Més que un club
In English, the rallying cry of FC Barcelona roughly translates to, "More Than A Club." And, unlike the tired battle cries of professional clubs here in the States, it actually means something off the pitch. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a region in Spain that harbors a culture and language different from the rest of the country. In fact, Spain is a country of countries, a place where one guidebook cannot possibly tell the whole story. To this day, the Spanish national sides in all sports remained torn under la Rojigualda despite major successes in football (La Furia Roja) and basketball. For Spaniards, it is just another way of life. Except in Barcelona.
FC Barcelona was founded in 1899 and have been the primary flag bearers for the Catalan tradition ever since. Their biggest rival is Real Madrid from the Spanish capital. At least twice a year, they meet in El Clásico, a derby between rivals bitter with vitriol and backed by hundreds of years of political strife. Los Blancos supporters see no problem in their treatment of Barça while the Culés see persecution, power plays by the Spanish government, and a condescending glare on the Catalan way of life. There was a time that Barça was not allowed to even field a team, under penalty of death. The Spanish government viewed the side as a possible point of civic pride and banned it to prevent the Catalans from rioting.
So why am I writing about the Catalans? Well, in the aftermath of the Saints' punishment from the NFL I began to draw connections between my favorite football team and my...favorite football team. The Saints are a point of pride for the Gulf Coast and while our culture may not be as homogenous as the Catalans, there are a group of people in Louisiana who have a story that mirrors the struggles of Catalonia.
The Acadiens (now commonly referred to as Cajuns) were a group of settlers that arrived in Nova Scotia in the early 17th Century. They arrived as part of the fur trade and inhabited the area called Acadie until the British forced the deportation of 11,500 Acadiens starting in 1755. The Acadiens were bounced around the American colonies, unwelcome to both British and native settlers. They were even exiled out of France, where they were looked down upon as outcasts. The Acadiens finally settled around what would become the town of St. Jean du Vermilionville, now Lafayette. They were promised this land by the Spanish (ironically), who spoke of it being just like Nove Scotia. Despite this lie, the Acadiens (now Cajuns) lived an existence much like their one in Nova Scotia. They developed a language and culture all their own and were relatively undisturbed until the American government began developing the Atchafalaya Basin. The government forced the Cajuns to assimilate by banning the speaking of French (now a Creolized version called Cajun French) and introducing them to a new culture. Like the Catalans, many Cajuns fight to keep their way of life intact and some harbor great resentment toward the governments that caused a dilution in their culture.
I feel that this defiant attitude is harbored in the way we defend our Saints. The Cajun and Creole tradition is something unique to Louisiana, just like the Catalan tradition is unique to that region of Spain. And it's true that the Saints are "More Than A Club" to us. I genuinely believe that New Orleans does not become the place it is today without a Super Bowl win in 2009. Without Garrett Hartley's field goal and Steve Gleason's block. We are the Catalans of the Coast and to be us is to be different. Few athletic teams have such important ties to the culture of a region. FC Barcelona, Les Canadiens de Montréal, and the Saints are teams that cultural identies live vicariously through and that's a beautiful thing. It is not schadenfreude that we want to overcome the percieved slights that our team has brought upon itself. It is the thought that this is another Le Grand Dérangement or Per l'Espanya Gran and, us knowing the past, will not allow it to happen again. The Saints are dangerous because, at the core of the franchise, are radical nationalists. Of the "Who Dat" Nation, dat is. Our rallying cry in our Camp Nou, the Superdome. Something that now carries the pains of Cajun struggles, Southern exceptionalism, and the want to be different. To be better.
To be like Catalonia.