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Friday, September 28, 2007

Of Threats and Lessons Learned

People in Spain are very passionate about soccer. This seems like a rather cliché observation coming from an American who has spent so little time in this country. It seems like something someone would say who was seriously lacking in creativity and original thought. I’m saying it not because I lack creativity or original ideas; I’m saying it as a defense against charges that I threatened an 11 year old boy with violence while watching a football match on television. I have a few other remarks for the jury, or the judge, or whoever you speak to in a Spanish courtroom (I hope I never need to learn this the hard way).

I realize that it is perfectly acceptable in Spain to bring your children to a bar. The Spanish make little distinction between bars and restaurants; they are both places for everyone to enjoy. I realize that it is not unusual for young children to stay up to watch a soccer match on television that begins at 10:00 p.m. on a school night (At least I believe that it is a school night. You never know here with the hundreds of holidays on the calendar). I don’t mind if an 11 year old boy watching a match with his father expresses a lot of opinions about the players, even when most of these opinions are unfavorable and often insulting. With all of this understood, there are still rules to follow when you watch a match in a public place and the sooner this little loudmouth learns these rules the better.

The game was between Real Madrid and Betis (a team from Sevilla). I have noticed that most people in Valencia are Real Madrid fans; at least they are when our own club isn’t playing. Tonight, in this bar, everyone seemed to be rooting for Madrid, including the opinionated juvenile delinquent up too late on a probable school night but who can tell in Spain where people take off work with some of the flimsiest excuses you are ever going to hear. The youth in question showed his support in a sort of New York manner: by criticizing every player on the Real Madrid squad. Guti is slow, Casillas is a lousy goalkeeper, Sergio Ramos can’t pass, and on and on. Everyone has a right to their own opinion. Spain is a free country, at least I think that it is. Is Spain a free country? We say it all the time in America but I’m not really sure exactly what that even means.

I do know that there are limits to freedom. I don’t think that it is acceptable behavior in any bar in Spain to insult one of the best players for the Spanish national team and the fulltime ace forward for Real Madrid, Raul. It’s just not done. You don’t scream “fire” in a crowded theater and you don’t trash about Raul. This is why I told the little punk next to me that he was going to get a serious beating if he ever got down to insulting Raul in his inventory of criticism for the Real Madrid team. His father seemed to agree with me as he threw his hands in the air in a gesture that means, “What are you gonna do?” This gesture translates into any language. I don’t know what you’re going to do, dad, but I’m going to give your kid a vicious beating if he starts talking trash about Raul. I’d be doing it for his own good. I wouldn’t expect that a Canadian kid would have lived to see his first zit if he talked smack about Wayne Gretzky, Muslim kids don’t mock the Prophet, and this little runt needed to learn that in Spain, if you have anything bad to say about Raul, you keep it to yourself. Everyone at the bar seemed to agree with me on this.

I don’t think any Spanish court would convict me on this crime of threatening a minor, especially since Raul scored the first goal of the game on a penalty kick.

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