On Basque Unity

It was my first night in San Sebastián, and we were out trying our best to ignore the rain and do a pintxos tour. Pintxos are the Basque version of tapas, small plates like tapas but less for sharing, though every bit as social an experience as tapas are in the rest of Spain.

They were showing the second leg of the Roma-Liverpool Champions League semi-final on the TV in the bar we were in. Liverpool had just scored their first goal, and so were up 2-6 on aggregate, and all the guys behind the bar reacted with excitement, and I declared right then that Liverpool were going through to the final. I asked the guys who worked at the bar--obviously soccer fans, every one of them, and social fellows as well--whom they would root for in the final, Real Madrid or Liverpool. I was curious if they would root for Real Madrid, as "uno de nuestros" ("one of ours"), or if they'd root for Liverpool, because fuck Real Madrid.

Most of them answered unequivocally: Liverpool.

I asked who they rooted for, mostly because I couldn't remember who the local team was. One of the guys pointed to the clock on the wall. It had the coat of arms of Real Sociedad on it. Ah, yes, now I remembered.

A few minutes later he explained to me basically everything I needed to know about San Sebastián. "The two worst teams," he said, "are Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao." Which is to say : the team most closely associated with Franco and the dictatorship, and Sociedad's local rivals.

Bilbao was clearly far, far worse than Real Madrid.

So much for Basque unity.

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