February 18, 2012

“Supranational” Investing

By Addison Wiggin

02/17/12 Baltimore, Maryland – Some of the very best Argentine steak houses are in Amsterdam, some of America’s very best rodeo cowboys are Brazilian and some of the world’s very best beach volleyball courts are high in the Swiss Alps. The “cosmopolitanization” of the world is under way — creating vast, new and diverse patterns of commerce… which also means vast, new and diverse investment opportunities.

Because cultural influences continuously tend to travel and disperse like pollen on the breeze, the resulting cross-pollination produces a dizzying array of cultural hybrids. In one sense, therefore, the world is becoming smaller. But as it “shrinks,” it is also expanding culturally. When cultural influences combine with one another, they sometimes produce sociological phenomena and expressions that defy strict national categorization.

To illustrate the point, let’s return to those Argentine steaks, American cowboys and beach volleyball courts…

According to a colleague who sometimes knows what he’s talking about, “There’s an Argentine restaurant in Amsterdam named CAU that serves a filet mignon that is as good as any filet I have ever eaten in Argentina or Uruguay…maybe better. CAU stands for ‘Carne Argentina Unica’…and that’s exactly what CAU serves. Argentina itself still holds the title for best-ever rib-eye, but the filet at CAU was incredible!”

A similar Southern Hemisphere/Northern Hemisphere curiosity is unfolding in the American rodeo world.

“Five of the top six riders on the Colorado-based Professional Bull Riders Tour all hail from Brazil,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “[And] there are five more Brazilians among the [rest of the] top 40 riders… The South American country has been producing strong contenders since the tour began nearly two decades ago, but never before this season have its cowboys been so dominant, with Brazilians winning 17 of the 27 events so far. Their prowess has other riders frantically reassessing their techniques, scrambling to learn Portuguese and even vacationing in Brazil in hopes that secrets to the Brazilians’ success will somehow seep in.”

“I’m kinda ticked about it,” a 60-year-old computer specialist from Fargo, N.D., tells the WSJ. “There’s nothing more American than a cowboy, and all of a sudden these Brazilians are walking away with everything.”

The Brazilians are also walking away with a lot of the beach volleyball titles…often without even the setting foot on a beach. Last summer, the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour hosted a tournament in Gstaad, Switzerland — 3,440 feet (1,050 meters) above sea level, the highest altitude tournament on the tour. Brazilian duos won both the men’s and women’s 2011 event in Gstaad, but the semifinal contests also featured teams from Germany, Poland, China, Italy and, yes, the US.

As recently as 10 years ago, most beach volleyball tournaments featured mostly American beach volleyball players playing on actual American beaches. No more. Today, the best professional players could hail from almost any country on the planet…and the tournaments, likewise, could take place almost anywhere on the planet…including the Swiss Alps.

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