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.]