Root for the Home Team

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“Cant de Barça” sung before and after every game. Listen while you read!

Though I never played sports myself, I’ve always considered myself a sports fan. No, I was never addicted to ESPN or paid any attention to the ticker during the news. I don’t care about stats or rankings or betting on odds. I don’t lose sleep over a hard loss. But there’s something about being part of a roaring crowd, a band of fanatics, that draws me in and sweeps me off my feet.
Most sports fans would agree that cheering for your team is about more than just winning. It’s emotional, it’s riveting, it’s sometimes even a romance between the fan and the team. It’s a legacy often transcending generations; you root for your team because your dad did and your grandfather did and so, too, do you. Traditions and superstitions are involved. Whether you’re tailgating in the fall with old time college friends, flaunting your school colors and cheering on your alma mater, or lounging on the couch with a beverage in hand and hot wings and nachos on the menu, rooting for your team means something for all of us. 
Three time champions in 2009

In this case, however, being a Barça fan really has nothing to do with strong emotions or traditions. I’m simply a fan because of geography and Barcelona makes it easy. It didn’t take long for us to realize back in 2008 that FCBarcelona was a force to be reckoned with. Their palpable popularity was staggering and they just so happened to be winning championship after championship. Barça had the golden touch and they were unstoppable. There were, and have been ever since, many late, late nights where we have been kept awake by the noise of vuvuzelas and exploding fireworks. Or, we ourselves have partaken in the celebrations out in the streets thinking, “If you can’t beat them, join them!” You’d think that all of this would serve as adequate preparation for a “fan in training” for the creme de la creme – to finally attend a match at Camp Nou stadium. 

After four years, the opportunity finally came on Saturday. My friend and colleague, Jenny, and I joined two of our students and their families to watch the game from their…wait for it…BOX SEATS at Camp Nou! Despite the fact that I am currently functioning with just one leg, there was no way I was missing this opportunity. Donning our jerseys and I with a lackluster set of crutches, Jenny and Gimpy made for the stadium with gusto. Hobbling my way through the hordes of drunk and excitable fans with a valiant Jenny by my side felt a bit like salmon swimming upstream, but after walking halfway around the block and seeing a glowing “Gate 1” light at the end of the tunnel with the “Cant de Barça” being sung honorably from the nosebleeds in the background, the reality of finally attending a match hit me. Luckily it didn’t knock me off my feet. As promised, drinks were served and the staple homemade “bocadillos” were shared over good conversation, good cheers, and a good time was had by all.

Something surprised me out of all of this though. Looking around, doing my best to contain my excitement and to keep my leg as straight as possible, I noticed that the crowd was quite calm. The fans were not the rowdy bunch I had expected but instead a dignified group of spectators who came to watch a game, and very intently at that. They cheered when Barça scored, scoffed when they were scored against, and cried out a unanimous sigh at every close call. Spirit for the home team and the passion for the game was visible, but Jenny and I both agreed that we’ll watch the next match from a bar stool with good friends.

Jenny and me with our students, Maya and Leyre
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