Nov 28, 2020 Letters
I regret that Diego Maradona, fabled son of Argentina, is no longer of terra firma. But this boy from the barrio was of more than Argentina. He was of the world and one for the ages. Even his embittered, one-time denouncers, the English, came around to admitting his sublime perch in the pantheon of the near-perfect. Though he is no longer here, he always will be; there is so much to be admired, so much that were of the frightening.
Diego of the barrio, this Maradona, who scaled every Montaña with such breathtaking flair, such destructive force, while showing mere mortals of just what could be, even for a poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks. It is of what can be, if only we put our heads down and will our feet to take us to those summits that are out of this world, and then some. Our challenges are before us, and we can conquer, but only if we apply ourselves honestly and vigorously, at all levels.
I speak of Maradona, not so much as a tortured genius rising head over shoulders of the competition on the field of football combat, but in his life, in this life, in which so much could be gained, then lost, and then sometimes regained again. He was that kind of man: full of flair, fuller of all too human flaws. Oh! He was a special one possessing of a rare extraordinariness, yet a man driven to the repeated edges of madness by the restless inner spirits that drove his soul, and which he could neither put his arms around nor rise to his full height and tackle head-on.
For as I recognize him, here was a player, who from the gifts that awed, could summon at will that which was a combination of earthly delights and celestial magic. It was of a man gliding and kicking and controlling, while all the time strategizing, with a pedestrian football. His sight encompassed unseen visions of that flat green table of struggle and challenge that only he could fathom, only a Maradona could bring to life and make happen in wondrous splendor. And from those came the grand infinite possibilities only a man of such talent could explore.
He was always a step ahead – several, truth be told of his contemporaries, whether they were campesinos or critics or champions. For a figure of under five and a half feet, he towered over taller, stronger, fiercer giants that stood before. He left them in his wake, gasping for breath, a maze of tangled shins, in a blur that bludgeoned first, and then took the breath away ever after. It was the struggling in vain to catch a fleeting shadow in football life, which he tried unsuccessfully in real life.
For such was his clashing internal makeup that it seems as if life itself stood in his way: too slow, too routine, too dull, and too unexciting. So, he had to be the fastest in his times. Maradona, given the fastest of open lanes and the shortest of distances, could not resist the lures and lusts of drinks and drugs.
Diego, the poor child in rich man’s clothing, could not overpower the ravages to his storied record, his yielding quivering flesh, his muddled mind. The one that conquered a planet, found himself conquered by his own frailties of the flesh.
He did fight his personal Falklands War and claimed his revenge in the most glorious – some would say an unmeritorious-way. That one he may have won, but he won no hearts for what will always be tainted a Pyrrhic victory. And neither did he win the one with the bottle nor the battering treachery of cocaine.
There he was, a character out of real life, one lived his way and to the fullest, tradition and convention be damned. He was, at once awe-inspiring and degrading in the sum of his awful contradictions, a creature prone to his weaknesses, who always lived with life at his feet to kick around, while his hands and heart did the inhuman to his body.
Loved and hated, even by his own sometimes; the highs and bottomless lows woven by his spirit that demanded freedom to roam the world, as it pleased him. He is freer now, with an infinite vaster arena ahead of him. A role model of a kind, maybe; a conflicted genius, definitely.
Gone at 60. Thanks, Diego, for the sparkling, sometimes frightening, memories.
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