On Racing, Revolutions, and Revolutionaries

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I know the TV revenue debate is dead and locked up like a certain would-be revolutionary president, but today’s events involving Racing Santander inspired me to revisit the whole thing, and I thought I’d share some thought here with you all, since we’ve all been through these waters a few times.

If you’re not familiar with the basics of the situation in Santander, the players have not been paid for 6 months. Their president has been criminally negligent, and is probably just a very high profile con man who has destroyed a former La Liga club. Sid Lowe wrote a nice piece on their situation which is a great recap; I recommend you read it if you haven’t. Anyway, this week the team said they wouldn’t play today if they weren’t paid, and then the day of the game came and they weren’t paid, so this was the result (video link).

The team’s stand at midfield is remarkable, and it’s compelling in its beauty in part for the starkness and audacity of it and in part for the outraged stand against injustice that it represents. It also happens to be exactly the action I’ve been dreaming of seeing in La Liga for several years now, and that of course relates to the ongoing struggle of La Liga’s underclass, the 18 teams known informally as “La Otra Liga”.

We’ve debated this issue countless times on this blog, and have heard any number of facile defenses of the current situation. The most common argument is always that the Big 2 are the primary draw for La Liga, that people tune in to see Real Madrid or Barcelona, and that they therefore deserve to earn ~10 times as much as half the league does from TV revenue. The obvious fact that often seems hard to communicate in the comments section here, and apparently in board rooms in Spain, is that no one tunes in to see just Real Madrid or just Barcelona–they tune in to see those teams compete with other teams. My frustration at some folks’ inability to appreciate this simple fact has lead to the previously mentioned dream, a piece of which sort of come to life today. It’s a dream I’ve discussed several (endless) times with fellow blog author/founder Aaron, and it goes like this:

The 18 teams of La Otra Liga agree before the season starts to do exaclty what Santander did today whenever they meet Barca or RM on the field: simply nothing. Take the field, stand, and refuse to play. Every week, Real Madrid and Barca trot out onto the field, and then shortly thereafter trot off the field. Every week the other 16 teams play 8 entertaining, exciting games. The Big 2’s Liga season is now literally just the two clásicos; the race for 3rd and below the truly compelling narrative week in/week out.

The events that might follow would likely fill a novel; at any rate they’ve filled countless hours of conversation and hypothetical speculation for me.

I don’t mean to take away from Racing’s plight. Theirs is a very sad state and fans of that club have every right to be heartbroken and furious over what’s happened to them. But Racing’s actions today were incredibly inspiring and beautiful, and so much like a stand I’ve wanted to see in La Liga. Hasta la victoria!