Nike used the USA – Argentina friendly match to advertise a new shirt for the US Men’s National Team last night. A deep red with a dark blue diagonal sash keeps the theme of the other two, but this one comes with the word “Indivisible” on the sleeve.
I think that’s catchy, because it hits us in the subconscious. Where is the only other place you hear this word? In the Pledge of Allegiance:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Putting aside the fact that the Pledge was written by a Socialist minister who “championed ‘the rights of working people and the equal distribution of economic resources, ” the Pledge is a body of words that every American knows. We all grew up reciting this every morning, half-asleep, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and interest, but recite it we did. We may never have figured out who “Richard Sands” is, but we knew it was his republic and that republic was – say it with me – indivisible.
By tying the shirt, and the USMNT, to a memory we all have from our childhood, Nike executes an inspired marketing stroke.
But the idea of unity is not unique. The notion of indivisibility, that which is “incapable of being divided” also appears within Spanish teams. A phrase they use is “una piña” – a pine cone.
Iberian Spanish has lots of rustic references that remind us that it is not so far removed from the times of Don Quijote and La Mesta, the sheep growers’ guild. It started as an agrarian nation. One of my favorite slang expressions is one that denotes a location that is inconveniently remote, for example someone’s house, is said to be “en el quinto pino” (in the fifth pine tree). In other words to get there, you leave the city, travel down rural roads and when you get to the fifth pine tree, you’re there.
From the excellent and oft-quoted Con la roja, many citations appear:
This one from Xavi: Q: In what period in the history of football would you like to live?
“In the one I’m in right now, without a doubt. We’re the best team in history! Seriously though, it’s true that football was more of a family thing before. Now, everyone is more individualistic. We hardly ever have lunches or dinners together, and I’m very family oriented, I like to joke around. The other day, I saw a report on Athletic de Bilbao, and they are like that, a piña, a family, and I like that.”
During the run-up to the World Cup, this song was big in Spain:
And Puyol: 12. Which teammate do you spend the most time with?
“The truth is that the team is a piña and we do things together, but it’s clear that I have more of a relationship with those from Barcelona and with Cesc but everyone gets along with each other.”
Whether you talk of Indivisibility, a pine cone or even the old E pluribus unum, the idea of joining ourselves to a tightly knit collective and achieving success through mutual effort and sacrifice appeals. How is that we gravitate to this, while simultaneously valuing the individualist in America, and the nightclub-crashing superstar in football? (yeah C-Ron, I’m talking about you) And, if we want to part of an anonymous collective, why is it that we also continue to extol how in America, we have the freedom to be whatever we want?
Here’s a time capsule featuring Red Skelton: