Shane Ryan. Why is that? Well, for one thing, the Basques are a small minority in Europe, a group of people whose homeland, which they call Euskal Herria, is a sliver of land the size of New Hampshire in southern France and northern Spain. They don't have a true recognized nation of their own, and haven't for thousands of years. And in the grander scheme of people with claims to an identity and a nation of their own, their struggle pales in visibility to groups like the Irish, the Palestinians, the Tibetans, and countless others.
But there's an argument to be made that the Basque people are one of the most unique groups in the history of the world, and certainly in Europe. The one remarkable fact about them, as Mark Kurlansky noted in his book The Basque History of the World, is that they've survived at all; alone among the tribes and confederacies and kingdoms that existed before the Indo-European migration swept across Europe, the Basques managed to avoid being annihilated or assimilated; they're the only people left from before the "Europeans" that exist today, and from whom so many Americans are descended. That makes them the oldest people in Europe, with the oldest language.
To understand Jon Rahm, you need to understand the Basque people. His pride at being Basque is evident whenever he's asked, and his resilience as a competitor can be traced to his heritage, and his connection with a remarkably enduring people. Rahm's ancestors aren't just Basque—he's also Swiss, Spanish, and perhaps more—but hailing from Basque country, his soul is Basque, and that's the engine that drives him. In today's Local Knowledge podcast, we explore Rahm, his family history, and the history of the Basque people, cutting through the mystery of what makes him, and them, so extraordinary.