Wednesday, July 2, 2014

David, Goliath and the Far Away Fan

Stats, stats, stats. I love statistics for many reasons. They can be used to tell a story as I'm planning to do, used to win an argument or on the other hand be too hollow to tell the full story. Before I get into those stats, I'll start with a basic one. Seven. Seven applies to many things, including a pretty enjoyable thriller starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, but in this case I'm referring to the fact that seven days make up a week. This also comprises the number of days that I was aiming to have between posts. My last post was on the twenty-second of May, so it would seem I have failed at that. I will blame it on the fact that I had work for approximately a million days in a row. As the Shining said 'All monotonous work at the liquor store and no play makes Eddie unmotivated to write his blog' (that's pretty much verbatim, right?). But now that I'm well rested surely this will be my best blog yet (hmmm, perhaps lower those expectations). Okay, away from my digression. The stat that made me ponder this particular blog came to me on a rainy Sunday morning at a bar, surrounded by more than a hundred others (which fascinated me to no end, but that will come later) and it came in the form of this image:

It is well established that I am no mathmagician but with the help of a calculator, I have ascertained that the Real squad is worth roughly 6.6 times as much as the Atleti squad (disclaimer: None of my brain cells were harmed in the completion of this equation). A David and Goliath storyline is quickly established. Real with the two most expensive players purchased in football history in Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo and a mercenary manager in the form of Carlo Ancelotti. Comparatively, Atleti's stars consist of youth academy starlets Koke and Gabi while their manager is former player Diego 'Cholo' Simeone.
Don't mess with a guy who wears black on black on black like a boss
Despite the fact that Atletico had just broken the Barcelona-Real Madrid nine year stranglehold on the La Liga title and were competing in their second European final in three years, they were clear underdogs. This is true of the entire Madrid derby. Real were dubbed the government's team and were associated with money, while Atleti were conceived as more of a working class type team. This is characterised by their stadium locations. Real's Santiago Bernabeu is located alongside banks and businesses in the 'rich' part of Madrid whereas Atleti's Vincente Calderon is located amongst the cathedral and royal palace, emitting an idea of true Spanish heritage earned and not just bought.

Real Madrid stars seemingly even buy their looks

To the game, and for 92 minutes Atletico looked as if they would defy all odds and get only their second European competition win over Real and win the title. But it was not to be. Sergio Ramos equalised in the 93rd minute and into added extra time, Real continued their surge, inflicting an undeserved 4-1 defeat to Atleti. Now, you can hardly call me an Atleti ultra like my friend Riley who convinced me a bar at 6 am before a ten hour shift was a great idea (I had fun really, mate) but when Gareth Bale headed in the goal to take the lead, I felt a sharp jag of pain. I attribute this to the underdog effect.

No, not this guy.
Lahkdar Brahimi attributes the natural affiliation towards the underdog as a reflection of their own issues against a bigger opponent and the desire for a hero. As New Zealanders this idea is even more prominent. With a small population and constantly facing larger opponents, it is only natural that we support others in similar situations. This goal seemed particularly cruel with the worlds most expensive player, costing more than the entire Atleti squad, striking the killer blow. While, it is a ploy to enthral audiences into viewing and purchase products while keeping sport as an economically viable product, I still love the idea of this kind of dramatic storyline playing out through twenty two people kicking a ball from one end of a field to another.

I began with numbers and I want to continue that theme. 19,584. That's the number of kilometres between Auckland and Madrid. Yet on this Sunday morning, The Fox sports bar in downtown Auckland was packed with hundreds of people. Heck, it wasn't even a nice Sunday morning!

Cue wanky picture from my Instagram of the morning in question. Ooh such light flares.

This got me thinking, how do fans such as myself so far away become enamoured with a team? I dubbed idea 'the far away fan' and I feel it is extremely prominent. Of course, I support my local Wellington Phoenix but I also affix myself proudly to Arsenal and the Denver Broncos but why? I have never been to London or Denver so it's hardly geographical. I attribute my Arsenal fandom to my brother. When I was younger, I recall fondly watching games before school. I then began to enjoy the attributes of the club. The style, the idea of not buying titles but nurturing talent (and the winning. Five year old me was a mad glory hunter). The years have gone on and I've continued to be a fan. I've gotten snippy and had countless arguments with others because of their different club affiliation. Think about that for just a second. Two people on the other side of the world, arguing over sports clubs that they have no geographical loyalty, isn't that brilliant? Just another thing about sports that I will continue to be marvelled by and love.

Me + sports sitting in a tree....

 For homework, I encourage you to watch the remainder of the brilliant world cup. Goal galore, dancing and plenty of spirit will all fuel my next blog post called 'Sports on the World Stage'.

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