You’re alone and bored, you need something new to do. Right? Maybe it’s time you found a new social circle? Looking for some new excitement? You dig sports too, sure, but you’re over everything that’s on the major networks, so now what?
Well, if you could travel back in time to last Saturday, you could have joined roughly 400 million viewers all over the world, witnessing a particular booking on the sports calendar known as El Clasico.
Yes, it’s a soccer game. But soccer (or futbol, or football, if you prefer) is big business right now. You saw that World Cup thing that went on for the month of June this past summer, right? That went over pretty huge, especially due to how well the USA did in the competition. It’s not just that, however. Last year, the USA broadcasts of the English Premier League switched hands from a joint venture of Fox Sports and ESPN, to NBC Sports. Viewing figures went up 90%. I repeat: ninety percent increase in viewing figures. No TV show gets a spike of ninety percent. Ever.
So, yes, while it is not completely mainstream, and part of most sports fan’s daily diet, it’s getting there. And there are more and more people getting involved. People who wouldn’t mind just one more joining them. Again: during the World Cup, I saw firsthand just how absolutely packed some bars and restaurants could be, even ones holding outdoor events for USA matches. It’s truly something to behold.
But back to El Clasico. This is a twice-yearly (at least!) contest between two of the biggest clubs not only in Spain, but the entire world: Barcelona, and Real Madrid. You know the guy who’s been on the cover of the last three or four editions of the FIFA series of videogames? That’s Lionel Messi. He plays for Barcelona. He’s generally considered the best player in the sport right now, and will surely be one of the all-time greats.
But he’s not all Barcelona sport – they also have the likes of Brazilian wonderkid Neymar; the infamous biter of players Luis Suarez (having just returned from a 4-month ban for such violence during the World Cup); Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and more. Real Madrid, on the other hand, aren’t slouches either – they feature Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portguese breaker of American hearts, scoring a late goal to deny the USA a deserved win over the summer. World Cup winners Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos feature there, as do the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Mexican hero Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. It’s safe to say both clubs are stacked with talent, being perennial champions of Spain and Europe alike.
It was a Hell of a match, too. Right from jump, Suarez (in his debut for Barcelona) set up Neymar just right to put the visitors ahead 1-0. However, it wasn’t going to be Barca’s day – having come into the game with a record eight games without conceding a goal (that was the season so far!), a penalty before halftime saw Cristiano Ronaldo break that “clean sheet” streak, and it was a tie game at halftime.
When they came back, defender Pepe set Barcelona reeling, as he scored from a header to put the home side Real Madrid ahead 2-1. The icing on the cake, or the final nail in the coffin depending on your POV, came ten minute later, when French striker Karim Benzema made it 3-1 to Real Madrid after hitting the post twice before.
It was loud, it was raucous, it was packed to the rafters at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. And it was shown live around the world, guaranteeing that some bar, somewhere near you, was showing it, for your viewing and social pleasure.
Sadly, that was last week.
But don’t fret. You have two good chances to be a part of this new exciting venture that’s over a hundred years old but finding new fans every day. And maybe it’s just what you need. Something different, something outside your mental box. Who knows, you could find a new friend there. Or even partner.
Oh, the matches? Saturday afternoon, German giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund clash, and believe me when I say a lot of the winning World Cup squad from Germany will feature in that match.
On Sunday morning, however, if you can bear to rise early, the fabled “Manchester Derby” takes place, between defending English champions Manchester City, and their much more famous crosstown rivals, Manchester United. You know, David Beckham’s old club.
The best part? Bars will be open and packed for that match. Early morning drinking. Now what true-blue sports fan couldn’t go for that?