In my experience, until I was 29, when my first kid was born, I was negligently unaware of my own mortality. Since then the bucket has unceremoniously slammed me up-side the head and I have been frantically trying to fill it. And no, it's not like I want to learn Swahili or dive off Acapulcan cliffs, but I'd like to travel a bit more and maybe simplify my interests, become less angry at the vicissitudes of life, the petty nature of most humans, and the shallowness of my West-Coast bro-hemian neighbors in Southern Cali.
I was also 29 years old when I read Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. A bit stodgy and middle-aged if I had read it in my early twenties when I was reading Buckowski and flicking cigarette ashes at passersby in art-class, but being unhappily married and ramming beer-cans to the forehead nearing 30 made me perfectly attuned to the themes of that memoir. It had nothing to do with Arsenal either. It had to do with attaching yourself to something, that compulsive call that obsessives like myself often linger on, and for some odd reason reading about someone else's preoccupations triggered something similar in me.
I had always had something that drove me: comics, sci-fi, anime, baseball, and a slew of others vying for my rather impacted adolescent attention. Hard-boiled novels, old film-noir from the 50's, foreign movies, blues music, Mexican wrestling, through early adulthood and then one singular thread since: football. Suddenly I was living, breathing and eating footie. I still enjoyed the rest, but this was something else, something different. I could see why many call this the world's secular religion and why it is that the goals that I have before I slip off this mortal coil all center around travel surely, but football is the primary theme. Here is my football bucket list.
- Watch a match at Cornella-el Prat. Sue me I'm an Espanyol supporter. Take the stadium tour, then tour the nearby Museu Agbar de Les Aigues where the history of the city's water projects are kept
- Learn Italian and watch a match at the San Paolo where Diego scored. Then take a day tour of the nearby Pompeii volcano. Hang out with my friend Gene who lives in Napoli.
- See a match in Brussels, Belgium and visit the King Badouin Stadium, the ground formerly known as Heysel. Pay my respects and then visit the Editions Jacques Brel in Brussels which was the publishing house that curates the famous Belgian singer's songs.
- Catch a match in Nottingham, Notts County of course as the first professional club, and then tour Sherwood Forest. I know, but the 9 year old me that is stuck in there still wants to see the Major Oak and use my bad Robin Hood: Prince of Thieve's accent. Huzzah!
- Catch a match between Penarol and Nacional at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, Uruguay where the first World Cup was played. Then tour the Memorial at Parque Vaz Ferreira for the Detenidos Desaparecidos, the Detained and Disappeared Uruguayans, that were held between 1973 and 1985.
- Catch a Superclasico in Buenos Aires between Boca Juniors and River Plate at La Bombonera. Then tour La Boca, listen to some tango music and go to town with my camera at the colorful signs and businesses.
- Watch an Old Firm match at Celtic Park. As a secular humanist I have little time for the sort of sectarianism that revolves around this match, but it doesn't mean I'm not curious to know about what makes these people tick. Take a whisky tour through Glasgow bars.
- I was going to leave off the Clasico, but since I have never been to Madrid, nor to the Santiago Bernabeu, I decided to include it. I'd check out Cibeles fountain, but I have always wanted to see the El Prado museum. I would also take the 2.5 hour train ride to Salamanca for a day trip to visit the village where my grandparents were born.
- See a match between Brazil and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Climb up Corcovado to the Christ the Redeemer statue.
- Catch a Super-clasico between Chivas and America at the Azteca Stadium; the site where Diego Maradona scored both his Hand of God goal and the Goal of the Century. Then tour the Teotihuacan Pyramids north of the city.