The ball and DNA

It’s reasonable that enthusiasm pushes us toward exaggeration. But those who choose to attribute the basketball win to Greek DNA, God’s blessing, the protection of the Holy Virgin or the untamable Greek spirit should rein themselves in a bit with the thought of the following simple fact: Into what lethargy had Greek DNA fallen for the 18 years between the 1987 golden prize and yesterday, and why? And what ill winds scattered the Greek spirit? And why did God and the Virgin Mary withhold their blessing for 20 years? Why did they turn their face away from the otherwise chosen people? Can anyone imagine a spirit that functions after long fallow periods? Can one imagine a heavenly power whose blessing depends on the race or rationality of the competing athletes? And did the God of the Orthodox choose to raise up the Orthodox Greeks and to smite down the equally Orthodox Serbs? Because those who are involved in sports as players or coaches know very well that success depends on luck and not only on worth, it’s hard to get away from good-luck charms and offerings. The highly rational and scientifically backed training goes hand in hand with an irresistible irrationalism, while religious sentiment succumbs to pagan habits. When the game is over, athletes often attribute victory to divine intervention. Deep down, though, they know that it was their hands, legs, brains and, of course, their soul that decided the game. But a soul is common to everyone, whether French, German or Greek. After repeated failures, the Greek national team finally won an oft-heralded yet far more elusive prize. That does not mean that we have a superior soul or that some Saint Three-Pointer gave us a hand. Nor does it guarantee that the coming season will be better than last year’s.