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The Gambler: Knowing When to Discard Aces and Kings


Wednesday, June 18, 2014 will become yet another unmemorable day in Spain’s history of great debacles: a latter day demonstration of how things are thought to change while remaining the same. What happened in/to Spain this grim day in politics (monarchical continuation) and sports (football humiliation) defines both a nation (a people) lacking vision, and definitely lacking sociopolitical wisdom and leadership.

Watching Spain’s mortally-wounded football team battle Chile in Maracanã (Brazil) on Wednesday was a sad and sorry experience which immediately brought to mind a 1978 Kenny Rogers’ song. The lyrics in this song were not specific as to what cards to discard, simply reminding us of a gambler’s wisdom by knowing what to do with the cards dealt in a poker hand: “You’ve got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em.”

Apropos to that timely adage, the Spanish football federation, in cadence with the Spanish body politic, have shown that neither of them can sit at a poker table and expect to win, even when dealt a great hand.

Angel Maria Villar, president of the federation showed post facto total lack of vision and incapacity to lead as he promoted a morale raising barbeque for a Spanish team that was licking its wounds after Spain’s inaugural World Cup 5-1 trouncing at the hands of the Dutch. A barbeque on Tuesday, on the eve of what would be another humiliation, 2-0, this time from Chile! At this point, whether or not Australia affords Spanish fans a coup de grâce to their team on Monday is of little consequence or relevance… it’s all over. Except that it should have been over a year ago.

After an unprecedented 29 games without defeat, the Spanish football aces met on June 30, 2013 their sunset day, losing 3-0 to Brazil in the Confederations Cup at the same Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro. It became obvious then to all but a few die-hards that the reign by Spain would require a major transfusion of new blood, a brand new generation of players. Then was time to thank the great aces and retire most of them to the annals of football greatness… yes, with the greatest of honor and a savory farewell barbeque. Retire them with the honor and dignity which they deserved. Instead, Del Bosque (team coach) and Villar proved to be unsuccessful gamblers… not knowing when to fold them; hurting the former Spanish aces in the painful process, while denying opportunity to other possible future Spanish football aces.

And on that same day of football debacle in Maracanã, a new king would be asked to occupy Spain’s throne.

Philip VI, the latest “non-alcoholic” Bourbon, three centuries after the first Bourbon (Philip V) ascended to the Spanish throne, just became King of Spain after his father, Juan Carlos, abdicated the crown… just like the kings of Tiki-Taka football were forced to abdicate their mastery of the football field.

Spain has thrown away an opportunity, now that Juan Carlos was abdicating the crown, which could have proven to be a natural geopolitical and economic genesis for a peninsula populated by very distinct, autonomous peoples united by common bonds chosen by them, and not imposed on them. And just like monarchy appears to most of us as a system of anachronistic feudalism, more a reminder of enslavement of our ancestors and not the holder of virtuous tradition, this was a perfect time to find both answers and reconciliation… and more likely a better, synergistic future for a political federation, or confederation. A better future for almost 60 million people in Iberia, and emulative prospects for another 600 million people in Iberian-America! But Spanish politicians lacked the vision and leadership to create a millennial chance. No, not just by holding a referendum on whether to choose Monarchy or Republic, but by revisiting a constitution that begs to be changed… they had a winning hand and folded!

If only the lyrics of Kenny Rogers’ Country classic [The Gambler] could be grasped by the overly proud people of the Iberian peninsula, perhaps they could have entertained far better outcomes… in football and, more importantly, in affairs of state:

“You’ve got to know when to hold’em
Know when to fold’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run.”

© 2014 Ben Tanosborn

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