Smith’s Bucket List Gets Shorter

An easy way to fill time on a sports radio show is to talk about “Sports Bucket Lists.” I give you mine, you give me yours and we all talk about what sporting events we dream of attending and whether we actually do is completely academic to the conversation.

Some of the events I’d include on my list are the World Cup, the Summer Olympics, Wimbledon and The Masters. (As an aside, I’ve started to think I’d rather play Augusta National than attend the actual Masters tournament but that’s another topic for a different slow news day). I’ve been pretty fortunate in my career in that I’ve been able to attend many of the major events we talk about like the Super Bowl, World Series, Final Fours and College Football National Championship Games.

Next week, I’ll cross off a bucket list event in Barcelona, Spain. On March 22, Spanish soccer powerhouses Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona are playing in Camp Nou and I’ll be one of the 100,000 or so people in attendance, watching the world’s greatest sports rivalry. Just typing that sentence raises the little blonde hairs on my arms. It’s a rivalry game worthy of its own title, as the match between the two sides is referred to simply as El Clasico.

Don’t get me wrong…we have great sports rivalries here in the United States: Giants & Dodgers, Packers & Bears, Auburn & Alabama – to name a few – are usually must-watch events. The list is long and there are too many to type but what separates El Clasico from what we’re used to watching here is that the rivalry isn’t just about soccer or sports in general. It’s about politics and a Spanish Civill war that some feel is still being fought on the soccer field today with unarmed soldiers named Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo. There was a time when the people of Catalonia didn’t have freedom of speech anywhere but their soccer stadium, helping explain why the club and this game means so much today. Real Madrid, to the people of Catalonia, represents the Franco dictatorship that kept the city of Barcelona oppressed for decades. There’s also that little Catalan independence thing going on…all making for a fascinating combination of sports and history.

The rivalry in the here and now is about relatively simple things – just first place in the Spanish league with the two clubs separated by a single point and about a scoring title race between the world’s best players in Messi and Ronaldo.

No big deal.

If you have nothing else going on March 22, join a few hundred million global viewers and check out El Clasico.

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