When Even Success is Failure, You're in Russialand
It's pretty sad what passes for glorious triumph in Russian sport these days.
The Moscow Times reports: "Russia came back from behind to spectacularly beat England 2-1 at Luzhniki stadium on Wednesday" in European football league play, calling the win "Russia's most impressive since beating world champion France in 1999."
Yet, the only thing Russia accomplished by winning this match was to stave off absolute elimination from the tournament following a season of lackluster play. It still has no guarantee of moving into the playoffs, much less can it entertain any hope of taking the title. Is that really cause for national celebration? Is Russia that hard up? Has Russian football really been that woeful for the past eight years?
Indeed so. Fans will remember that Russia didn't even qualify for the most recent FIFA World Cup, which even lowly American managed to accomplish. Yet, instead of recognizing how dismal their prospects are, Russians ignore reform and prefer to live in a world of illusion. Sports, in this regard, is a perfect microcosm of Russian society generally. Take, for instance, our recent post on Publius Pundit regarding the Russian reaction to America's total dominance of this year's Nobel prize selections. Russians simply can't acknowledge the possibility that anything might be seriously wrong with the way they do things or that they might learn something from another country, especially not America. Instead, what we get is just another cruise down the longest river in psychology: Denial.
The MT reported: "Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, who attended the game, was quick to capitalize on the success, with state-owned Channel One television showing a recording of a meeting he had with players ahead of the game." He stated: "We won the Great Patriotic War and were first to fly to space and, therefore, you must win today too."
Yikes. That's some pretty scary, unhinged-from-reality hyperbole from Russia's second-in-command. The next thing you know, Putin will be making speeches at little-league games. Too bad Zubkov didn't add: "But then the Americans beat us to the lunar surface, which we never actually reached at all, crushed us in the Star Wars arms race and, a few decades later, our whole nation destroyed itself and no longer exists." But that probably would have taken the wind out of his little navy's sails, wouldn't it? Presumably, France "lost" the "Great Patriotic War" -- but which country has a healthier, more prosperous society today?
Could it be that what Russia was really celebrating was an orgy of xenophobia and paranoia, just the pure animalistic pleasure of defeating England at something, those same dastardly English who dare to demand justice for Alexander Litvinenko and keep dissident oligarch Boris Berezovsky out of Russian clutches -- the same England that Russia keeps buzzing with nuclear bombers? If the situation had been reversed with the match played in England, would Russians have acknowledged a great victory by the Brits? That hardly seems likely. Is mighty "resurgent" Russia really that pathologically desperate for some kind, any kind, of visible success against England?
Indeed so. Russia finds itself totally alone on the diplomatic stage, its frenzied leaders having provoked and alienated every civilized country on the face of the planet. It gathers to its bosom a ragtag group of rogue regimes including Venezuela and Iran, without seeming to notice how ridiculous it make itself seem in doing so, and how desperate.
The MT reports that Russians were typically generous as hosts: "More than 20 Russian fans broke into a bar on Novy Arbat three hours before the game and attacked a group of foreigners with hockey sticks, chairs and tables before fleeing, Ekho Moskvy radio reported. Police, however, denied that any incident had taken place, Interfax reported." Equally generous in victory were the Rooskies: "Four Englishmen were beaten near the VDNKh metro station as they made their way back to the Kosmos hotel, where most of the 4,500 fans who flew to Moscow for the game were staying. All four were taken to the Botkin hospital at 4:40 a.m., Interfax reported."
You can just hear the Russians now: Other countries lose more spectacularly than we do, so our losing doesn't matter. Other countries have football hooligans, so ours don't matter. Other countries are led by maniacal dictators, so we can't be criticized. So it went in the USSR (until the collapse) and so it goes in Russia.