Pandering to the common sentiment, the national-DNA-ologists argue that the blood of Greeks is enriched with hospitalitium, antiracismium, gloriosium and other such noble substances. Until the day that we can see them under a microscope, however, we should be more concerned by the substance that does indeed flow through our veins: hyperbolium.
Hyperbolium reaches all-time highs whenever a Greek team achieves an important victory. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Monday’s sports papers celebrated the victory of Olympiakos Piraeus at the Euroleague basketball final in London with titles such as “Olympiakos rocks Europe” or “World in awe of Olympiakos.” And because Europe and the planet appeared too small to bother with, one even led with the title “The universe has kneeled.”
Meanwhile, a glance at the headlines of Greek sports newspapers affiliated with rival teams such as Panathinaikos, AEK or PAOK revealed that either Olympiakos’s victory was not mentioned at all or, when it was, was referred to in small print and a sarcastic tone. In short, the victory that shocked Europe and made the universe kneel left almost half of Greece either indifferent or bitter.
The truth is that the way Olympiakos won the final also made many fans of rival teams happy with the victory, partly because they saw young Greeks turn the tables and partly because after the first 10 minutes that painted a picture of almost certain annihilation, Olympiakos cruised to victory.
For Olympiakos fans this was a moment for genuine celebration, unlike the previous night when they won a hollow victory in the Greek Soccer Cup final thanks to a biased refereeing performance that embarassed everyone apart from the die-hard fans.
So, do trophies have any significance outside the realm of sports?
In a moment of spontaneity, Costas Papanikolaou, a rising star at Olympiakos, said that his team’s win shows that Greece is here even if there are those who want to stomp it down. Coming from an athlete who just won, such sentiment is expected. But politicians would be wiser to stick to offering their congratulations to the team rather than waxing lyrical with similar generalizations. After all, we shouldn’t forget 2004, when Greece, against all odds, raised the European soccer cup: The win did nothing to make soccer a cleaner sport in Greece, while the excess of the ensuing Olympic Games left us with a hangover we can still feel and incalculable damage.