The Beer arrives in quart bottles. That is the way beer is served in Argentina. I would like a beer. Here, my friend, have a quart. The steak that accompanies the beer is the size of a mag wheel on a Chevy pickup truck. Maybe larger. The edges of the steak hang over the sides of the plate, touching the white tablecloth. The fries, the papas fritas, that accompany the steak are piled six inches high on a separate dish. There are no vegetables. No lettuce rears its leafy head. This is dinner, plain and cholesterol simple. The time is one o'clock in the morning.
"Are we crazy?" you ask.
"We are in training," I reply.
The restaurant, El Palacio del Bife in Mar del Plata, is filled. The local athletes are also at the 1 a.m. training table, ordering their own mag-wheel steaks and mountains of papas fritas. The restaurant features bife, bife and more bife. Bife in all its forms. Some of the local athletes, on second look, are ordering bife tongues and bife intestines and bife blood sausages. These athletes obviously are at a much higher stage of development than we are. We are only starting out on this Argentine route to athletic triumph. The success of Argentina's athletes, especially in team sports and especially against the U.S. in the XII Pan American Games at Mar del Plata, has been a spur to personal growth.
"Are we going to have to smoke, too?" you ask, noticing the fine haze that hangs over most tables.
"We'll start slowly, but we'll build up to two packs a day," I reply. "We have to have our nicotine."
The idea of eating so late in the night, a foreign thought only 16 days ago, has now become a given. Eat heavy. Eat late. Light up. Chill out. Win a gold medal.
In one stretch of the Games, which concluded Sunday, we saw Argentina beat the U.S. in football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Admittedly the football really was f�tbol (soccer), and the hockey was roller hockey, and the baseball and basketball teams representing the U.S. were less than grand, but results are results. Those were people in the sky-blue and white stripes of this country celebrating against the red, white and blue of our country—and never with more gusto than at the end of the basketball gold medal game. Combine that with a surprising gold medal in men's volleyball against a strong U.S. team, the crowd of 8,000 singing through the entire deciding fifth set, plus the utter domination by Argentina of clay-court tennis—both men's and women's, singles and doubles—and you have to study what is happening.
What are these people doing differently? What can we learn from the lifestyle here?
"Pass the rolls and butter?" you ask.