If you have any familiarity with a high school Spanish class, you have probably been force fed the mantra "Spanish is not a direct translation of English" ad nauseum. Any time you transpose the noun and adjective's position or misuse por instead of para the truism is launched at you, and don't even think about forgetting about the imperfect tense without hearing it. The verb "esperar" is an often used example of this. It doesn't simply mean "to wait" but rather "to wait for." This, at least, is what they tell you in class. Without realizing students will throw a por in after the conjugated form of esperar which is, of course, redundant. Nobody likes to wait for for anything. The unsuspecting student is then, without exception, assaulted with that blunt mantra. All the kids will laugh and nod, and the student who corrects it is given a jolly rancher for his dedication.
But in reality, that cliche couldn't be more true. The difference between "esperar" and "to wait" are more than just how we phrase it. Esperar is more accurately translated as "to hope for." In fact, the popular Spanish name Esperanza actually means hope. When Spanish speakers say they are waiting for something, they describe it as hope. Its a small difference that is nearly always lost in translation. And that's it entirely, English and Spanish aren't direct translations of each other, they are each of them unique translations of the same base language. Language is in itself an attempt to express the truly and fully inexpressible. Ideas.This is my definition of art. Language, just like anything that attempts to explain feelings that are otherwise inexplicable, is an art. The more fully the artist (I feel like an asshole typing that word here) expresses himself is one way that art can be qualified. I believe that sport is often another medium.
Over the weekend the World Cup final was played between two of the most philosophically dedicated "artistic" teams in a sport known for being pretentiously (albeit accurately) described as "The Beautiful Game." The Dutch are probably the most influential soccer nation in the world with the marked exception of the English. In the 1970's the Dutch created a new style of play which electrified the still easily malleable soccer landscape. In a world of stark, rigid play the Dutch, lead by the phenom Johann Cruyff, attacked relentlessly with flowing precision. The players weren't looked at as simply pawns slotted into positions, but fully formed interchangeable soccer players that were expected to transition seamlessly from defense to attack and play every position on the field. They called their brain child Totaalvoetbal or Total Football.
The Spanish's side is arguably even more dedicated to their "art." Of the starting eleven that won the world cup final Sunday, four payed their bills playing club soccer for FC Barcelona, including their midfield core Xavi and Andres Iniesta who dictated their style of play. Barcelona is a city renowned for its art scene, and its club soccer is no different. In fact, the club, whose jerseys are just as revered by the city of Barcelona as the Catalan flag, made a dedication to play with a stylistic flair as a protest to the stark, draconian Franco-ist fascism to which the people of the cities were consistently exposed. In fact, the team even brought in the Dutch pioneer Johan Cruyff to add some flare. Today the Spanish are considered the best representation of Dutch Total Football in the modern game.
Playing beautifully is of course a nice thought, but the skeleton in the closet is the lack of success. Before sunday, neither of these nations had ever won a World Cup. There have been rare occasions where teams that emphasize style over substance have been successful (Barcelona currently, the current Spanish team, Arsenal in the Veira era, Ajax in the seventies, Argentina in the eighties) but these teams have proven to be the exception rather than the rule. These flashy teams are often beaten by more pragmatic (and boring as some would argue) teams such as Germany, Italy, Chelsea, and basically any team coached by Jose Mourinho.
But the truth of the matter, is that this doesn't really bother fans of these stylistically dedicated squads, nor to the squads themselves. The Dutch have always argued that it is better to play well than win. In fact, Johan Cruyff criticized the current Dutch team last week when they were just ninety minutes from reaching they had never reached for playing too "crudely."
Which brings me, finally, to MMA. Certain fighters seem to be fighting for something more. For something other than a simple victory. The best example I can think of is Kazushi Sakuraba. Both his wins and his losses represent something more. Something whole and huge, bigger than simply fighting. Nobody loses with such ferocity, and wins with such glory.
And then, there are the Rashad Evans of the world, whose only philosophy is to win. The Germany's of the MMA scene. Their fighting style is effective, though some would argue it lacks passion. So the question arises, who do you prefer? The artist or the craftsman? Really there is no right answer, just like in soccer, it depends on what kind of fan you are.