I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Being a fan of an athlete or a sports team is self-imposed torture. There really is no one else to blame for the heartache, the tears and the crushing disappointment you feel when your favorite team loses but yourself. You could have chosen not to care about a bunch of strangers whose sole purpose in life is to hit a football into the back of the net/drive in circles the fastest/shoot a ball into a hoop. But against your better judgment, against all logic, you do. I do.
When I get asked why I am a Real Madrid fan, I jokingly say that it’s because the men are so hot. But that’s really not the reason (I think I hear some “yeah rights”). Don’t get me wrong. THEY ARE HOT. But it takes more than Xabi Alonso’s gorgeous face to keep me as emotionally invested in RMCF as I am. I give the whole “because they are so hot” reason because, actually, I don’t know why I’m such a Real Madrid fan.
It’s not like they were the best team in the world when I started watching them. My interest was first piqued by the big deal that was made of David Beckham’s move from MUFC to RMCF in the 2003-2004 season. That was the height of the “galacticos” era, and also the start of a trophy-less drought, coaching replacements as frequent as Cristiano’s hairstyle changes, and a period of overall suckiness for the club. They went THREE seasons straight without winning ANYTHING, which is I think a record for the club. They were disappointing and even downright crap at some points over those three seasons. Xabi Alonso, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka weren’t even in Madrid then (see, I’m not all about the abs and the hotness!), but I stuck with them. I really can’t explain why.
It wasn’t all bad, of course. There was that unlikeliest of La Liga wins, the 2006-2007 league championship we shouldn’t have won, the season that was turned around in 60 seconds, won in 18 but almost lost to Barcelona in the final match of the season against Mallorca. Doubt was creeping in as Madrid were trailing a goal behind. But another of Fabio Capello’s match-changing substitutions turned the game on its head. José Antonio Reyes came in for a limping David Beckham, and spearheaded the nth Madrid 2nd-half comeback of the season. I remember how I felt when all three goals were scored. The tentative hope when Reyes scored the equalizer (Madrid needed a win to take the championship), the explosion of joy and tears at the own goal off Mahamadou Diarra’s header to make it 2-1, and the relief when Reyes scored again to make it a practically unassailable 3-1. I was laughing and crying into my pillow at 5am. And, again I really don’t know why.
From doubt, to hope, to pure joy
Fast-forward to almost 4 years later, and, again, I am up at the wee hours of the morning, watching an online scoreboard change numbers (boooo to poor football coverage in the Philippines, boooooo). It was the first day out of the 18 days that were to define the Real Madrid season, that were to determine if we go a third season without winning anything, again. Eighteen days, four matches, two teams and arguably the bitterest rivalry in the world of sports (think the Yankees versus the Red Sox with ugly national politics thrown in). Real Madrid vs. Barcelona with La Liga, the Copa del Rey and a place in the Champions League final all up for grabs. It’s been argued that these 18 days are the biggest in the football history of Spain, the country that just won the friggin’ World Cup 10 months ago. It’s THAT big.
And for a Madrid fan, the prospect is not only exciting, it’s terrifying. We have zero wins in the last six El Clásicos, the last one last Saturday ending in a 1-1 draw with Madrid down to 10 men, effectively sealing the La Liga championship for Barcelona. The one before that was November’s 5-0 drubbing at the Camp Nou that I still refuse to think, talk or read about. And as much as it pains me to admit it (and NOTHING can be more painful for a Madrid fan), Barcelona, led by the not-of-this world Leo Messi, are the favorites to win the remaining matches (consequently, the Champions League finals spot and the Copa del Rey) as well.
When will this happen again? Barcelona forms the Pasillo for new La Liga 2007-08 champions Real Madrid, before the El Clásico at the Bernabéu
At times like these I realize that my life would be much, much easier; the circles under my eyes would be much lighter and this post much happier if I was a culé and not a Madridista. The same could be said if I were a Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal (who’s a Madridista, by the way), instead of a fan of this man. But it’s not easy, nay, it’s impossible to just switch loyalties like that. If it were, then I wasn’t a real fan to begin with.
So, against all my better judgment and good sense, I will be glued to my TV/laptop screen for the remaining three matches of this series. Even if all the pundits are saying the Madrid are fighting an uphill battle. Even if matches start at 3am and I have to leave the house for work at 5am. I will stubbornly cling to the hope and belief that Madrid can win a trophy this season, even against the team they haven’t beaten in 6 tries, the best team in Europe at the moment. Because I am a fan. Because I am a REAL fan.
Even if I don’t know why.
Photo credits: BRU GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images (first photo); Google images (no original credit info for second photo).