BARCELONA -- If you love sports, you appreciate the night game.
None of us know why, exactly, but there's just an allure and mystery attached to matches under the bright lights.
Well, in Barcelona, when they say "night game," they are definitely not messing around.
Of course, it's a nighttime culture here. Breakfast at 9 or 10 a.m. (often when you're already at work), a late lunch happens somewhere in the mid-afternoon and dinner gets served much closer to the bewitching hour than most of us are used to. Honestly, I don’t know when they sleep here.
As for La Liga matches and other matches attached to the Spanish futbol calendar: Don't look for anything starting early in the evening.
You know how American sports fans come apart when talking about TV and how late start times have impacted the culture, discouraging American youth from seeing the drama unfolding, while chasing the financial windfall of a later, primetime slot? This is especially true when it comes to baseball, and that whole "lost generation" of American baseball fans. (I say it as more to do with a game that moves at a snail's pace; and so many baseball fans say soccer is boring!) Well, these same folks might just fall over dead to learn that Spanish matches frequently begin at 9 or 10 p.m.
This caused a particular problem upon arrival here on Saturday. Shorter trips into Europe are all about powering through that first day. Planes typically arrive from the States in the morning here. So, if you can avoid going to sleep during the day, you hit the bed that night and then hit the ground running the next day. Just like that, you’re body clock is reset.
Of course, staying awake that first day is no picnic, especially if you can't sleep on planes -- which I can't. But, again, you just have to suck it up and power through it.
So I looked at the schedule upon arrival and see that Barcelona's away match that night at Getafe began at 8 p.m. The plan was to set camp at some nearby bar and watch the match with locals. Only, I misread the schedule. My eyes saw 22:00 h -- and in my mind, that was 8 p.m. Because, after all, who starts a match at freakin' 10 p.m.?
So around 8 p.m., just after checking out one of Barcelona's great markets, and marveling at the city's main cathedral (Cathedral de la Seu), we find a place. I'm thinking, "I have just enough energy to watch this match and then get to bed. " My girlfriend sleeps on planes. So she's got tons of energy, ready for whatever.
Well, long story short, I'm cussing like a pickpocketed sailor when I figure out that my game (Barca) doesn't begin until 10 p.m.
But what's a soccer geek to do? I just had to power down a few additional Estrella cervezas, man up and take it for another couple of hours.
Tonight's match at the Nou Camp is an "early" match. It begins at 9 p.m.