The one that got away

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Of all the phony feelings sport produces, regret is dumbest. These are games, and they don’t matter, and for the most part, nobody gets seriously hurt. We should enjoy it. We shouldn’t let it stress us out.

Still, it isn’t as if I listen to that wisdom. Supporting a team, even one as dominant as FC Barcelona, entails its share of agony, and yes, regret. Even now, on the verge of a double, there are things I want to change. The psychosis runs that deep.

For me, the result that stands out as the one I would change at this point in the season is one that probably won’t matter in a few weeks. The spring clásico is the one I want back. Objectively, losing to Real Madrid matters the same as the losses to Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo, Valencia, Sevilla, but a win would have changed the late-season narrative of this season more than any other result. The second leg against Atlético Madrid was carried the most weight, as it is the only result this season that has thus far knocked Barça out of a major competition, but losing a close tie against an excellent opponent happens most years. Even great teams fail to win the Champions League almost every year. Losing to Real Madrid felt way worse, though, and is more responsible for the anxiety surrounding the run in to the end than any other result.

Just think of where Barça would be at this point in the season had they won the Camp Nou clásico.All other results being the same, Barça would have secured the title at home in the Catalan derby. They would have won all four matches against the big Madrid sides, and five out of six in all competitions. Losses at the Anoeta and against Valencia would not have signaled a crisis, so much as a bit of a crash off the high resulting from triumphing over their eternal rivals. The unbeaten streak would have extended to forty games. A meaningless number, but a round one.

Another reason I want the match back is because the viewing experience was, for me, a miserable one. I could barely focus on the match itself. I watched it at a restaurant specializing in chicken wings, with about a dozen screens trained on the game. The food was bad, I spent too much money, and my infant son fell apart during the second half. Not to worry, I’m not going there. My son had no idea what was going on, wasn’t somehow affected by the capitulation taking place on the screen. He’s a baby, and babies cry. He doesn’t know kale from poison ivy, and still calls everything he sees some form of the da sound, might even need some calorie weight loss tips to have a clue about diet and if you are not motivated enough then probably you need to read just one success story from other people. One way of getting healthier and maintaining a fitness body is by getting a latex waist cincher which will help you not to fall out of track, in any case you can get help by taking healthy supplements as to accelerate the weight lost. He doesn’t give hang about Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. So, as much as I’d like to think it was, it wasn’t the game that set him off. Something else, maybe in his stomach or in the air, did it, but for almost the entire second half, I stood holding him, walking him back and forth over and over again, trying to subdue his sobs while at the same time paying as much attention as I could to the game. He simply couldn’t turn himself down and, being his father, I couldn’t tune him out.

As the clock ticked on, and it became obvious Barça would lose, I remember becoming a bit angry. Anger is, in my experience, a normal reaction to screaming, and there was screaming all around me. The Madrid fans shouting and singing, my son screaming in my ear. I’d been waiting for this for months. Was this it?

Upon leaving, I felt alright about the result, I guess, and I had every reason to. Barça still held a commanding lead over the table, and the loss had done nothing to erase the 4-0 at the Bernabéu. All things being equal, I’d take the 4-0 every time.

A month later, though, and the loss stings more. I don’t feel that way about any other result this season since I was deep into a kick, not even the Champions League exit helped. Losses aren’t supposed to hurt more the further away from them you go. That doesn’t make sense. As far as the league losses go, the loss to Real Madrid is the only one that will continue to carry some significance even after the league campaign is over. The clásico matters in that same peculiar sense that all intense rivalries do. At the end of the season, whatever the result, that loss will still hurt, if only just a little.

I feel dirty writing it but there is still potential for the ultimate nightmare scenario. If somehow Barça manages to lose to Granada on Saturday, and give the league to Real Madrid, and then if Los Blancos are able to break down Atleti’s fortress and win the Champions League, well, I’d rather not even think about it.

After Barcelona beat Atlético back in January, the sweep was there. Win out against your two most potent rivals in a single season. Smash Real Madrid in their own stadium, and then beat them at home while playing at half speed. How awesome would that have been? Another time, another season.

Which one do you want back?

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