And for all I know he still does. When asked why, he said because every sunrise is special. So are these athletes that we watch every week. No matter how much we might see, we should never lose sight of that.

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Posted in Champions League, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts77 Comments

Sevilla 2, Barça, aka “Moments change a lot”

suarez

Everything in sport comes down to a moment, sometimes less. Races are lost in hundredths of a second, a moment’s hesitation allows an opponent to get free. A moment is nothing, but sometimes it’s everything.

Barça’s draw to Sevilla came down to a trio of moments, all of which went Sevilla’s way: a Suarez miss, a Bravo misplay and a Pique giveaway. Another time, those plays go differently. Against a lesser opponent, the counterattacks don’t have the precision that Sevilla’s did. But on this day, these three moments were decisive.

More fascinating is that the moments and the resultant mistakes all have roots in how an exceptionally talented player is, which will directly affect the decision that he makes.
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Posted in Analysis, La Liga, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts115 Comments

Believing the unbelievable as the countdown begins

Fate owes us.

At the end of what seems an interminable cycle of fear, loathing and heartache, that damsel has some blaugrana debts to pay.

The notion of a team or group of supporters being “due” is an odd one, but for the record and from this chair, Fate owes the hell out of us. And as the team heads for Sevilla tomorrow, 4 points in the Liga lead with 8 matches to go, the Pollyanna in me just refuses to believe that Fate intends to be that cruel.

It has been quite a travail being a culer these past seasons. And whether Job and his trials, Sisyphus and his quest or any other figure of legend you can think of in an analogous fashion, it ain’t been easy. Let’s exclude the difficulties of the board’s own making and just manage things such as illness, death, personal tragedies befalling players and injuries galore. This stuff all combines to leave a culer wondering just when in the hell our beloved club is going to catch a break.
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Posted in Analysis, La Liga, Messi, Thoughts58 Comments

History, Barça and you, aka “Respect the past, but don’t let it hobble”

My wife says that I am like a dog. Not in the Messi sense, but in the almost complete lack of history. It’s like when you go out the check the mail, come back and your dog does a happy dance: “You’re HOME! I didn’t think you were EVER coming back! This is the best day ever!”

That lack of history in many ways makes life happy, and complex. Its obvious roots are in the “be here now” worldview that shapes my life path, the lack of a desire to carry the burdens of the past around. But in a more practical sense a lack of history is, in theory, liberating. It also makes me rather ill-equipped to properly assess many aspects of FC Barcelona, in a way.

Does history provide context, or does it hamstring? Can a respect for history veer into a reverence that blinds? This question is in many ways at the core of the debate that culers are having about the direction of the team right now.
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Posted in Analysis, Thoughts83 Comments

Celta 0, Barça 1, aka “Sprites troll the world”

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FC Barcelona kept a clean sheet, and its lone goal came from a set piece.

We should pause a moment to let that sink in …

FC Barcelona kept a clean sheet, and its lone goal came from a set piece.

No matter how many times you repeat that, the absurdity of the statement won’t be in any way ameliorated. And it must be said that in some quarters, that statement is wrong. Barça doesn’t win matches like that. Excellent defending, a few last-ditch challenges and a set piece? Ugh. Can we give the win back?

Thankfully, no. And on a day that RM dropped 9 goals on an exceptionally compliant and distracted Granada, people kept talking about that match, and would it affect Barça, and was it on the players’ minds, blabla, etcetc. My guess is no. Because unlike Granada, Celta Vigo was a real team and they were at home. It was also the first match after the international break, a match in which Barça usually play like twice-filtered dung.

So what happened? Essentially, the same as La Real, the crisis inducer. Messi didn’t play the first half, and a defender headed in a goal. Only it was into the opponent’s net rather than our own, so instead of losing 1-0, Barça won 0-1. Everything else was the same: rampant opponent, poor play, a team that couldn’t string two passes together, an elevated game in the second half. But the difference between a win and a loss is just a few bounces of the ball sometimes.

After the match of course, Barça Twitter lit up with all the ways in which the team could have lost today. Here, various things were discussed, reasons why the team didn’t play up to its usual standard. Fact of the matter is that the team did play up (or down) to its usual post-internationals standard, so the reason for surprise is difficult to fathom. Anybody who wasn’t expecting a mess of a match just hasn’t been paying very much attention. And that’s okay, because this has been a season of shifting expectations and desires.

