Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dispatch From Rome

There, that wasn't so bad, was it? I'm back and ready to "blog"! Oh boy, this is a good one, a real nice way to return to "blogging." What did we find in the "blog" mailbag but a dispatch from Rome? Not just a letter from Rome like last time, but a big giant full-fledged dispatch, with all the classiness that implies! Frankly I don't know why I'm still typing instead of cutting and pasting. Well, our dispatcher is Mr. Tom Bissell, who hastens to have us add a disclaimer: This dispatch was originally dispatched, in a somewhat different form, as a letter to his beloved girlfriend. (Oh, one final note: I have softened up a few of Mr. Bissell's joyous and eloquent expletives, because I happen to know that some of Ashley Warlick's high school students - who should in no way emulate the behavior of the old Italian dudes or blotto teen described in the following dispatch - may be reading this with the internet devices that are so much a part of today's modern schooling in this strange world of tomorrow, and I'm mindful of that. Ashley, a fine novelist who has been mentioned before in the "blog," called to impart the news that she's been teaching the kids one of my stories and they've been looking me up on the "Google," which fills me with dread and responsibility.) With that, the dispatch: 'It is quite possible that you don't know Rome or Romans without going to a Roma soccer game. After you've gone to a Roma soccer game, you begin to understand something about this magical, astonishing place: It's filled with f-----g lunatics. Roma won the game I attented 4 to 0, which was surprising, apparently, but the game was not really holding my interest. What held my interest was everything going on around the game. Where do I start? I think I'll start with the fans of the opposing team, Donetsk (of the Ukrainian Donetsks), who occupied one teensy section of the immense circular stadium, and who were surrounded by truncheon-carrying riot police to prevent them from being torn to shreds. Then there was the frankly astounding number of old Italian geezers smoking weed in the stands. And fourteen-year-olds drinking beer. I swear I saw a little girl no older than fourteen smashed on beer. Her dad, who looked like an accountant, was too stoned to notice. H----, the American friend I went to the game with, told me many Italians' entire social existence is defined by these games. Games are like the Superbowl with some searching, pilgrimagey, and bawdily Chaucerian overtones--every other night, forty times a year. Once the game started, the crowd started shooting actual flares into the sky, flares as in I'm-stuck-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean-and-need-to-be-rescued flares. Also they were throwing what sounded like M80 firecrackers, the kind that sound like car bombs. The really hardcore fans apparently throw them at each other. The really hardcore fans are also kept in a special glassed-in section of the stadium, so that as the game goes on, and they get drunker and rowdier, it begins to resemble some kind of Darwinian holding station, with people screaming and punching and yelling and pushing. And then there were the chants. Most of the chants were about s------g on the referees' dead ancestors' souls, which, I don't know, seems really obscure to me. Knowing someone was s------g on my dead ancestors' souls just wouldn't wind me up. My loss, possibly, but still.... The rest of the chants were about Lazio, the city of Rome's other big team. Yes, Roma fans hate Lazio so much they were singing anti-Lazio chants even though they were not, at that moment, playing Lazio. A few of these chants concerned f-----g the sisters of Lazio fans, though not, I'm assured, s------g on them. Lazio's team, I'm told, has a 100 percent fascist ethos. Lazio's captain is an actual bonafied Nazi or something. He gives the fascist salute before every game, and the Lazio fans respond in kind. The Roma fans, who again despise Lazio, turn their hands to the side, pinkie down, when they're cheering, to avoid making the fascist salute, which is a strange thing to have to worry about/be conscious of doing at a sporting event. ("Whoa! I accidentally made the fascist salute!" "Hey, is that guy cheering happily or fascistically semaphoring?") Finally, my favorite thing was the song they sang at the end of the game. The lyrics, my friend told me, went something like this: "My wife doesn't matter, neither does my priest, you are my everything, Team Roma, you are my everything." I told my friend that, despite the fun I had (and you really don't know fun until you've seen Roma score a goal and been hugged by twenty complete strangers; people were actually crying with joy after a goal, and this was a pretty meaningless game), despite the fun I had, I told my friend H----, I really do think there's something shark-f------ly crazy about caring this much about soccer. H---- looked at me for a very long time, then shook his head and said I didn't understand. Apparently, this virus can jump transnational hosts, then. I must be careful....'