Ok, Americans. Here we go. Do you know who Diego Maradona is?
No. You don’t. Do you know why you don’t?
Because you’re American.
A few months ago, I went to my friend Sanja’s house for a board game night. We were playing a game where everyone writes down the names of famous people, puts them in a bowl, and then you draw one out and have to describe the person to your teammates, with them trying to guess who it is for a point. Of course, with several countries represented, we were extra careful to ensure that the names we wrote were famous globally – just to be fair to everyone. I was stoked, because I usually rock at these games.
Well, it was my turn, and I ran through one or two names, successfully described the individuals on the card, and my teammates quickly sounded out with answers. Then, I pulled the next name out of the bowl.
What the fuck? Who the hell is Diego Maradona? This is supposed to be FAMOUS people only! Unfair!
Outrage! I was outraged that they put some no-name dude into the bowl of famous people. It’s a bowl of famous people, not a bowl of people that I’ve never heard of before. Rude! But you know what – everybody knew who he was. EVERYBODY. Except for me.
Diego Maradona is probably one of the most famous footballers (soccer players) in history. The Argentine superstar has scored goals known as “The Hand of God” and “The Goal of the Century” –both in the 1986 World Cup – and was recently the coach of Argentina’s national team. He’s had scandals over his cocaine use, health problems, rude attitude, anti-American sentiment, and support for Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan dictator. Oh- and did I mention he has a tattoo of Fidel Castro? Who the hell has a tattoo of Fidel Castro? And why???
So, of course, I had to ask around. Here in Sydney, I have friends from all over the world – every continent, dozens of countries, men and women, straight and gay – so I was bound to not be alone in my lack of knowledge concerning Mr. Maradona.
Well, I was pretty much alone. Everybody knows who he is. EVERYBODY. It doesn’t matter if they are from Brazil, South Africa, Australia, England, Bosnia, or Israel – Diego Maradona is pretty much a household name all over the world. In the States, I’d say he’s as popular as Michael Jordan combined with Oprah, Barack Obama, and Tom Cruise maybe? But apparently way more popular. It’s not just straight men either. Women know who he is. Even the gays know who he is. Now, I couldn’t name more than a handful of (American) football players or basketball players or baseball players in the U.S. – but even the gays here, at the first hearing of the words “Diego Maradona”, can tell you who he is and all about “The Hand of God” - as I experienced last night when I ran my blog idea by my friend Jason and he instantly started telling me all about it. And we’re not even in Argentina! WTF?
There is, however, one group of people who know nothing of Diego Maradona. That group of people: Americans. I’m not alone! We have no idea who he is. I’ve asked at least a dozen Americans, and everyone is like “Do you mean Madonna?” No. I don’t.
Karen didn’t know who he was. Neither did Kathryn. Neither did Todd. Neither did any of the other Americans I know. We have no idea who he is, and my sampling of travelers and more worldly Americans would probably have a better shot at knowing who he is than the remainder of the Americans still in the States. We don’t watch soccer and we normally don’t pay attention to things outside our borders unless it involves our military in some war-torn country. Yes, once in a while we’ll get news stories from Europe, or something about gang wars in Mexico, or maybe how toys manufactured in China are killing babies. But really, they usually somehow relate back to the USA. As for South America – I think the Chilean mine rescue was the most coverage on South America that Americans have seen… ever. And you know that somewhere in one of those red states in the middle, some redneck had the audacity to ask, “Chile? What part of Mexico is that?”
You know it probably was asked… more than once.
So, lesson of the story: there’s a whole world out there with famous figures and pop culture and stuff that Americans know NOTHING about. Some starving 6 year old child in some remote village in Burundi (or Rwanda or Uganda or some equally poor, awful place) knows all about Diego Maradona. But 310 million Americans just look at you funny and say “Huh?”
And you know what’s more ridiculous? Not a single person at that board game night had any idea who Vanna White was. Vanna fucking White! And they looked at me like I was crazy. WTF?