15 June 2007

National pride

Is it an inferiority complex? Is it a need to justify ourselves? Why do we Argentinians need to look for approval from abroad? Do we secretly consider ourselves less than the rest of the world? Good questions, I'd say, even if they're mine. They're not all mine — I've spoken to many people who wonder like this. The latest cause, for me at least: the fuss about the San Antonio Spurs winning its fourth NBA title.

I've never understood why people get passionate about sports. I must lack a gene or something. I can get passionate about a lot of things, I can even get some thrill from a good sports match, but drooling over teams' and individual athletes' performance is for me akin to the adoration of dogs for their masters. (You can tell I'm a cat person from that, too.) So back to San Antonio, why the fuss? Why, because it's an Argentine team!

The San Antonio Spurs have two Argentinians playing for them, Emanuel Ginóbili and Fabricio Oberto. Nice people, no doubt, and very good at what they do. They deserve praise for their athletic prowess. But they don't play in Argentina. They don't live in Argentina, or pay taxes in Argentina, or lend their talents to an Argentine team. They're expats. They've chosen to go for the best play, for the good money and for the fame abroad. They don't contribute at all with Argentina's wellbeing... Well, they do donate 1/1000 of their multimillion-dollar earnings to Argentine charities and foundations and things like that — but then so does Bill Gates, and he's like the devil to everyone. Do we need to throw a party when the Spurs win? Ginóbili and Oberto play well because they trained for it, not because they're Argentinians. Their glory isn't shared with us. What on Earth are cheering about?

We're always unduly happy when one of our compatriots is at least partly responsible for doing something spectacular before the whole world. That should be a clear measure of our self-esteem. Ask any Argentinian what we've done for the world. "We invented the ballpoint pen" will be among the first answers, if it's not the first. Well, a Hungarian named László Bíró invented it; he moved to Argentina and (after many efforts caused by the Argentine bureaucracy) he got a patent and sold a lot of them — to the British Royal Air Force. What else? "We got some Nobel Prizes." The last one, in Medicine/Physiology, was César Milstein — who was Argentinian, unlike Bíró. He was a typical outstanding product of an Argentine university: studied hard, learned a lot, and after graduating, he moved to Cambridge, where he could research in peace and get paid properly, and stayed there until he died.

Examples abound. It's not that Argentina hasn't contributed to the world at all; it's world-famous glamorous people we lack, with the exception of Che Guevara (a bit stale by now) and possibly Diego Maradona (but overweight addicts are not glamorous anymore after Elvis). We make do with inventors and hard-working scholars, but we want more. We want to show the world we're fabulous, and we want to believe it ourselves. The latter is more difficult; we battle against reality every day, and our media are glad to help, cheering us up whenever something remotely connected to us gives us a chance to borrow a spark of glory. If you've heard the Argentine ego is so high you can commit suicide by jumping from the top of it, think twice.

1 comment:

  1. Whaaaat? You mean I can’t take credit for Xena, Warrior Princess (while simultaneously trying to ignore that Russell Crowe was born in New Zealand)?

    I lack the sports gene too. I don’t understand how one can have a lifelong allegiance to one sports team when players are traded (for money) to other teams. One season a particular player could be your hero, but after he’s traded, he’s become the enemy in the next season’s games.

    Anyway, Argentina should only be able to claim at most 50% of Manu and Fabricio (we use first names, because they’re amigos). They’ve both acquired Italian citizenship. Double traitors I’d say!

    Argentina needs to work on producing people who are famous, for being, well, … famous (think Paris Hilton). No talent required!

    (NB: you forgot Daniel Barenboim).



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