In the aftermatch picking over the carcass, a memory of an early bicycle race comes to mind, and a crazy situation that prompted me to say, “I almost crashed!” A more seasoned racer said, “You either crash or you don’t. There’s no such thing as an almost crash.” Same with dropped points. It either happens or it doesn’t, and we can breathe a sign of relief or not. Easy when you think about it, particularly in light of the reality that all three of the Liga podium are going to drop points this season. It’s unavoidable, given the fixture congestion.

What’s more interesting to me is how the team won this match. Essentially, Celta came out playing like a house afire, and Barça was awful. Social media would point to various culprits but really, except for Pique, Mathieu and Bravo, everybody was poor. Messi set up shop in the middle of the field, which left Rafinha wondering exactly what his job was. Alves was … if anyone has any ideas, please send them my way. Iniesta was giving away balls like Caga Tio, only nobody was hitting him upside the head.

But when the first half ended 0-0 after that Celta onslaught, smart money said that Barça was going to win because they couldn’t play any worse, and Celta couldn’t play any better. That’s what happened: Barça raised its game, and Celta came down to earth a bit. More interestingly, Barça was again the fitter team, finding its collective legs as Celta’s players were flagging, amid growing frustration that manifested itself in a red card for a Celta player for throwing something or other at Busquets.

This wasn’t only the second time that Barça have driven an opponent to throwing something. It was a symbol of what this team has become: a massive pain in the ass.

Earlier this season I said, even as people giggled at me and questioned my sanity or whether it was even a good thing, that Barça was taking on the character of its coach. It was becoming a tough, hard-edged, pugnacious bunch that would take a blow, stick its chin out and fight back. Today’s match, just like the Classic, was an example of a tough, fit, resilient team that can not only outplay, but outwait its opponent, taking advantage of a moment of weakness to gain an advantage.

The Suarez goal in the classic can be scoffed at as the old, evil individual brilliance. But the Mathieu goal in the Classic and today for the match winner, is just another example of what Enrique has been doing with this football team, because set piece goals happen on the training pitch. Last season, culers bemoaned the fact that opponents were scoring set piece goals, but Barça had not a chance. This season, Barça is scoring set piece goals, and not conceding them. This is a good thing. So is the fight in the team.

There is still talk of Enrique not being close to the players, etc, whatever in the hell that means. But they don’t have to gather around the campfire and have milk and cookies. They have to work together and respect each other enough to give of their best. That is this Barça. No sane culer should really give two craps that the team isn’t blasting Coldplay in the locker room, watching “Gladiator” videos and getting hugs from a weeping coach. That was the past. In the present, this team is a nasty bunch. It fights, tactical fouls and gets under the opponent’s skin. Arda Turan didn’t try out for the boot throwing Olympic team because he was a happy lad, just as Orellana didn’t sidearm a bit of fauna at Busquets out of barely controlled delight. Both players were pissed, and Barça was the reason. Again, this is good.

Change has been coming for a while, the kind of change that used to spark wistful sighs and talk of a tougher team, as some opponent bullied our wee ones. Well, they’re tough. And that’s cool. Celta had chances, and those chances were dealt with. Barça had chances, that were mostly screwed up until Mathieu’s most excellent use of his noggin that was, by the by, a very difficult goal. And the team won. It sounds simple, and it kinda was simple even as the match seemed fraught to many, because that’s what matches do.

But whatever you feel about the win and the way that it was obtained, assessments that will line up culers on either side of a divide, the hope is that we can all agree on one thing: Barça is badass, and that’s good.

"I'm so bad, I don't even have to close my fly!"

“I’m so bad, I don’t even have to close my fly!”

Posted in Analysis, La Liga, Tactics, Thoughts132 Comments

“Intellectual laziness” and the football supporter

In the previous thread, something interesting occurred, something worth a short post that deals with it a bit.

There was a comment stating that suggesting we don’t yet know about Douglas relied on the laziest of fan assertions, that we don’t know as much as the people whose jobs it is to know these sorts of things. The question of whether that is lazy or just common sense is a pertinent part of this discussion.

