And if you think there is a hint of sarcasm or jealousy in my tone…well, you may be right.
Hey, I wanted the U.S. to win the World Cup. I admit it. Wanted it badly, as a matter of fact.
But you know what? The Americans didn’t win because we weren’t the best team. The best team won. And I know the Germans were the best team because that German team was designed the best, built the best, and prepared the best.
Germany’s World Cup team as assembled was a team whose architects and builders were focused – and some might even say obsessed – on building a quality roster from top to bottom; on building a team constructed not for expedience, quick returns or any short-term benefit, but for one thing and one thing only; winning over the long haul.
Think about the Germans for a moment. There are probably no people anywhere about whom the rest of the world more loves to make definitive general assumptions or more loves to paint with a broad brush than the Germans. Listen to how non-Germans have always talked about or described them (including so many announcers and analysts in this year’s World Cup). The Germans are always “clinical” or “ deeply analytical,” and everything they do is always done with “steely precision” or in a way that is conspicuously “devoid of emotion.”
Heck, I remember Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball, began an article he wrote for Vanity Fair a few years back by broad-brushing Germany and taking great pains to detail what he described as the country’s collective and centuries-old fascination with human feces. In the beginning of the piece he teed things off by citing dozens of German euphemisms for feces and quoting just about every notable German from Mozart and Martin Luther to Hitler, all of who seemed to feel compelled to, at some point, either talk about the stuff, write about it, or in some way reference it.
(But to Lewis’ credit, making such a broad generalization turned out to be a clever and effective way to lead into the focus of his story, which was how Germany has hoisted on its shoulders and continues to carry so many of its fellow EU partners’ toxic, foul-smelling economies.)
But as someone who operates a sales office in Berlin and who travels to Germany regularly, I will tell you such generalizations are, if not dangerous, than at least unfair. Germans are in many ways just like people everywhere, and the more you know them the more you realize cultural generalizations are simply intellectual shorthand or a lazy man’s way of trying to make a point.
But at the risk of being accused of such shorthand, in light of Germany’s recent World Cup triumph and in light of my having just returned from ten days in the country, I will offer one generalization that seems to go to the very heart of not only why the Germans are now World Cup champions but why I continue to operate an office there.
And that is this: the German people of today, many of whose parents, grandparents and great grandparents were at least tacitly complicit in one of the darkest, most evil chapters in human history, have collectively spent the past 60 years (beginning on VE Day in 1945) rebuilding their society and (in time) reunifying their country – and doing it the right way and doing it for the long haul.
And that collective focus – and, again, some might say obsession – on building things the way they should be built, building them with quality, building them with a meticulous eye for detail, and building them to last, is what separates the Germany of today from just about every other country, if not every other culture on the planet.
That, my friends, is why Germany won the World Cup. That’s why I continue to run a business there. And that’s why, all sarcasm and jealousy aside, I mean it when I say to my friends and colleagues in Germany, “Bravo.”
In the world of global soccer you are weltmeister, and it couldn’t have happened to a better-built or more richly deserving team – or for that matter, a harder working or more richly deserving people.