Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The two richest sports teams in the world are not baseball teams, they are not football teams, and they are not basketball teams. They are two Spanish soccer teams, Barcelona and Real Madrid. They are both worth more than a billion dollars, and pay more to their players than the Yankees due to theirs. The two best goal-scorers in the world play on these two teams, Ronaldo for Madrid and Lionel Messi for Barcelona. Every time they play each other it’s called El Clasico, and most of Spain comes to a standstill. So, what happens when they meet five times in a three week span over the Easter season when most of Spain is off for two weeks? Craziness. What happens when two of those games are the semifinals of the European Champion’s League (the biggest annual club sporting event in the world)? I found out when I went to Madrid.
Another aspect of this rivalry that you must understand is that, imagine it were Red Sox vs. Yankees but New York is the capital of the US and almost everyone in Boston wants New England to break off from the United States and form their own country. Barcelona is in Catalonia. Catalonia is probably the most economically stable part of Spain. Catalans have their own language. They have their own architecture. They have their own culture. Spain considers the likelihood of secession serious enough, that it does not recognize countries that break off from other countries (ie. Spain has no diplomatic ties with Kosovo or East Timor). Now you can understand a little bit about the importance of the soccer game that I went to Madird to watch.
Last side note before I begin the story in earnest. Brooke and Gerald (friends from my days at Clarke Central) were incredibly generous with their time and Brooke’s bed and made my spontaneous trip to Madrid not only possible but legen-dary.
Ok, so we went to Gerald’s friend’s apartment in Madrid to watch the game. Basically Messi dominated. Actually, the entirety of Barcelona dominated with about 80% of the possession. So, I chose the wrong sity to watch the game in. A 2-0 loss by Madrid virtually eliminates them barring a miracle in Barcelona tomorrow night. To illustrate the sadness at the loss--every time Barca scored, you could hear groans everywhere. In the apartment building people literally pounded the walls with their fists. The city was so sad and dead; nobody went out (despite the fact it was a holiday--I think).
The next day, Brooke, Gerald and I went on a free walking tour of the city. Madrid is surprisingly small, and the tour only lasted about three hours. Apparently, the palace has an unknown number of rooms and rivals Versailles in size. As a result though, all of the buildings around it are not so grand, including the cathedral…from the palace side (the main entrance) the cathedral kind of looks like the Alamo (so as not to offend the royals), but from the back, out of view of the palace, it is pretty impressive. This prompted men to say that it is like a Spanish woman.
After the walking tour, I took my first of many siestas in a row, and then Gerald and Brooke had a bunch of friends over to go out. I reintroduced the Danish drinking game, and after a couple hours of pregaming, and a couple hours of buying beers off vendors and trying to find a discothèque, we finally found one around 3 o’clock and danced like mad till five.
The next day was not really down to do much, but I made it to the Reina Sofia museum with Brooke to see Guernica and other Picasso works. This museum is way better than the Picasso museum in terms of Picasso works (ironic). The permanent exhibit focuses on the Spanish Civil war, mostly as seen from the communist perspective (or at least the anti-Franco perspective). Some of the artwork is very impressive, but a lot of it is a little too modern I think.
I almost forgot to metion that I finally got my haircut in Madrid. My barber realized pretty early on that I wouldn't object to anything she did to my hair because I couldn't really. So, she kind of cut it like Ronaldo (you'll see picture soon). It looked ridiculous for a day or two, but now it's kind of growing on me (no pun intended, really). Thanks again to Brooke and Gerald for an awesome time in capital of Spain. I had a blast. More to come very shortly.
Picture explanation--a very fat man in a superman costume, Brooke, Gerald, and I infront of the Plaza Mayor and the cathedral respectively.