If I am at work editing a story, and an electrician walks into the newsroom, reads over my shoulder and decides that he knows better than I do what makes a story work and how to edit it, I am going to question that in the same way that he would question my assertion that I know more about circuits and wiring than he does. It ain’t our job.

Does that mean that people don’t possess knowledge that enables them to be a savant at something, or have a skill set that nobody knows about? Yep. That electrician could have been the best copy editor at his paper, but he just liked electronics. I could be an electronics savant. But prima facie, each person has a job.

It is the job of people to look at talent, and decide whether that talent is good enough to warrant consideration for the FC Barcelona first team. They get it wrong. Every team does. But usually, a player has the opportunity to fail before being deemed a failure. A player like Douglas is a special case, however. He isn’t good enough, period, and we don’t even need to see him play. As a matter of fact, him playing has the potential to make fools out of the “Not good enough and never will be crowd.” So playing him is actually a danger when you have something invested in his failure.

Supporters have an investment in themselves, their opinions and further, an investment in failure. Once a player is deemed “inadequate,” every semantic backflip will be used to ensure that said player remains thus. It’s like the people who insisted, based on not much more than their view of a coach and what they thought that coach was doing, that Barça didn’t have a chance against Atleti. Those people were silent when Barça beat Atleti not once, but three times. It’s easy to knee-jerk your way to a close-hugged opinion.

More difficult is to wait. To sit tight and see what a player or team, or anything ACTUALLY does rather than having an opinion and being unwilling to alter that opinion in any way, or evince any sort of flexibility. That is the purest form of intellectual laziness, because it doesn’t even want to make an effort to consider that something might be different.

We see it all the time, and not just with Douglas. We have seen it with Mathieu, Bravo, Neymar, Mascherano, etc, etc. We have seen it in the case of Andoni Zubizarreta, the man who should be, as some suggested, put in jail for signing Bravo over Ochoa or Keylor Navas. Only we don’t know, really, because neither of those inducements to a criminal act is seeing the light of day at their current teams, both of which are below Barça in the league standings.

This investment in failure and intellectual rigidity won’t stop until football supporters develop the kind of intellectual flexibility that allows them to consider other views, to consider the notion that maybe, just maybe, people who are paid large sums to assess talent might have a clue. If you look at the list of players who are making significant contributions to the success of this year’s team, which is in contention for a Treble, and how many of them were signed by the very man so many supporters claim is incompetent, that reality means that somebody, somewhere has gotten something wrong.

The talent assessors aren’t infallible. They get it wrong, or take a punt on a player who has a skill set that might translate into something interesting all the time. Henrique, Keirrison, Caceres, Hleb, Song, Barça has many players like that in its recent history. That kind of stuff happens. Look at what Txiki B and Soriano are doing with a blank checkbook at Manchester City. Does that mean they are incompetent? These are the guys who presided over the transfer period that brought in players crucial to the best period in Barça’s footballing history. You make signings, and you take a shot.

But patience is sometimes required. And I don’t understand writing a player off just because a supporter needs that player to be poor. Mascherano is a no-passing card magnet. Pique is a poker-playing playboy. Alves isn’t committed to the club any longer. Mathieu is a chain-smoking beanpole who isn’t good enough. And supporter have absolutely nothing invested in the situation. If our team wins or loses, if a player doesn’t cut it, we have nothing to lose or gain. Bragging rights ts the pub, the chance to strut around in the shirt, etc, etc, maybe a bit of money placed on a bet. That’s it. Nothing. Our job isn’t on the line, our future in the game isn’t at risk. Nothing. Yet we carp, argue and deem players who are given a shot at the club we support, “unworthy.” “I’ve seen him play. He sucks. Nowhere near good enough.” Got it. But it isn’t logical.

Douglas isn’t as good as Alves. No player in world football is, which is why Alves is in the catbird’s seat. Danilo? I have watched him play, and see talent. But it isn’t my job to say whether he has the potential to be as good as Alves. I don’t know enough to say that. That isn’t “lazy,” that’s just simple reality.

I don’t care about being right or wrong, mostly because except in the objective sense of a scoreline, such things don’t exist. But if Douglas turns out to be a helpful player for FC Barcelona, that would make me happy as a clam because the team has a need at the position he plays. It’s as simple as that. And in the battle to label, the only label I have for such a potential happenstance is, “Cool!”

