Real Madrid 4, Juventus 1: A good game

Thoughts on an entertaining Champions League final

(Real Madrid/Twitter)

Warm-up

A strange endeavor, this: writing about a sporting event occurring 3,204 miles away from a couch in a basement in Amherst, Massachusetts. I have never set foot in Cardiff, the site of today’s Champions League final between Real Madrid and Juventus. In person, up close, I have yet to see either of these historic clubs enact their legendary interpretations of the beautiful game. I wish, for a moment, to express awe before modern technology: live streaming, Apple TV, apps, Fox Sports Go, Fox Sports Bonus Feed: Match 360, and all other forms of alchemistic distortions of time and space.

Real Madrid just entered their locker room, suits and coifed hairdos. And I saw every step in certified High-Definition.

And here comes the Juventus bus. And out they pile, not in suits. They, these Italian representatives, opt for form-fitting dress shirts. All of this, and the eager selfie-taking fans writhing in their seats: in glorious High-Definition.

Useless Comparison

You may have heard this European spectacle paralleled to our Super Bowl. That is false and a cheap mind game intended to suck in United States viewers.

Useful Comparison

The Champions League final is a manicured plate of Steak tartare.

The Super Bowl is a five-pound hamburger with two bricks of C-4 instead of buns.

The Fans

One fan just snuck a drag from a half-finished cigarette. Another fan, bored and beautiful, was stone-faced when the camera caught her. And she remained stone-faced until the camera left. American sports crowds have much to learn from their European cousins. Like that fan, in the back, in a deep sleep, chest heaving.

The Singing Fans

That Juventus fan, singing and tossing two middle fingers up at no one in particular, flipping off the idea of Real Madrid.

The Idea of Real Madrid

Money. Power. Dominance. Attack. Attack. Attack. Attack.

The Idea of Juventus

Money. Power. Dominance. Defend. Defend. Defend. Defend.

The Idea of The Champions League

Money. Money. Money. Money. Money.

The Black Eyed Peas

Somehow, they procured the pre-game performance spot. And this man with a trumpet — what is he up to? How did this happen? A baleful of money, I assume. Or some tragic misunderstanding. And where’s Fergie?

Pre-Game Personal Curiosities

Which tactical set-up will prevail: Madrid’s spring-loaded 4–3–3 or Juventus’s brick-layered 3–5–2?

Is Paulo Dybala the next Great One?

Will I tell my grandkids about this Juventus backline?

Who was the man in a blue suit? Pumping the Champions trophy over his head? Should I wear that blue suit at my wedding?

How much better would this be if Gareth Bale was 100% fit?

Will Ronaldo celebrate with his teammates? Will he ever find true love?

GAMETIME WANDERINGS

Imagine this Juventus team with Luka Modric playing the maestro.

Imagine this Madrid team with Dybala slipping down the wing.

In this scenario, playing in this game, would the average person suffer an immediate and catastrophic coronary episode?

On Cristiano

To smack a ball that hard, that low, with that much nasty swerve — that’s Centaur-like, non-human and inhumane.

On Mandzukic

To see that goal mouth lurking behind, to follow the ball into the lights and all the way back down, to raise that trunk of a leg, to tap the ball that soft — that’s epic in the poetic sense.

On Imitation

Maybe Ronaldo is human after all. Only our human-like desire to imitate beautiful acts would lead Ronaldo to attempt that 18-yard bicycle kick.

GAMETIME WANDERINGS

Dybala is going to hurt tomorrow.

The Juventus wide players are the best wide players in Europe.

Imagine Dani Alves and Marcelo dueling it out on Copacabana, in the moonlight.

HALFTIME VIDEOS

Zizou

Pirlo

Cristiano

Bale

Buffon

Dani

Il Fenomeno

GAMETIME WANDERINGS, PT. 2

Barzagli, that was on-brand Catenaccio.

Bonnuci, that trailing leg as Isco shook past you — Catenaccio.

On Casemiro

In no other sport are deflections important deciding factors. Once you put the ball in your sights and it’s bouncing a little and you’re staring down the goal and the box is packed and you dig in — who knows what that ball is going to do?

On Cristiano

Well, obviously, he loves this.

On Cuadrado and Referees

How any professional athlete maintains focus and discipline in an atmosphere like this, a pulsating arena, with all this money on the line — that explains the first yellow. The second yellow was pointless from every perspective.

On Marco Asensio

Imagine your 21-year-old self living out your dreams. How would you celebrate? Would you jump in the crowd? Would you look for Cristiano and Modric and jump in their arms?

On Adults Crying

How would you react under that emotional pressure? Would you leave after 3–1? Would you leave after the red card? Back in the car, on the way home, would turn away from your wife and discreetly wipe away the tears at a red light? Would you feel ridiculous because none of this matters?

In Summation

Look at all the fun they’re having, these Madrid fans and players. Look at Buffon, stoic and heart-broken. There’s something important underneath it all, I think, if you want to look closely at the pieces: two century-old high-class athletic clubs engaged in a playful contest during serious global times; both clubs once existed through dictatorships and corruption; both clubs are symbols of economic inequality, with their bottomless transfer budgets and big-business marketing teams; both clubs travelled in to anti-European fervor in the United Kingdom, on the eve of an election, on the heels of an unthinkable terrorist attack carried out at a massive entertainment event. I’m not sure what the important piece is. I think it’s knowing that you’re one person, out of millions, watching these professional athletes try to keep cool under immense pressure. Maybe the important piece is watching a tension-filled contest knowing that the consequences don’t matter and the world isn’t going to end because of this. Not a spectacular game, not a classic; something nice to watch on a Saturday afternoon. A good game.