Allow me to present a theory -- a thesis if you will -- about one of soccer's biggest games and rivalries. It's my belief that when you compare the circumstances surrounding El Clásico, the hype machine pushing it, the participants involved (ingredients if you will) that you'll find there's a shocking similarity between when Barcelona and Real Madrid play and the McRib from McDonald's.
Seriously. Just give me a chance to explain, I promise this makes total sense!
The saying goes that nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. While accurate, it really should be expanded to include a multitude of other things that are certainties. For example, we could go with: Nothing is certain in life except the McRib's return and the next edition El Clásico coming soon.
Think about it for a minute. No matter how many times the McRib has done a "goodbye tour" or a "farewell tour" it always comes back at some point, causing a segment of the population to go into an inexplicable fever as they rush to acquire this strange sandwich concoction. It doesn't matter that they've been told a lie, their favorite sandwich is back!
These meetings between Barca and Madrid -- at least two per season -- are inevitable. We know they're coming and just like so many eagerly await the return of their favorite sandwich, the Clásico is eagerly awaited by millions.
El Clásico is available on a far more consistent basis than the McRib, of course, and that lack of scarcity is probably an advantage for the sandwich in that you'll never hear people complaining about it being around too much. If anything, El Clásico could learn a thing or two from McRib and try to limit its appearances.
Absence makes the heart -- or your cholesterol levels -- grow fonder.
People who often avoid fast food and eat very well go crazy when McRib comes back. People talk about it in their office, they plan lunch excursions just to get the sandwich, often recruiting new people to join in on the experience. It's borderline cultish at times...and it's not even a good sandwich.
El Clásico affects people in much the same way. Soccer fans who never give Spanish football a second thought watch these games. Heck, even people who normally don't watch soccer will often get sucked in, assuming they actually get the network that carries the game in their market. It's also a popular entry point game for fans to try and convince their non-soccer loving friends to give the sport a chance.
Unfortunately, just like the McRib, El Clásico is not always satisfying for the first timers.
Masking Underlying Issues
Just as the McRib is smothered in a flood of barbecue sauce -- Biblical flood proportions really -- to mask whatever exactly the sandwich is made of, El Clásico acts as a way for Barcelona and Real Madrid to further tighten their grip on La Liga. It's no secret that the Primera Division needs improved broadcast rights deals that include fair revenue sharing for all teams in the league, but none of those teams have the international appeal and drawing power that Spain's big two have.
Massive crowds, big TV ratings, plenty of interest in the forms of media coverage and a new books about the rivalry written seemingly every year just help to build the mystique. It doesn't even matter if the game is bad, in fact that's usually just an inconvenient truth that's easily swept under the rug in favor of trumpeting the glorious nature of this rivalry.
Humans love to tell stories. Long before our species managed to come up with a written form of communication, history was passed down the generations through tales, myths and legends that were often exaggerated over the decades. The facts were often lost as important points were confused or replaced by the tellers, often at no fault of their own. If you've ever played the telephone game at a team building event, you'll know how quickly a simple message can degrade when passed through just a few people.
McRib and El Clásico, while both very real and tangible things that are not lost in the eons of time, thrive of storytelling. People love to talk about them, they love to tell their friends how great they were and that the next time one comes around, they absolutely have to try it. How many times has something with nostalgic value come back into your life and it just doesn't hold up? Time plays tricks on our memories and humans love to make our stories bigger and grander than they really ever were.
In the end, the only thing you can really do is experience something for yourself and make your own decision.
So there you have it everyone! El Clásico and the McRib, more alike than you could have ever possibly imagined.
While deciding whether or not to try the sandwich the next time it starts another farewell tour is up to you, I encourage you to always give El Clásico a chance. Just like any game, it's not always going to be the greatest experience of your life but you never know when something special might happen.
Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi might do something that people are talking about years from now. A new hero might rise and change the course of the title race. You simply never know and that's why we watch. That's why we care.
The only thing special about eating a McRib is predicting where the barbecue sauce stain will appear on your shirt.