Posted in Thoughts66 Comments

Bravo and Ter Stegen: The Importance of Experience In Football and The Need For Something New

For months, Barcelona fans knew that the club was close to signing Marc-André ter Stegen. Obviously, he was regarded as the perfect replacement for Victor Valdes.

Ter Stegen was known as the “next Neuer” and “one of the best young goalkeepers in the world”. I have never been a fan of young player hype because in most occasions everything that was said turns out to be false. However, it would be wrong to ignore that there is something very special about Ter Stegen.

News about Luis Enrique being interested in Real Sociedad’s goalkeeper Claudio Bravo began to emerge as well. Claudio did not exactly have the best record at Real Sociedad.

Many people doubted Bravo because of his errors at Real Sociedad. The club insisted on signing him anyway. While transfer rumors were flying in and out, Claudio Bravo was putting on an excellent performance for his country at the World Cup in Brazil.

So, Barcelona suddenly had two new goalkeepers who are both capable of being starters. Let’s take a deeper look at the two different styles of these goalkeepers.

Claudio Bravo:

Claudio is the ultimate example of a traditional goalkeeper. He does everything by the book. It’s as simple as pushing the ball away when it comes near your goal and catching it whenever you can. There is nothing too fancy about Claudio Bravo. Claudio is 31 years old and he gives the obvious impression of an experienced goalkeeper in his 30s and I am sure the examples in this category are endless. He is a goalkeeper coaches depend on purely for experience and character. Just like many of the older players on the field, he simply yells out: “Calm down, I’ve done this before”.

Experience is an attribute of extreme importance and this importance is gradually fading away because of rising young talents. This, however, is a disastrous mistake.

Many football fans, including myself, believe that having experienced centre-backs and goalkeepers is one of the most crucial parts of setting up a team. As shiny and new as young players may appear to be, chances are they might break under pressure and it happened a lot before. After all, most of the older excellent centre-backs and goalkeepers were once kids and committed several mistakes until they gained the character and experience that these two positions require.

Coaches want to look at the bench when selecting a lineup and seeing mature and confident players they can depend on precisely in defense. All of this brings me back to Claudio Bravo.

Experience factor aside, Claudio is a goalkeeper with excellent reflex and diving attributes. Throughout the season, he has shown that it takes a lot to beat him. Whether it’s a deflected shot, a header, a shot from outside the area, or any other type of danger, Claudio seemed very determined to prove what he is capable of. And honestly, he succeeded.

He managed 55 saves in La Liga this season. With the help of a very organized defense, he managed to keep 15 clean sheets. Barcelona conceded only 17 goals in La Liga this season. Obviously, the defense played a huge role in accomplishing that. To be even more accurate, it is worth pointing out that experienced centre-back, Gerard Pique, has been displaying a perfect mature character while playing. With such characters on the field, it becomes generally difficult for a defense to break.

Claudio Bravo is the traditional goalkeeper you would want to have on your team. However, he is not easy on the eyes. He won’t try to impress you or put on a show because probably he doesn’t even have the skills for it. He knows what he’s capable of, though. And from what the fans have seen this season, he is pretty damn good.

Ter Stegen

Ter Stegen arrived as the future of this club. He doesn’t completely occupy the present because Claudio Bravo is the goalkeeper in La Liga. However, many believe that this is a transitional phase for Ter Stegen and soon enough he is going to be recognized as Barcelona’s main goalkeeper.

Ter Stegen’s style of play is completely different to Claudio’s style of play. He has always been recognized as a goalkeeper who is good with his feet and it was the reason that made him a main target for a club like Barcelona. He crosses with both feet with excellent accuracy. He maintains a very calm attitude when dealing with the ball. He is more focused on how he is going to help start another attack for his team than simply saving the ball or pushing it away.  In many occasions, people tend to trust him much more with the ball.

Ter Stegen previously displayed how great he can be when he is forced to dive or jump for a ball. His athleticism is outstanding. He saved multiple shots that required excellent reflexes as well. Ter Stegen played against attacking giants like Ibrahimovic and Aguero in just a matter of months and has displayed a very confident growing character.

