Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Sociological Note That May Interest Only Me:

Both the outrageously partial Barcelona sports dailies, El Mundo Deportivo (owned by the same people who own the Vanguardia, the Counts of Godo) and Sport, ran the same headline on their front pages: "A cule in La Moncloa." Now, a cule (kool-AY) is a FC Barcelona supporter and La Moncloa is the Spanish equivalent of the White House. In case you were wondering, "cul" is Catalan for "ass", and the legend is that back in the early days of the Barca, 1915 or 1920 or so, the team's fans sat on a brick wall along one side of the soccer field. Their culs were hanging over the sidewalk side of the wall, and that's what their nickname became.

Seems Zap is a Barca fan. Yippee-skippee.

Aznar, of course, is a merengue, a Real Madrid supporter. Felipe Gonzalez is a fan of Betis, the traditional Seville working-class team. (Interestingly, Betis and Sevilla, the traditional Seville rich snobby team, have traded places. Sevilla's fans are now the most violent radical leftist group of any team in the league, and the youngest.) Rumor has it that the King is a colchonero, a supporter of Atletico de Madrid. My impression is that it would be impolitic of him to announce this publicly. Espanyol's fans--Espanyol is Barcelona's other team, with a following that includes residents of the Sarria neighborhood, migrants to Barcelona from northern Spain, and some evil scum skinheads called the Brigadas Blanquiazules--are called pericos or periquitos, apparently because a popular sort of pet parakeets are blue and white, the colors of the Espanyol. They had a really cool TV ad a few years ago that showed some of these cute little blue and white birds playing soccer, computer-graphics-assisted, of course. Anyway, I thought it was cool.

In case you were wondering, these sports dailies run about 100,000 copies or so. Each. In addition, some people here and a lot of people elsewhere buy one of the Madrid sports dailies, As or Marca. Marca sells big all over Spain and is generally considered the most neutral and most national of the various sports papers, the one that pays most attention to the smaller clubs.

The interesting thing is that FC Barcelona (along with Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, and Osasuna of Pamplona) is still a real club, run by an elected board of directors. Every dues-paying member of the club, who gets a season ticket, gets a vote for the board, and they have elections every so often. There are something like 100,000 club members, and that makes a strong lobby. FC Barcelona is a force in Catalonia, more socially than politically, of course. And it even has a good bit of economic importance.

Over the last twenty or so years, first Jose Luis Nunez--until about 2001, I think--and then Joan Gaspart for a disastrous couple of years in which he signed Petit, Overmars, Rochemback, Geovanni, and that lot, for like twenty million dollars each, ran the Barca as president of the board. They were both noted PP supporters, and Enrique Lacalle, once mayoral candidate for the PP, was important in the club. Gaspart had to resign last year, though, because the team stank and was getting worse by the day, and everybody hates him and thinks he's a prick anyway--he was often caricaturized as Mr. Burns from the Simpsons--and was replaced, in new elections, by Joan Laporta, who has Catalan nationalist ties and who is linked to both Convergence and Union and the Republican Left.

Good God. Zap. Montilla. Maragall. Clos. Carod-Rovira. Laporta. There's a bunch of rabid cules running this country now. If they run Spain the way the Barca has generally been run, start praying right now.

Cules like to say "El Barca es mes que un club"--"The Barca is more than just a club". Merengues and pericos respond, "Es mes que un club, es un puticlub"--"It's more than just a club, it's a nightclub of ill repute."

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