Tonight, there were massive numbers of Argentinians celebrating the win of their team in the World Cup, and the coronation of their king, one Lionel Andrés Messi.
Myself, I have a complicated relationship to patriotism and sports allegiance, some of which is resurfacing during the World Cup. When it comes to basketball, for example, I root for my adopted country of the USA, the country which created and perfected basketball. But when it comes to soccer (or “football,” as the rest of the world knows it), I root for Germany, the country of my birth.
Americans don’t care about soccer. Germans are passionate about it. And back in 1954, at the “Miracle of Bern,” this was the tournament where the Germans were essentially let back into the international community. Against the “magical Magyars” of Hungary, the Germans managed to surprise with a 3:2 victory.
I can only imagine how the rest of the world felt about the Germans beating the Hungarian golden generation. The f**king Germans! But it was the first thing that brought Germans any joy at all in the decade since the end of the war. Germany has been resurgent about every 20 years since then, winning further World Cups in 1974 (against the Netherland’s “golden generation”), 1990, and 2014 (beating the Brazilians 7:1 along the way).
So my relationship to “patriotism” is complicated at best. On the one hand, the United States is still considered to be the hub of scientific and business innovation, and of course, during WWII essentially saved the world from fascism against the country of my birth. But the United States also has the legacy of slavery, and racism, and meddling in the affairs of other countries. And gross inequality. And the country of my birth? Well, there’s the holocaust. A thousand years from now, that is still what Germany will be remembered for. It doesn’t matter that the country also produced Bach, and Beethoven, and Freud, and Einstein, and Marx, and Goethe, and Gutenberg, and Johannes Kepler (many of whom were Jewish, of course). We will be known for the holocaust. I’m not complaining about it, I’m just stating a fact.
It makes cheering for either of my countries, my adopted country or the country of my birth, a complicated affair. I’ve always detested the “we’re #1” jingoism of American sports fans. We’re not #1. When it comes to most measures of a society’s welfare, we’re well down in the pack. We’re not even #1 in terms of economic mobility, where there are other countries that do much better on this score.
But I’m happy for the Argentinians tonight.