His character makes him stand out. Ter Stegen can shift from being confident to being cocky in a matter of seconds.  Deep down, fans love Ter Stegen because he brings something different and relatively new. He is the exciting young goalkeeper the world awaits. Let’s be honest, everyone loves a young exciting face.

Not so much could be said about Ter Stegen as fans have seen him much less than they’ve seen Claudio Bravo but Marc-André is definitely a keeper. (I’ll get my coat)

There has always been a debate around these two great goalkeepers. On one hand you have Claudio Bravo who expresses pure experience and the traditional image of a mature goalkeeper and on the other you have this exciting kid who adds something new and contributes to Barcelona’s style of play while being excellent between the bars as well.

Who do I pick? I pick both.

Bravo will continue to be the wall Barcelona depends on when the defense suffers while Ter Stegen will continue to grow to represent the unknown future that excites everyone.

 

 

Posted in Barcelona, Thoughts60 Comments

The rest of the season, aka “Dancing the sardana through a minefield”

So. The Classic win was immense, leaving Barça with a 4-point lead in the Liga standings and culers with much rejoicing. But here’s why you shouldn’t be planning that victory parade yet.

The rest of the season for Barça is a nasty collection of collisions. Let’s have a look, and compare to the RM run in later.

5 April, away to Celta
8 April, home for Almeria
11 April, away to Sevilla
15 April, away to PSG in Champions League
19 April, home for Valencia
21 April, home for PSG in Champions League
26 April, away to Espanyol
29 April, home for Getafe
3 May, away to Cordoba
10 May, home for La Real (we owe them one)
17 May, away to Atleti
24 May, hope for Depor
30 May, Copa final

If, and that’s a significant if, given the fixture congestion, Barça get past PSG, the semi-finals are 5-6 May and 12-13 May, putting them before La Real and Atleti.

Many declared the week that just finished, with City in Champions League and then the Classic as season-defining. No. The season-defining stretch is the two weeks from Celta to Valencia. In a dream world, Barça would get through those 5 matches without dropping points. If that happens, expect me to sprout wings and be able to save money on airfare by flying myself to Barcelona for elections this summer.

Celta will be right after international break, and Sevilla will be in their house, where they are unbeaten this season. Get past them and there’s a resurgent Valencia and of course, PSG waiting. RM has a comparative cake walk.

5 April, home for Granada
8 April, away to Rayo
12 April, home for Eibar
14 April, away to Atleti in Champions League
18 or 19 April, home for Malaga
22 April, home for Atleti in Champions League
25 April, away to Celta
28 April, home for Almeria
2 May, away to Sevilla
9 May, home for Valencia
16 May, away to Espanyol
23 May, home for Getafe

The days of the Liga “gimme” are gone, but I don’t think any culer would rather be looking at Granada, Rayo, Eibar and Malaga in league, than Celta, Almeria, Sevilla and Valencia. I’m sure that conspiracy theorists will be having a field day, but picking lineups that can get the job done while preserving key players for key matches is going to be a nightmare for Enrique. The news that Thomas Vermaelen trained with the squad today is of pretty much zero help, because in a system that bases its magic on its three forwards, you kinda need those dudes all the time.

Messi wants to play all the time anyhow. Suarez is actually benefiting from his ban that essentially makes him a half-season player this year. Neymar is the worry point, because his game doesn’t allow him to rest within matches as Messi’s does. He’s either going fast or he’s ineffective. An effective system that incorporates Pedro will need to be devised, and look for Xavi and Rafinha to play increasing roles as the season progresses.

The only consolation for culers will be that RM is going to drop points as well, but we shouldn’t forget that 8 matches ago, Barça was 4 points down to RM in the standings, and people were saying the Liga was lost. So, moderation in everything with the operative phrase of one match at a time. Personally, I will be feeling better about things if Barça can manage to survive the 4-match stretch from Sevilla to Espanyol. With 5 days rest before “traveling” to Espanyol, that should be a less fraught encounter.

