The window above the desk where I write is big, at least by American standards. It’s more than 3 feet wide and it gives me a nice view of the other side of the street. The houses on the other side are 5 floors tall with an attic space that may or may not be a 6th. I think some of it is that “winter garden” thing that is like my “3 season room” where you can look at it 4 seasons out of the year and use it none of them because it’s either super cold or super hot, even when it’s 70F on the other side of the glass walls. The reason I love this window, though, is that it is also nearly 6 feet tall and when I look up, I can always see the sky. There’s something about looking up, about seeing the clouds or the blue sky or the dark of night that settles me.
Whenever I watch a league match from home, I’m at this desk and I can see out into the darkness (it’s always dark at gametime in Germany) and it can be nice to glance up during a that annoying moment before a throw in where whoever is taking it suddenly drops it behind themselves and jogs off and we get 15 seconds of re-setting the whole scene as the next guy gets ready to take it. In those moments, I can look up at the night sky and sometimes I’ll see the lights of a plane or there’s just the black nothing of space because light pollution is drowning out the stars. If it’s raining, I can see the rain streaking across the window or bouncing off of the cars parked nearby and I can know that regardless of where this throw in goes, I’ll be all right and tomorrow this sky and this space will welcome me back. If I stretch my feet out, I can stick them under the heater and it’s toasty there so I don’t even have to wear socks in winter.
What I mean is I’m excited about El Clasico. I’m listening to music and the game is tomorrow and I am so hyped right now because yeah, tomorrow the sun will come up, but in the meantime, there’s adrenaline to pump through this flesh ball I call my body. A big part of my excitement is that this could go all kinds of sideways and we’ll be, oh, hmm, behind on head-to-head. Worst case scenario it’s tied and we’re hosting them in the second half of the year. Best case scenario we’re glancing quickly through historical stats to see who has come back from a 6 point deficit after losing a clasico at home. What are you afraid of? If you’re a Real Madrid supporter—first, welcome to this space, I think you’ll find us rather cordial. You’ll find snacks and coffee in the back by the poster of the triplete…oh, no, not that triplete haha, no I mean the other one—worst case scenario is that your well-orchestrated return to the upper echelons of La Liga devolves into people making fat jokes about your manager and kind of ignoring the whole Benzema thing because it’s, well, you don’t want to pile on. Best case you’re only as good as a team that has played without the greatest player in the world for weeks and is gaining ground on you, overall. Your stars are kind of listless, so maybe this will kickstart something or other, but no one actually likes Rafa Benitez because he’s just sort of, you know, good. He’s not interesting enough in that infotainment way and maybe he’s even great at knockout tournaments, but the team just feels meh. With Mourinho you weren’t bored, per se, but rather every 30 seconds you wondered when the team was going to shit the bed or kick someone in the teeth or score or the manager was going to be entertaining in a kind of obnoxious, horrible way that made your skin crawl. Benitez is just sort of there, sometimes eating on the bench and scribbling furious notes that are either instructions to his team that no one really understands or stream of consciousness poetry that always makes mention of the Istanbul skyline.
Over at Futfanatico, Elliott discussed the match, basically declaring this a boring fixture. I disagree with that in my heart but agree with it in the way that the stakes just aren’t what they have been. It’s just that, for me, that’s perfect. I love that. I want a clasico where I’m just watching my favorite team playing my least favorite team and it could go either way. Sure, maybe Benitez is boring, but also maybe they could win anyway and that’s exciting in a way, right? Here on this very site, Kevin has suggested it’s a big, big match that is worth paying attention to for reasons outside of football, and that may be (and indeed may be far more important than anything else), but I think it’s also important within football. This match need only be viewed as a match of two powerhouses teetering into each other, both unsure of what they’re doing, but both equally capable of delivering swift hooks to the jaw.
Because it’s here. It’s really here. The drudgery of an international break is over and this is what we return to? That is fantastic. It’s a showdown, it’s a rivalry match, it’s a lot of things and those things can be, if we want them to be, fun. Whatever it is, whether it’s cathartic or not, it should be hyped enough to make us forget the world around us for a little while. Maybe we’ll get the dull bus parking that Elliott predicts or maybe we’ll find ourselves on the edge of our seats for 90 minutes. I hope it’s the latter and my excited is there. My hope is there. My expectation is there, perhaps to a fault. But we’ll see and like I said, the sun will come up tomorrow and even though it’ll be hidden behind clouds here in Germany, I’ll be sitting at my desk taking in that view of the sky in my 2006/07 away jersey while humming the himno and thinking fun thoughts about Messi returning.
Wait, Messi? Oh. Oh! OH! Well why didn’t you just say so in the first place?