A Triptych from a Terrible, Yet Affirming Day in Dortmund

If you’re a football fan, by now you know that a bomb(s?) detonated very close to the Borussia Dortmund team bus today in a series of three explosions. This shocking incident of terror occurred about two hours before today’s planned leg 1 quarter-finals Champions League match between BVB and AS Monaco at the SignalIduna Park in Dortmund. The BVB squad and coaches were on the bus when the explosion happened, and Spanish centerback Marc Bartra was injured during the explosion, which impacted the bus’s windows. The defender was taken to the hospital where he had a surgical operation on his forearm and wrist. Today’s match was cancelled and has been rescheduled for tomorrow, but will start two hours earlier than the customary UCL time slot so that Monaco will have more time to travel back to France. Moreover, as revealed in a press conference held by the Dortmund police, a letter was found at the bombing site, the contents or identity of which are not known right now.

These are the facts, as we know them.

Others, who are closer to the scene, are better equipped to discover and share additional facts, so we at the Bundesliga Fanatic won’t pretend to know the accuracy of every leading development. Instead, we can pause and acknowledge this event’s gravity and terror: a day of terror for Marc Bartra, Borussia Dortmund, German football, and world football as a whole. Luckily, no one was killed and only Bartra was injured. Remarkable.

However, this day was both terrible and affirming in Dortmund. Both traits, underscoring our vulnerability and affirming humanity, are simultaneously at work during shocking events. I hope to illustrate this phenomenon in a episodic “triptych” covering the day’s events. Although the first episode is terrible, the next two episodes affirm some beauty stuff about humanity.

Episode 1: the Terrible Scene

Seeing your favorite footballers huddled on a roadside just after a bombing is terrible. Seeing pictures of the bomb’s impact on their bus is terrible. Thinking of how everybody inside that bus reacted during the explosion is not just terrible, but terrifying. Setting aside my editor and columnist garb for a minute, on social media today, I posted that aside from faith and family, BVB is the thing I love next most in the world. Even from across the Atlantic ocean, here in America, this event froze the rest of my day. I half-watched Juve dismantle Barça as I scoured the internet for news developments.

BVB players and staff huddle on the roadside after the detonation.

I dunno. I just dunno. Seeing “your team” targeted in a bombing or by violence in general is just … weird and mostly unreal. I mean, why BVB? Why now? I immediately thought about the Togo national team being attacked by Angolan rebels during the 2010 African Cup of Nations or the Fenerbahçe team bus being shot at in Turkey in 2015. These events are events of terror in which violence representing larger world forces rip into the fabric of sport and culture itself.

The BVB bus after the explosions.

And it doesn’t matter that nobody died or that “only” one player was injured during the bombing. All these things don’t matter because, in this case, the threat of life-ending violence is devastating. Bombings remind me about how fragile, vulnerable, and just plain ol’ contingent we human beings are, orienting us back to our impeding deaths. I won’t get all “we are being-toward-death” Heideggerian on your, but we are a chemical reaction away from annihilation after all. This is why the bombing is terrible. It’s terrible because something valuable was this contigent is exploited and flaunted in front of BVB and us.

As we learn from transportation accidents involving football teams — e.g Torino, Manchester United, or Chapecoense — a sudden loss of an entire team is especially devastating because teams themselves are fragile organisms, composed of carefully selected individuals who’ve devoted their lifetimes to mastering and perfecting a skill. Building a team is momentous event, so momentous that we spend hundres of hours discussing and debating how its done. So when a team disappears suddenly, it’s grotesque, obscene, and horrible. Losing a sports team gouges out a chunk of human culture itself. I assert this because sport — in my framework — is always already part of the human cultural arts. Thus, a threat to a sport team is a threat to culture itself.

BVB coach Thomas Tuchel after the explosion.

To have an effect, violence doesn’t have to necessarily inflict physical wounds on the human body. Nope. Violence also inflicts psychological wounds; it’s precisely this kind of effect I’m worried about after today’s terrible events. What happens next for the BVB squad and staff? To suddenly have your fragility laid bare … To be in that bus … And to have to play tomorrow …

Episode 2: AS Monaco Away Fans Singing Their Support

Today was terrible, but it was also affirming. Shocking events elicit this two-fold dynamic.

Our second episode is an affirming episode. As news reached the SignalIduna Park about the bombing, the AS Monaco away supporters sung in solidarity for the Dortmunders.

On their day, football supporters are just the best. I mean when those collective powers are channeled in loving support, it’s like receiving a bear hug from some jolly fat deity. A massive hug. Listen to the clip a couple times. Maybe you’ll get a goose pimple or two. Maybe not.  What do you get?

And the @BVB twitter feed didn’t miss a beat. Notice that it’s “dear” supporters of AS Monaco. Nicely put. The hugged one hugs back.

Episode 3: #bedforawayfans

As the day ends, the affirmation continues.  In classic social media style, Dortmunders independently organized themselves around the hashtag #bedforawayfans to offer lodging and hospitality to AS Monaco away fans. A while later, the official @BVB feed caught on to help spread the word. Hours later, cozy photos of Dortmund-style hospitality hit social media.


The irony here, of course, is that is took a terrible event to bring strangers together, sharing beer and bread — and football. I smile thinking of tonight’s linguistic challenges in Dortmund and I wonder which languages were resorted to (French? English? German?).

I don’t have anything particularly profound or interesting to say about tonight’s gemütlichkeit-themed ending or the singing AS Monaco supporters. Uplift is harder to write about than terror. But my limits certainly don’t diminish these panels of our triptych. We probably simply need to experience uplift, rather than talk about it anyway.

So I’ll be quiet.

It’s bed time.

There’s some big football tomorrow.

Heja BVB!

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Travis serves as an editor and regular columnist here. Born and groomed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Travis is a college English instructor in Pittsburgh. Coffee, books, and sports are his passions. His writing has also appeared in Howler magazine, 11Freunde, America Magazine, The Short Pass, Bloomberg Sports, the Good Man Project, his former blog, Sportisourstory.tumblr.com, and elsewhere. He tweets at @tptimmons. Heja BVB!

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