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Friday, October 19, 2007

EDITORIAL: When Even Success is Failure, You're in Russialand


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.


Anonymous said...

"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."

Kim, that's bonkers. Where do you get your ideas about non-American sport from?

The win over England on Wednesday was a massive one for Russia, putting them on course to qualify for the Euro 2008 finals from one of the toughest groups in the competition - containing both England and Croatia.

All they need do now to be absolutely sure of qualifying is to beat Israel (not a walkover, but a game they should come through unscathed) and Andorra, a tiny footballing nation, perched atop a mountain on the France/Spain border.

True, qualification isn't guaranteed, but Russia are now in a far better position than England, who not only need to win their last game, but need to pray that Russia slip up if they are to go through to the finals.

I'm an England supporter through and through, so I think if someone like me is saying Russia are doing well - they actually are.

Having said that, I'll be cheering on both Israel and Andorra!

La Russophobe said...


You're the one who's bonkers. Kim didn't write this post. She's the publisher of LR, not the sole editor, and has never professed to have any knowledge of football. The sidebar clearly says this is a team blog. If you can't think even a little before you spew your arrogance, we won't publish your comments.

Having said that, Kim stands 100% behind this post. We couldn't disagree more strongly with your remarks.

All you are doing is giving your opinion. That's fine, you can disagree all you like. But the idea that what you believe is fact and what we believe is therefore wrong is extreme arrogance unworthy of reply. The arrogance implied in the idea that if a country is in a better position than England that means it's in a good position is rather extreme. Step outside your balloon and you'll find England isn't feared worldwide as a powerhouse of sport. More arrogance to be found in the suggestion that we care deeply about football. It's an American blog, sir. We couldn't care less. We're making a point about politics. Rather sad you can't recognize that point through your hubris.

It's also rather odd that you'd stoop to the level of personal abuse, quite hypocritical in my view.

Nothing you have said is at variance with this post. It says winning didn't qualify Russia and that if Russia had lost it would have been eliminated. That's true. It says nobody thinks Russia has a serious chance of winning the title, and you don't say you think it does.

Take a deep breath and try to control your hubris, can't you? We know you think that anyone who disagrees with you is of subnormal intelligence, but if you count the actual number of such folks you might be unpleasantly surprised by the results.

If you can't read our blog in good faith, don't read it at all and certainly refrain from commenting. Nothing in our post denies that, in the future, Russia might do something great in the tournament. Anything is possible. The time to celebrate is THEN, not now. Again, you're free to disagree, but to suggest that anyone who dares to disagree with you is bonkers is unworthy of you, surprising and disappointing.