Over the last twenty-four hours, I had a conversation with two diehard Italian fans in two different eating establishments.
One, Antonio, who is so full of himself that there are two of him, wagged a finger at me and explained that the only thing that mattered was winning.
He came up with a lyrical analogy. He said that when you see a millionaire it doesn’t matter how he became a millionaire. All that matters was that he got there.
The other Italian, Carlo, whom I met in the Metallica lead singer’s favorite breakfast joint, had a different view.
“This Italian coach, Donadoni. He is another Trappatoni. The football they play is crap.”
Having watched Italy lose to Spain by the only method in which they usually win, I am possessed of insufficient poetry to describe the feelings of utter rapture that are coarsing through the chemicals in my body.
To watch players who, in other circumstances, might have expressed some element of creativity, execute their sad coach’s every negative exigency only to lose, is to experience a nirvana with which Courtney Love was never familiar.
At last, no hanging schadenfreunde.
Italy played like their nation’s bureaucrats.
They expect you to wait in line. They want to bore you into submission. And when they have achieved that, they take advantage of you in the pettiest way imaginable.
This time, everything went to plan. Until their cynicism was returned to sender.
Perhaps I am naive to believe there is some additional joy attached to expressions of glory, to attempts at performance that delight the audience as much as achieve some rational result.
But I have not screamed so loud with utter abandon since, well, never you mind.
Some of these same Italians cast a cloud over the last World Cup Final like a sous-chef’s spit casts a cloud over a chocolate profiterole.
How can any neutral not feel some sense of justice is served when football so devoid of any positive qualities and so full of deleterious detritus gets a life sentence from the Court of Human Rights?
I am confident that Carlo will have watched the proceedings and cursed his fellow countrymen’s dereliction of ingenuity.
I am equally confident that Antonio, the wise man for whom winning is everything, will have found a way to blame a German referee who, had he been replaced by a blind, one-legged cyclops from Italy, could not have surpassed the cyclops for pro-Italian bias.
As I contemplate the meaning of life for a brief moment, I remember Antonio’s assertion that winning, being a millionaire, is all that matters.
I know that Carlo drives a Ferrari and exudes a joy of life that I find typical in many of his fellow Italians.
Antonio, on the other hand, told me he was not a millionaire.
You see, Carlo owns his restaurant. Antonio is a general manager.
And I am sure this information has no bearing on the way they look at football.
Or at life.
The Pond thanks permanently scatterbrained for his shot of Italian fans immediately after the game.