FC Barcelona Carries the Weight

Too often sports involve some unsympathetic, monolithic entity ↵winning everything in dispiriting fashion. See: Yankees, New York. And ↵especially in soccer, too often does the team that proves soccer to be a ↵boring, spiritless affair come out on top. So after today's 2-0 Champion's League win, maybe we should pause and ↵consider Barcelona, which is more than a team.
↵
↵All you have to do is ↵look at the shirts that were on display this afternoon: Manchester ↵United, brought to you by one of the companies that, in pursuit of ↵nothing but tomorrow's profits, imploded the universe. Barcelona, ↵brought to you by UNICEF.  ↵

↵ ↵

↵

↵I can't put it any better than Brian Phillips did on The Run of ↵Play, so let's hand ↵the mic over: ↵

↵
↵⇥

↵⇥The two words in the term "beautiful game" are always ↵⇥struggling against each other in some ways, but they have to coexist. ↵⇥That's why, for me, the necessary dream is to find a team that resolves ↵⇥the tension, that plays beautifully and coherently and defeats both the ↵⇥chaos of the game and all the studs-up, 10-men-behind-the-ball bullies ↵⇥who try to stop it. Every so often a team like that comes ↵⇥along -- recently, Spain at Euro 2008, Arsenal at their peak under ↵⇥Wenger -- but most teams that have that potential wind up in the Holland ↵⇥'74 category: inspired sides who thrilled everyone that saw them but ↵⇥couldn't quite take the crown.  Those failures, for all that ↵⇥there's often something wonderful even in the manner of their failure, ↵⇥are ultimately fuel for the belief that playing attractive football is a ↵⇥quixotic task -- in other words, that reality is cynical. ↵⇥

↵
↵

↵Barca, which scored a billion goals and always-but-always looked to ↵make the game proverbially beautiful, was the latest. They carried the ↵weight of this on their shoulders, the weight of expectation from the ↵teams that captured imaginations and came up just short, the weight of being ↵Barcelona, brought to you by UNICEF. It was a reason to watch second leg ↵of Barca-Chelsea. ↵

↵

↵Barca almost certainly didn't deserve to win that game. The cleats ↵and brawn of Chelsea controlled the match, probably should have been ↵awarded 1.5 penalty kicks, and generally put the lie to the idea that ↵Barcelona transcended all. But sometimes the universe works out all ↵right, handing ↵justice to the just and defeat to the cynical, and sometimes it does ↵it in the 93rd minute with all hope flown. ↵

↵

↵A random event propelled Barcelona to the final, and once there they ↵took it, ruthlessly. Everything that makes soccer so compelling to me ↵was wrapped up in Messi's 70th-minute clincher: a small, unremarkable ↵man struck a ball coming at an impossible angle and redirected it such ↵that it looped, long and promising, into the back of the net and ↵history. Barca won the league, the domestic cup, and the Champions' ↵League, and established themselves amongst the all-time great club ↵sides. Along the way they proved that sometimes nice guys do win. ↵

↵

↵Fans of Northwestern, Stanford, the A's and the D'antoni-era ↵Phoenix Suns and any number of a thousand different oddball football ↵strategies crushed by reality, I hope you took it in, and were happy ↵vicariously. ↵

↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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