What to say about the small man in the number 10 Jersey, the always kicking Golden Kid, who grew into El Diego, the hand of God, and by his own cocaine-fueled reckoning, God himself? He rebuked the Pope for his golden ceiling, rebuked his sportsman elder, Pele, for his age, rebuked England for their war on Argentina with two goals. What to say of these two goals, most infamous, most miraculous? How to improve on the passionate words of Morales, with their mix of science fiction (“what planet do you come from?”) religion (“Thanks be to God. . .”) and pathos (“. . . for these tears . . .”)?
Let us say simply this. There will be many obituaries today remembering the bad man Maradona, his excesses of indulgence, his courting of controversy, his broad shoulders that could fight everyone. Those obituaries have entirely missed the point, of the Goal of the Century, of a life of sport, of Sport itself. Maradona can not be measured over a lifetime, but in a split second, in the beauty of evasion and motion, in the barrilete cosmico, the cosmic soaring. Is it a tragedy that Maradona peaked in 1986, and lived another 34 years? Maybe. Is the Goal of the Century a life-defining, life-justifying masterpiece? Yes.
As Maria Tallchief said of dance, “In every sense of the word you are poetry in motion. And if you are fortunate enough…you are actually the music.” Diego Maradona was, for several brief moments, the music. That was his gift. As long as he was alive, even as he aged, even as he gained weight, was forced to retire, was committed to a psychiatric hospital, fled to Cuba to kick cocaine, that gift was still in the world. Now it is gone. Adios, Maradona. Siempre Maradona.