The heart of a champion

May 20th, 2010 | by Spencer Hall

—–

I can’t stop watching this commercial for Argentina’s national team in preparation for the World Cup this summer. It’s a genius turn by the ad agency, the Buenos Aires office of Young & Rubicam for TyC Sports. Anyone who has spent any time in Argentina has heard the stories the locals tell each other about the amazing things that happen in other countries. “In the United States, you just take one step out into the street, all the cars stop for you… In Switzerland, you can keep working and still collect retirement checks… In Spain, you’re riding a bike, you use it and put it down and someone else just picks it up… In Germany, if you even throw a tiny shed of paper in the street, someone will pick it up and bring it to you and say ‘Sir, you dropped this.'”

Each story is told with a backdrop of disappointment in the home country (“This place doesn’t have rules…”) and is met with head shakes and sarcastic comparisons and explanations. “That’s Europe,” they say. “It’s cultural.”

At that moment, the scene is inverted, and the tales being told are coming from foreign lands, from awestruck messengers recounting the scenes of intimidating argentine sports culture. “Every time the team enters the field, they throw a million streams of paper in the air… It doesn’t even matter if they’re winning or losing, they sing anyway… They take a sock and roll it up and play with it in the street, I’ve never seen anything like it… The guy’s ankle was swollen to the size of my neck and the guy played anyway… If they lose, they don’t go out, they don’t go to the movies, they don’t do anything.” The fans don’t do anything? “The fans or the players.”

The familiar protests come from the incredulous listeners: “It’s cultural.” says one. The tone grows more desperate as the violin music builds to a crescendo and the messengers grow more urgent. Finally, a pleading man begs his countryman to believe the real threat he is preaching; this indomitable argentine team. “They don’t play with their feet,” he says. “They play with their heart. WITH THEIR HEART!”

“In any championship there is always one of them.”

—–

Following the Jazz sometimes feels like conversations at the beginning of the commercial, talking about how every other team has every advantage and does everything so much better. Better GM, richer owner, bigger market, better city. Did you know that in Miami they don’t have to pay state income tax? In New York they give you endorsement deals even when you haven’t played a game in 30 years. In LA, even the bench warmers get reality shows.

The only answer for the Jazz organization is to field a team that plays with heart. Just like the argentine street kids who make do with poor equipment and limited resources, a scrappy team can be the stuff of legends. In contrast, sitting out the most crucial game of the regular season with sore ribs clearly doesn’t indicate that something that makes sport transcendant. And it certainly disqualifies that someone from screaming “AND ONE!” after every play. Earn it.

So here’s to a team of more Wesley Matthews, more Othyus Jeffers, more Paul Millsap. Here’s to the Manu Ginobilis of the world. And here’s to unheralded (or heralded, even) rookies who want to come in and play with heart.

—–

[Editor’s note: I removed the comment about Boozer’s Maybach because I agree with the comment below, lavish lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean the player lacks heart.]

Spencer Hall
Founder Spencer Hall has covered the NBA, Team USA and NBA D-League since 2007 and launched Salt City Hoops in 2009. Spencer is now the news director at KSL.com
Spencer Hall
Spencer Hall

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14 Comments

  1. Juan Estevez says:

    First of all, sorry for my english… couple of things

    – Im from Argentina… how did you get to see this? guess the internet is a crazy thing lol
    – the commercial its great, which is funny because tyc sports commercials are always as worst as you can imagine.
    – the message of the commercial its true. we DO celebrate and sing even more when our teams are losing, some kids DO play with socks and we are very passionate about futbol. If you ever have the chance to come to Argentina, you MUST go to a futbol game, specially to “La Bombonera” the stadium of Boca Juniors.
    – Its also true that we are always talking about how bad as a country and how far of the first world we are.

    About the heart of the champion thing, thats also a signature of our people. We might not be the most talented ones, but we always find a way.

    Im very corious on how did this commercial get to your sight… if you have any questions: burred89@gmail.com

    GO JAZZ!

    • Thanks for the comment, great to read some argentine perspective. I lived in Córdoba for a couple years and spent a summer in La Rioja, so I’ve listened to a ton of conversations exactly like the ones in the commercial. I used to love watching the kids play in the streets and thought I was a pretty good player until I stepped on the pitch with local guys. Even little pickup games feel like the most important match of a lifetime; it’s amazing.

      I haven’t spent a lot of time in Bs As but the next time I go I’m definitely going to catch a Clásico with Boca and River.

      The commercial captures perfectly the balance between pride and frustration that a lot of people in Argentina feel about their country, but I loved the reverse angle: showing that despite a lot of things that may not be going well, the one thing that unites everyone is the style of play and the passion for the game. All any fan wants from their team is to feel like the players care as much as the fans. Definitely true in Argentina.

  2. Excellent post i’m sure that i will come back here again

  3. j says:

    Neat video. For the most part good post. I’m not a Utah fan, but how exactly does driving an expensive car mean you don’t have heart? What’s the one have to do with the other. Dude makes 14 mill a year, and even if he cut his salary to 10 mil a year to stay with Utah he could still afford that car.

    When talking about the NBA I have issue with rich= no heart.

  4. @j: Agreed on the car part. Everyone in the league is making Monopoly money so they probably can’t be blamed for having a thing for expensive cars. As I’ve said in previous posts, I don’t really care what a guy does off the court. (Well, I hope that he’s interesting and gives us a reason to pay attention, but in general, live your life). So consider the jab about the lavish lifestyle removed from the record.

    And I don’t mean for this post to be about Boozer, really. I’m not trying to bury the guy, and I want nothing but good things to come his way. He always treated me with respect and seemed to carry himself as a professional. It’s more about heart, and the difference between following a guy because he’s on the team you follow, and playing with passion. It’s the difference between doing your job and inspiring people.

  5. Paul Lam says:

    Wow, great vid.
    I wish it had English subtitles or something though. But great nonetheless.

  6. SomeRandomGuy says:

    Brazilians don’t have to play with their hearts. We play futbol with our SOULS.

    Also, that last bit should have probably been something like, “They use drugs! They don’t play with their feet! They play with their HANDS!”

    (That’s right, Argentina. You have superstar that gets caught using performance enhancing drugs, and scoring an obvious handball goal in absolute disgrace of the World Cup, and we’ll never let you live it down. EVER.)

    As far as having some pertinence to your Jazz tie-in, I’m really loathe to put Manu Ginobli in the ranks of “guys who play with heart”. He plays through pain, but once he’s on the court, he plays like me. Takes many possessions off, does just enough to stay active until he senses a point where he should actually exert himself, and then makes a string of plays that exploit his more tired foes. It’s really effective, but if you attack him with someone like, say, Millsap, who goes all out the entire time he’s on the court, Ginobli becomes a liability.

    I will also say that the Jazz were smart to lock-up Millsap. If I were to pick up one non-Max guy from any team that I knew would boost a team without destroying chemistry, Paul Millsap would be the guy on top of my list.

    • Wow, ha ha. I wasn’t expecting this to turn into a Brazil vs. Argentina catfight. I’m sticking with Manu on the heart scale. My one complaint will always be the popularization of the flop, which is now almost institutional in the NBA. Several players on this year’s Jazz team were guilty of over-selling calls on more than a few occasions, too. It’s the antithesis of heart, so I will agree to cordially request that Manu stop flopping. It’s unbecoming.

      As for the complaint about dirty play from the Argentinos, you may want to watch this: http://bit.ly/cF8mwT

  7. SomeRandomGuy says:

    No Brazil vs. Argentina catfight.

    After all, we have 5 and they have 2. Wouldn’t be much of a fight. ;)

  8. Latin_D says:

    Hey there, SCH. I’m David from PtR, we met in Dallas.

    A friend pointed me to this post and I just had to drop you a comment, thank you for the WC tie-in and the great ad. I had missed it, somehow. I was sad about the way the Jazz finished the year, but I was cheering for them to the end. When are you coming down here? Remember that I promised to show you around.

    Cheers, man. Good post.

    Won’t even comment on SomeRandomGuy’s obtuse comment about Manu. That was a lot of hate.

  9. Jesse Utoh says:

    Lifelong Jazz fan here…(last name is Utoh…pronounced just like the beehive state – Karl Malone is my all-time favorite player…John Stockton was always underappreciated…etc.)

    Love Wes Matthews…love Millsap…tired of hearing that Rondo is all of a sudden better than DWill (PLEASE…I live in New England, so its all I hear). Love Korver off the bench…actually like Fez (#44 is my favorite number…) CJ Miles improved (still needs to learn how to defend) and I felt so bad for Okur (tough injury for an older/less athletic player to recover from). Boozer is solid, just not great.

    My fear is that Greg Monroe will be the same. Solid, but not great. I hope Utah can do something to take advantage of having the premier talent at the point guard position. Please don’t waste DWill’s prime! Chris Bosh apparently wants to follow LeBron to wherever he ends up, but he would be the ideal fit for the Jazz as a Boozer upgrade. I’ll always like Boozer, but will also always know he isn’t the answer for a championship push.

    Oh yeah…Missed Matt Harping against the Lakers. Would we have won with him, Okur, and Kirilenko? Probably not, but his toughness was needed. And is not probable that the Russian star (AK47) joins the Russian Billionaire in New Jersey? What can Utah get in exchange?

    Faithful till the end…

  10. Jo Mateix says:

    I miss Harpring too. Maybe the Jazz are just missing a crusty old school guy that’s just a little bit pissed off. Maybe Jerry could get some shorts and bang up with Boozer during practice, he may not win, but I guarantee Jerry would still give him a run even if it killed him.

  11. been following ur site around three days. really love your posts. by the way i’m conducting a report regarding this issue. do you happen to know any sites or maybe forums that I might get more? thanks a ton.

  12. great post.Thanks and wish all the best.Will be back soon.

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