If you could have been anywhere in the world on Monday night, you might have picked Atlanta and the Georgia Dome and the 74,326 people cheering a heaving, throbbing two hours of Louisville-and-Michigan effort, even if somebody in from abroad might have walked in and thought, Wait, 74,326 people watching college students? These people are strange.
If you could have been anywhere in the world on Tuesday night, you might have picked Dortmund, Germany, and Westfalenstadion and the 65,000 people cheering a mind-boggling turn, when beloved Borussia Dortmund drifted into added time in 1-2 peril against the Spanish mid-range club Malaga, then at the brink of exit found the two necessary goals for a 3-2 victory and passage to the Champions League semis.
And if you could be anywhere in the world on Wednesday night, you might pick Barcelona and Camp Nou and 98,787 people cheering for the greatest show in sports in all the world in this young century, the Barcelona soccer club, as it plays the nouveau-riche Paris Saint-Germain with the goals at 2-2 after the first leg.
What lucky, lucky noise.
Feel the familiar Monday night closing of the three-week clamor in the United States and know there's nothing like it, but know that as distant and unknown as an April Tuesday or Wednesday in Europe might seem, there's nothing like that, either. You feel it all across springtime as it seems to consume and bridge a continent already heavily intermingled. It boasts such stakes and such potential drama that, well, Borussia Dortmund manager Jürgen Klopp said in the press conference Tuesday night: "I think I need to see a doctor."
Further, it never seems any more momentous than when involving Barcelona, a team so thoroughly adopted by so much of the world that I actually feel for its longtime fans even with all their trophies. Boy, did they wind up crowded. We are all sorry. It's just that it's one of life's pleasures to watch Barcelona, and there's a feeling we ought to watch Barcelona in this era while we can watch Barcelona in this era, even if that feeling comes as achingly rote by now.
That's why it can make for one lousy 6 p.m. if, say, your mind goes blank through a Tuesday afternoon, and you're working on something, and you have forgotten about the time zones, and you have sort of forgotten where you are, and you forget to watch Barcelona, and then you learn that Barcelona has just produced one of the greatest nights in the great history of greatness, scoring four luscious goals against big-old AC Milan to elude a brutal 2-0 hole from the first leg. And Barcelona has become the first team ever to rally from two behind in a Champions League match without the added benefit of an away goal, and it has produced another astonishing spring night in Europe just as some began to allege its wane, and Lionel Messi has scored twice, and you have missed it, missed every gorgeous revelation of it, and you are forced to watch a replay already knowing what happens.
I don't know of anyone this ever happened to -- and most certainly not on March 12 of this year at about 6 p.m. in Florida -- but it does seem plausible.
So here comes another night thick with possibilities and near-impossibilities, with Paris Saint-Germain elbowing for induction to the big frat using its free-flowing Qatari currency, and Barcelona unsure how much Messi will play against Paris SG given a hamstring not torn but impaired. With those two precious away goals in stash from Paris, Barcelona will aim for a sixth straight Champions League final four (lower case), with hopes for a fourth title in the last eight. Kick-off comes at -- wanderers sometimes need help -- 2:45 p.m. in the Eastern United States, 1:45 in the Central, 12:45 in the Mountain, 11:45 a.m. in the Pacific, 10:45 in Alaska and 8:45 in Hawaii.
All of which reminds of a wrinkle relatively new in life on a globe. As we all keep growing nearer and Americans (especially young ones) become incrementally more enthralled with big-time European soccer, what happens to the schedule of the person who wants to follow all of it? (Again, hi.) It's easy to envision, say, an autumn Saturday in America, waking to watch English Premier League matches at various times through the morning with the possibility of 7 o'clock if so interested, then catching up to college football through the midday and afternoon and night, some madcap score-fest from the West closing it out.
Then, on Sunday, there's the same thing again, with the NFL.
Where is the down time, and why is the world so insistent on being spherical? As I prepare to let sports bleed into the mid-afternoon again today, and for a balance of April with Champions League semifinals and NBA playoffs, there seems almost less down time than for somebody who might have made it in person to Atlanta on Monday and Dortmund on Tuesday and Barcelona on Wednesday. Then again, I would have liked to have tried.