By Eric Beard
Doesn’t vehement hatred get kind of boring after a while? I mean, sure, if you want to let a little schadenfreude and anger out a couple of times a year, that’s fine. Everyone’s entitled to their fair share of irrational fandom. Maybe I’m not as creative as the Spanish press and [insert name of your Superclub]’s fans, but hatred gets kind of circular after a while. Millions and millions of fans watched the superb match at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night, where violence and drama were plentiful. They saw Messi assist and Ronaldo score. They saw a comeback that arguably could have overshadowed Liverpool’s triumph in Istanbul. The match, in itself, was fantastic, but the shoving, pushing, accusing, and general unabashed conduct that has become the status quo took over as the final whistle approached.
Unprofessionalism can be as equally entertaining as it is surprising, don’t get me wrong. But only if it’s unexpected (and relatively non-violent). I remember seeing an MLS playoff game in 2007 between the New England Revolution and the Chicago Fire. Michael Parkhurst of New England had been presented two awards before the match: the MLS Defender of the Year award and the Fair Play award. Within 20 minutes of kickoff, Parkhurst gave away a freekick, which prompted an inordinately audible Cee-Lo Green-esque “eff you!” for everyone in the stands to feast their ears upon. It was appalling, yet also hilarious given Parkhurst might as well have been the league’s Dalai Lama. When is the last time you heard say, “that Pepe, he’s amusing isn’t he?” When expected, unprofessionalism is quite simply as boring as it is disgusting.
With Spaniards consuming a half dozen Clásicos every year, stories elsewhere are welcome, yet difficult to be granted attention by the Spanish media. Two unexpected figures have been uniting Spanish fans, one though genius and one through sheer spirit. The first is Marcelo Bielsa, the manager of Athletic Bilbao, who has done remarkably well in his first season with the Basque club. Bielsa has earned the full support of Athletic fans, managing to get results through an enjoyable style of play. The second is a Spanish club based in Spain’s Segunda División B, Group 2 named CD Mirandés, who have managed to somehow transcend the boundaries of what is imaginable for a club that can only seat 6,000 in its stadium. Indeed, Mirandés did the ineffable by progressing into the Copa del Rey semifinals courtesy of an injury-time winner from Pablo Infante, Mirandés’ midfielder-turned-Spanish hero.