The uniqueness of it all is palpable. It was the first time this storied matchup between Spainâs two most prominent soccer teams, the rivalry known as El ClÃ¡sico, has been played on American soil. Indeed, it was only the second occasion the rivals have met outside Spain; the last was in 1982, during a postseason tournament in Venezuela that was, bizarrely, shoehorned in before that summerâs World Cup back in Spain.
That encounter, though, did not reach TV screens in Europe. It did not sell sponsorships or pricey insider-access packages like the one being offered by 1 Hotel on South Beach that promised âamazing experiences at the hotel and also sideline seats at the gameâ â all yours, for just $750 a night (two-night minimum, please).
All week, anywhere you stepped in Miami last week, it was impossible to be unaware of what was coming.
The marketing people had done a fine job. Reminders were everywhere, from highway billboards to colorful flags that blew in the breeze. The faces of Messi, the brilliant Barcelona and Argentina forward, and Cristiano Ronaldo, Madridâs matinee idol and the reigning world player of the year, were never hard to find.
There was a somewhat subliminal feeling to it all. The circus was in town.
So, too, was ESPN, which gleefully took advantage of a rare sense of calm in the sports calendar to give its coverage of the match the full Super Bowl treatment. That this was, essentially, just another game to ensure sharpness is maintained during the Liga preseason did not prevent the network from having its flagship news show, âSportsCenter,â decamp to South Florida for a few days to join the party.
A crew of 25 reporters and analysts â aided by producers and camera operators and executives and various…