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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Life and Death and Spanish Football

Life and Death and Spanish Football

I was just about to head out on my bike to go watch one of the opening ceremonies for the Fallas festival here in Valencia. I’ve been told that Fallas is one of the biggest and most extravagant festivals in Europe. This was in conflict with a Valencia CF football match on television. I have been watching enough football lately and it wouldn’t kill me to miss a match. Simply making the decision to do something cultural instead of drinking beer and watching soccer made me feel superior.

Good thing that I just happened to walk out on my balcony just before I headed out the door because I saw that it was starting to rain pretty hard. That’s a good thing to know before you carry your bike down five flights of stairs. It looked like drinking beer and watching football was going to win out over a cultural excursion. The slobs once again beat the snobs. I couldn’t very well be expected to hike downtown and then stand outside in the rain. I had no choice, my hands were tied.

Instead, I walked the two blocks* over to my favorite sports bar in the Plaza Valencia CF in the shadows of Mestalla Stadium. It had stopped raining on my way over and I was feeling a bit guilty for not going to the ceremony, but about three sips into my first beer I noticed that it started coming down pretty good. That should teach all of those blue-blooded elites who went to the Fallas opening.

Valencia was playing Gimàstic from Tarragona. The left leaning accent on the “a” in Gimàstic should clue you into the fact that Tarragona is another Catalan city. All that I know about Tarragona is that it is somewhere on the coast between Valencia and Barcelona. The game would be there on this evening which explained why my part of town near the stadium wasn’t in complete chaos as it is on game nights.

There were a lot of draws in the games played so far in the Spanish league on this Sunday and at halftime it was 0-0 in this match. Since I have arrived here in Spain some three months ago I have seen the build up that one Spanish television station has been creating for the Barcelona-Real Madrid match in March. That station is going to televise the game and they have been counting down the days. The first commercial that I noticed mentioned that the epic confrontation was 100 days away, as if they were referring to some looming catastrophe or biblical reckoning.

The halftime commercial for this game showed a man in the shower. They showed his bare ass as he was washing up (It’s hard to believe Americans went ballistic over a woman’s breast). He gets out of the shower and slips, hitting his head really hard on the sink. They show him lifeless on the floor of the bathroom when suddenly his eyes open and he gets up. They cut to a caption that says, “This isn’t a good time to die,” and then you are reminded that there are only 14 days until the Barça-Real Madrid match. No one in the bar laughed at this commercial but me. Then I realized that maybe it wasn’t supposed to be funny and perhaps I should start taking my Spanish Professional League soccer a little more seriously. This same station was urged to pull another similar commercial that showed a man apparently dying in a traffic accident and then getting back on his feet as if nothing had happened. You can see the spot here.

Valencia scored in the second half. I paid my tab and walked outside to watch the remainder of the game on one of the outdoor televisions. I was really hungry and I wanted to go home to eat but I couldn’t drag myself away. Tarragona ended up scoring in extra time so Valencia had to settle for another draw. I must have jinxed Valencia by leaving early.

*In Spain, city blocks are called manzanas which is the same word for “apples.” I just learned this when someone I was talking to corrected me on my Latin American use of cuadras to signify “blocks.” Not that any of you give a shit but I just thought that I would write this down so I would remember.

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