Spaniards are the Cubs fans of Europe.
Like Cubs fans, they had their taste of glory. In Spain, the early 16 Hundreds were a good time. In Chicago, the Cubs were a National League powerhouse just after the turn of the last century.
Then things went bad for both organizations. Cubs fans remember 1969, when the pennant could not possibly be lost, but it was. In Spain some excellent Goya paintings recall the Napoleonic occupation of the early 1800s, kicking off a hundred years in which Spain lost almost all its colonies.
Then there was the shattering "Bartman" defeat of 2003, roughly analogous in spiritual devastation to the Spanish-American War, which cost Spain its remaining possession and spawned the Generation of 98, a cohort of disillusioned intellectuals like Unamuno and Ortega y Gasset who attempted to regenerate Spanish culture. Despite their best efforts, the 20th century brought Spain tyranny, civil war, and more tyranny. Yet despite their miseries, Spaniards remained loyal Spaniards. Except for the Catalans. And the Basques, of course. And some of the Galicians.
But on Sunday the Spanish national soccer team, a dismal failure in its previous campaigns, won the World Cup.
Cubs fans should think of Spain as a country that had a bad century — in fact, several of them — and take heart. Nothing is forever.