What will happen? If I knew that I would put some money down on something or other. I have some ideas, though:

Wins against Almeria and Celta, though the latter will require some energy, leading to …
A draw against Sevilla in their house
Away draw at PSG
Home win against Valencia
Home win against PSG
Win at Espanyol, but it will be close, fraught and nasssssty
Win at Cordoba
Win against La Real (could be a draw if the Champions League semis happen.)
Loss to Atleti
Win to close out the season against Depor

You math majors will see that if RM runs the table for the 10 remaining matches, and assuming a win vs La Real rather than a draw, that would make RM Liga champions by virtue of the head-to-head goal differential at the tiebreaker. But if they run the table they would, frankly, have accomplished something extraordinary. So are you worried yet? Don’t be. One match at a time and as usual, speculation, caveats and quibbles are welcome.

Posted in Analysis, Champions League, La Liga, Thoughts40 Comments

Barça aesthetics: The judges have decided to give it a 2

enrique

After the cheering stops … no sooner have the echoes of the exultant roars of the very last goal dissipated than the ripping at the carcass begins.

Cruijff likes the result, but didn’t like the football. Various post-match recaps describe Barça as more RM-like than RM. Another says that this Classic put the knife well and fully into tika taka, and assuredly killing off that phrase wouldn’t be at all bad. On Revista the topic is the RM resurgence, how they look like a good team again with Luka Modric back.

Which side of the 2-1 scoreline was Barça on, and has it really come down to theoretical football? In the wake of everyone and their mamas talking tactics and formations, it seems that Barça didn’t really play football before 2008. In those Dark Ages the team stomped around the pitch like mastodons, working off cave drawings instead of actual formations.

In the wake of a Classic that Barça won to go 4 points ahead of RM, hunks are being flayed from the team’s hide from all quarters. It doesn’t even matter that the beast isn’t wounded, or damaged in any way. It COULD have been and WILL be.
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Posted in Analysis, Champions League, La Liga, Thoughts33 Comments

Luis Suarez and the act of forgiveness

The truly personal piece – even as obviously anything written here is from the writer’s own worldview – is rare for me. My hope is that in banging this out it will help not only me come to grips with a situation, but other culers who are struggling in the same way.

During yesterday’s Classic, I had an awful moment. During the screaming and exultation over what ultimately turned out to be the winning goal, what entered my mind amid the din was, “Why did it have to be him?”

I felt awful for having that thought, for so many reasons, not least of which is my Buddhist belief system which has a very clear view about forgiveness, summed up in this excellent piece at the Dharma Wisdom site.

Its context is essentially, how to forgive the unforgiveable, what is forgiveness and how do we reconcile an unspeakable act with the act of forgiveness. True forgiveness. Here is the best, and most pertinent excerpt from the piece, which is really worth reading no matter your belief system:

Forgiveness can be understood as a spiritual practice and has been taught as such by Jesus, the Buddha, and many other spiritual teachers. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines forgiveness in this manner: “To cease to feel resentment against on account of a wrong committed.” This definition is poignantly illustrated in a well-known Tibetan Buddhist story about two monks who encounter each other some years after being released from prison where they had been tortured by their captors. “Have you forgiven them?” asks the first. “I will never forgive them! Never!” replies the second. “Well, I guess they still have you in prison, don’t they?” the first says.

Forgiveness practice is about liberating your own feelings and finding meaning in the worst of life’s events. You practice forgiveness to be free of the inner violence of your rage, and you do not abandon the pursuit of right action. In fact, you gain clear seeing that allows you to use skillful means in bringing sustainable peace.
There is a misguided idea that to forgive is to accept, that by forgiving an act we somehow condone that it happened, but that isn’t the case. Everyone has done things in their life for which they had to beg, and hope for forgiveness. I have. I know you have. We all have. When forgiveness comes, through direct or indirect action, most of what the person who is being forgiven feels is relief. But shouldn’t the person who is doing the forgiving also feel relief? You release this thing from your heart, letting a wound heal, in effect.

When the club bought Luis Suarez, it was a player with a history: biting, and being found guilty of racist action. I stomped my feet and penned a screed about a board that would do anything to win, even signing an unrepentant bit of skeeze such as this. Obviously, I was against it. Over time, and it’s important to note that this was true even when Suarez was struggling to hit the broad side of a barn with a football, I was struggling with a hard heart because that hardness is essentially against everything that I believe in.

Two years ago at the national track cycling championships, I was the fastest guy there in my age division. In the semi-finals I won the first ride easily. In the second ride my opponent pulled a move that was illegal. I backed off rather than crashing. I protested, and was denied. The feelings that arose in me were intensely negative, to the effect of “We’ll see in this third ride. Somebody is going down!” I felt terrible for that emotion, and withdrew from the competition. It felt like the best action in keeping with my beliefs, and still does because not only is the sport in which I participate supposed to be about joy and fun, but nothing good ever comes from a negative emotion.

So here I sit with Suarez, yesterday’s hard heart and awful feeling rooted in the question, “Why did it have to be him?” On Twitter this morning I noted the existence of that feeling, and someone for whom I have the deepest respect and admiration sent me a message about that situation, a message that made me think and make an effort to come to terms with me and my feelings, rooted in a debate I was having about Neymar. People in Barca Twitter commented that perhaps if Neymar wasn’t so obsessed with his hair and Instagram, he would be playing better.

Now the obvious absurdity in such a worldview is that he was doing the same hair and Instagram stuff when he was banging in goals for fun, so why would it be different now? Further, an excellent point was made about the expectation of a Barca player, which is to come to the match and give his all for the team, that demanding that a player adhere to some sort of behavioral standard was madness and prima facie unfair because of the malleability of said standards. My defense of Neymar was automatic, based in my own sense of fairness. The struggle to come to grips with the Suarez thoughts came hot on the heels of that and have, frankly, left me more than a little ashamed.

I don’t like what this board has done to the football club that I love. Suarez is for me, part of that sense of “anything” that seems to motivate so many actions perpetrated by the board. So Suarez has links to the board in my head and in my heart, links that hinder that act of forgiveness. So many say that Suarez is a good man, a loving father who is good to his children, but that isn’t the point. The point is that he performed acts on a football pitch that are rather reprehensible, and the reactions to those acts.

Forgiveness isn’t easy. It’s different than an apology, an act of contrition which in this day and age too often means “Sorry I got caught.” True contrition exists in the acts after the apology, rather than in the apology itself. Apology is really single-sided. One person apologizes, and it’s up to the other person whether they accept said apology, but the acceptance doesn’t have any effect on the apology, no matter its sincerity. Forgiveness is usually considered to be two-sided. One has to forgive, and the other has to be forgiven. But that perception of the symbiotic act is incorrect. Forgiveness is in its purest form, just as one-sided as an apology. If someone forgives, the other person doesn’t matter because what the act of forgiveness does is removes that little bit of negative energy not only from your heart, but from the world.

Hard-heartedness is, like many emotions, fear-based. As people, we spend so much of our lives in fear. Fear drives a lot of what we do. Fear of being wrong, fear of what someone might say if we deviate from a hard and fast position, fear that someone might laugh at us. Fear is a thing that also hinders so much of what we do, including altering the capacity to forgive.

Sporting joy is pure. It reduces us to canines, essentially, as a dog’s love is unconditional. “This is the best bone ever!” We love our teams. When our teams do well, the joy is complete and glorious in an ideal world. We sometimes weep, sometimes cheer, but there is that rawness that is so unspeakably wonderful. My “why him?” moment intruded, sullied that purity in a way that was tough to deal with, a moment that is now gone. And as we build forts around positions that are meaningless – Suarez doesn’t care what I think – it’s easy to wonder about our stake in them. What’s the emotional investment in denying forgiveness, for me?

Comfort is an odd thing that soothes us at times when we need it. If I had to actually accept that I needed to forgive Suarez, where would that lead? What would happen if he bit someone again, or stood accused of racially abusing another player? Does that mean that I was stupid, and my forgiveness was misguided, that I should have stuck to my guns so that I could then say “See? Told you he would.” That’s all fear-based, and it’s long past time to be unafraid.

You can forgive someone who doesn’t care about your forgiveness except in the abstract. Does the act of forgiving Suarez free my heart to become a fuller, more complete culer, more vested in unconditional love for the club? Good question. It certainly removes a barrier to my fullest immersion in the pure emotion of sporting joy and it also, honestly, makes me less of a prat.

Suarez did what he did. Forgiveness doesn’t eradicate those actions or imply that you accept those actions. But it does mean that you have become, in a small but significant way, just a little bit more human.

Posted in Thoughts27 Comments

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