When it comes to sports, I am not a romantic. Seeing the ugly side of the profession, whether it be performance enhancing drugs in baseball, to players constantly demanding trades in basketball, to the bubble of pro wrestling bursting when I found out it was all staged, to players kissing the badge in football but playing for five different clubs in their careers. I'm just not into that kind of thing, I'm more of a cynic who prefers the analytical side of sports while leaving the heroism and whatnot to others.
However, I think all of that may have changed yesterday.
I've always been vocally supportive of Florentino Pérez and the Galácticos project. I am always in favor of bringing in the best talent possible and I thought the Beckham deal would usher in an era of multiple European triumphs and titles thanks to players who almost seem like gods upon reflection. R9, Zizou, Figo, Roberto Carlos, Becks; those were the heroes who were supposed to cakewalk through Europe's elite and give us fans the best times of our lives. However, by the end of that first season and the collapse it included, I was starting to question things. Entering the angsty teen stage of my life I began to turn to cynicism instead of hope, bitterness instead of romanticism.
Like many of you, I've been here through the lean years. Big names coming in only to drop like flies at the hands of clubs such as Monaco, Roma and Lyon. Club legends exiting stage right while Barça built themselves from the ground up into one of the most dominant sides in history, while European rivals Bayern Munich looked to be starting a new dynasty and pesky clubs like Dortmund and Manchester City were on the up and up. I questioned if the players really cared, if the heroes I grew up admiring were truly giving it their all and if the club I so loved honestly had us fans in their minds when making decisions.
Some say that you can't fully appreciate success without failing on the way to the top. I thought getting bounced out of the Champions League six times in a row in the round of 16 would be enough. I thought a controversial loss to Barca in the semis would do the trick. I thought those painful PKs against Bayern would be a springboard. Seeing no Décima arrive after these losses further deadened me to the ideals and hopes I used to hold, instead leaving me to watch the games in a colder state, less so with vigor and idealism but more with calculation and a detached sense of analysis.
For 92 minutes yesterday, that's how I was feeling until one glorious moment which I'll never be able to forget. The sheer emotion I felt after watching Sergio's header make its way past Courtois in almost slow-motion is indescribable. The buildup of years and years of failures, names and faces, rivals, jealousy, whatever was simply released in one euphoric moment. Even though it wasn't the game-winner, you just knew that this was Real's title and that the game-winner was inevitable.
So thank you, Real Madrid.
Thank you, Sergio, for stepping up and evolving right before our eyes into an undisputed club legend. Thank you, Dani, for having the drive and endurance of a purebred racehorse. Thank you, Ángel, for running at top speed for 120 minutes when we all know you'd run through a brick wall to run for another 120. Thank you, Luka, for corralling the troops in Xabi's absence and delivering yet another majestic corner kick.
Thank you, Gareth, for keeping at it and having an eye for goal even though your big moment was slipping right through your fingers. Thank you, Marcelo, for accepting your new role as an impact sub off the bench and relentlessly blitzing the tired Atleti legs. Thank you, Rafa, for not backing down from Cholo Simeone and showing an edge we haven't ever seen from you. Thank you to ALL the players for every single contribution they've made, whether they be minuscule or game-winning.
Thank you, Carlo, for stabilizing the locker room and never giving up on your men. Thank you, Zizou, for taking guys under your wing and molding them into the stars we knew they could be. Thank you, Paul Clement, for being a jack-of-all-trades and chipping in any way you can, to Vecchi and the rest of the staff (maybe no thanks to the medical department, though). Thank you, Flo Bro, for this silly quest of yours and the billion you've authorized to finally pull it off. I was skeptical of the Bale transfer, but no longer am I questioning it.
I think it was Xabi who perfectly demonstrated how I felt yesterday. The stately embodiment of class is known for his "cool as the other side of the pillow" demeanor, only showing emotion when yelling at his teammates to get into their defensive assignments or after a crunching tackle on the opposition. But yesterday, he was forced to be a spectator just like the rest of us, yesterday his frustration and anger was clear for all to see as we were on our way to yet another failure. But yesterday he also revealed his inner exuberant child once the tides turned and it was apparent that La Décima was finally a reality. His run down the pitch to celebrate with his teammates, THAT was the romance I've been yearning for and missing since my childhood and who better to bring it back into my life than my favorite player for my favorite club. Hell, even Uncle Flo went wild up in the executive box, what a wonderful sight.
I know it's kind of cheesy and that I'm writing this while still basking in the high of the victory, and I also know that a certain level of skepticism will always remain inside of me, but I finally feel like a child looking up to his heroes again. I finally feel that love from a more naïve time again and it's the best feeling of my life. What a magical time, what hopes I have for the future, what passion I feel has been restored and for that I have to thank everyone involved yesterday.
¡Cómo no te voy a querer!