A Subway posted a sign (probably not approved by spokesman Pele).
A sand artist made a monument.
Argentina unveiled a statue (even if it looks like Han Solo frozen in carbonite).
Maradona stopped being a braying jackass.
Tens of thousands of fans had a rally.
Bytes and bytes of eloquence has been expended online — all in an effort to get Lionel Messi to reconsider his decision to leave the Argentina national football team.
Y’all should stop. Now.
What should reassure us is that Messi will do what he wants to do. And in the part of the deal that is the public trust that supports a beloved athlete, his supporters should want what is best for the athlete, rather than what is best for them.
It’s easy to understand why people would want to see as much of him as possible. It should also be easy to understand why that desire is selfish and in many ways, misguided. If I loved someone, truly loved them, and they looked like Messi did at the end of that Copa America final, I would give them a hug, cry with them and make sure they never put themselves in that situation again. How good that person might be at the thing that caused him or her misery is immaterial.
As a very astute person said, Messi plays with joy at Barça, and with fear for Argentina. We saw the heartbreaking manifestation of that on the weekend, and nobody can blame Messi for wanting it to stop. The player should do what he wants to do, and all of the blandishments, and rallies, and SMSes and statues and please baby please-ing, should stop. Now. Because we have to want the best for the people we adore, whatever that decision is.
We think that we can control people with displays of affection, that if someone wants to leave, us saying “No, please don’t, come back,” should have an effect. When it is an athlete, we say it because we are hooked on them and what they do, almost as if we reduce them to this performing thing. Messi is runs, and goals and magic tricks with the ball that reduce us to gibbering people with the equivalent of flash bulbs going off in our heads. It’s addictive. Of course we want more. And more.
Messi will do what Messi wants to do. This should reassure us. All athletes should, even as we consider them part of a public trust. An athlete is, in an odd way, ours. We adopt them when they play for the teams, laud their exploits and come to think of them as part of this global family. But that athlete is a person — with hopes, dreams, fears and worries, chockablock with human frailties. We only rarely treat them as such. For us, they are unassailable, frozen in time at their best moment and we need them to stay that way. We’re greedy. Who didn’t cheer when Puyol returned? It was after he left the game that he talked about the pain that he had to endure. He did it because he wanted to, but who didn’t feel a little bit of shame in the cognizance of that greed, that rush at seeing our legendary Capita charge up the pitch. Puyol!
I am not a Messi fan, but I love watching Messi play, for the same reason that you enjoy any great athlete doing what they do. But even as someone who isn’t a Messi fan, that post-match stuff was really hard to take. Let him be. Let him hang with his family, take vacation, hug his kids and do what normal humans do, because he has so little time to do that. Imagine being him, being out in the world. You can’t just walk to the store, can’t just pop into a Starbucks, can’t do any of that stuff that we take for granted. It is an abnormal life because of his abnormal talent, which is true of any athlete. They make absurd sums for playing the games that they play, and we forget that they aren’t ours, can’t be and shouldn’t be.
We think that by somehow showing the athlete how much we adore them, such displays should sway them. Messi should see the thousands of people begging him to come back, be moved and decide to rescind his decision to retire. Hogwash. Messi should do what he wants to do, and we should sit back and wait until he makes that decision. And then we should deal with that decision. In the interim, we should remember that Messi is a human being, just like we are, and he doesn’t like stuff that sucks.