Friday, 25 July 2008

Me being sexist (or, chronicle of a tragedy: Part I).

We all learn how to cope with bullshit. Some of us negate it, some of us offer reasoned responses to it, others ridicule it. But the simple fact of life is that over our time on earth we are all shovelled with such overwhelming quantities of cretin statements that eventually we learn how to numb ourselves to their effects and repress our normal instincts to get incensed, if only in the (often utopian) endeavour of having something like a normal social life. In our specific case, the latest item of bullshit I heard was the assertion that sports, and especially football, are a futile thing to follow. I shall not reveal who the individual explaining this to me was, but I feel the need to return to the issue now, and confront it, lest it plant its roots in my spirit and grows like a nefarious vine.

So allow me to counter-argue.

Firstly, it is completely evident that football performs the social function of democratising gender. I mean, look at it. It's right under your eyes. Around once a month the average team will get involved in a really big match, a derby or a cup game or what have you. At that time, depending on the results, people watching it will undergo dramatic and totally irrational mood swings, being either cheery like Bambi or morose and depressed like they'd left a twenty-can box of cider in the freezer for too long and it had all exploded. In other words, football is the male equivalent of menstruation. The patience (or lack thereof) that women display with their men as they watch them fly into a rage or suddenly become sweet like sugared plums without anything like a discernible reason is reflective of the same process that men (attempt to) undergo when women are in the corresponding situation. (Though at least we may say that football does not physically hurt, except in some extreme cases, as that which I am about to recount).

(The above paragraph is me being sexist, and rather nervously so since I once almost got lynched for saying similar things in public, so I hope the title's clarified by now).

Secondly, football is an important stage for drama in the flat waters of everyday life. To say that it is futile is to ignore the transcendental experiences that following it can entail. In order to prove this, I'm going to have to take it quite retrospectively and go back to April of 2007. This is where the chronicle of a tragedy begins. Overture:

April of 2007. AS Roma, the she-wolf from which my Roman lips have always sucked their football milk, has for the first time in twenty years managed to access the quarter-finals of the Champions League, the most important club-football tournament in the world, after an epic victory against the ferocious lions of Lyon (“lions of Lyon”… God, my puns are going down like a skydiver with a broken parachute). I am in Rome at the time with an American friend of mine (God knows where he is now, presumably in Philadelphia organising Molotov shock-troops, or otherwise just laying on his bed feeling the rotation of his neurons and speaking something like prophecies), showing him around the beauties of the eternal city, until obviously we get lost. (This happens to me just about every time I walk more than 500 meters and take two different turns in a place which isn't the immediate surroundings of my house, so no surprises there). The first leg of the game is that night so we start roaming for places to see it. Every pub is full and after getting booted out of, like, five or six of them, we sign an alliance with a group of 'coatti,' young men of extraordinary ignorance whose best intellectual ambience would probably be among badgers and marmots, and we follow them around in search of an open place. (They weren't the best company in the world, but to be frank by that stage my despair had reached such proportions that if a score of transvestite prostitutes had passed by and told me they had Sky Sports at their place, I would probably have followed them too).

So they take us to a place called 'The Cathedral' (pronounced Roman style: Kàtteh-ddrahl). Never seen a place more boorish in my life. The owner was probably Fred Flintstone by the looks of his last shave and he had a voice like a deeper version of a seal asking for some fish. The place is dark and smoky: it looks like Nosferatu's castle. We buy some beers, because obviously in there no-one gave a flying fuck about the alcohol-ban that had been enforced in view of the English supporters coming down, and we sit at some tables.

Somewhere along the first half: GOAL! Everybody stands up from their tables and there is some kind of a brawl going on as we roll around in Dionysian ecstasy. A minute later our opponents, Manchester United, score in return, and it’s like someone had spaded a shovelful of solid sleet onto our bollocks. Then in the second half: GOAL! A fucking brawl again and we're all rolling on the floor in a gigantic pile-up.

So the first leg ends 2-1 for us. Time to relax.

A few days pass as softly as clouds trailing on the plateaus of the stratosphere, and I keep leading my friend along the boulevards of beauty that are Rome's streets. We went into Villa Borghese and sat in the woods with a litre of wine each (purchased at something like 1.50 euros for the carton), and we decide to start competing with it in a power-hour, which was just about the most stupid thing I have done in that whole trip, as my stomach powerfully re-asserted when it started bouncing around like a pinball. Drunk as we were getting, in the sunset that filtered through the tree-branches, that was also the occasion in which I threw down this sonnet:

Oi vei, old friend, that I should write about
The majesty of that familiar globe
That slowly sinks, as if a fleeing trout,
Beneath the hills (whose shoulders wear the robe
Of dawn and night, and blah-de-blah), that I
Should write about all this while sitting here,
Us two, half-lost in trees without a why,
And sipping wine that cost us less than beer,
Oi vei!, I say - it seems a bit too sober!
I'd rather say 'oi vei' for sake of fuck:
Oi vei, oi vei, oi vei, oi ten times over!
Oi vei oi vei, like chickens going cluck!
My poetry might not be great, as such;
It's all that leads to it that's worth - so much.

The day after that, we end up at a pub and there turns out to be a barmaid with the two following characteristics: 1.) She was something like the daughter of Aphrodite and Helen of Troy if they had been lesbians and they'd had the chance to adopt a child, and, um, the child had somehow magically inherited their features. 2.) She was about as rude as a murena interrupted while in the process of tooth-scratching its testicles. Me and my friend attempted to start a conversation with her and we were shunned so spectacularly that the word 'smited' ceases to appropriately describe our sentiments. Considering that we both had girlfriends back then it was more than a little insulting to be treated like two drunkard flippers when we were clearly only two drunkards. Perhaps in order to levigate the insult, we start drinking something. It is absinthe. And what absinthe. Smooth double-shots with fire and sugar and everything. Heavy like hell.

(A little parenthesis must be opened here to inform the reader of a simple fact: absinthe is not just an alcoholic drink to me, it is my nemesis. It is all three furies wrapped into one. From the moment I first tried it to this day, every single time I've had more than two shots of it these have been followed by a cataclysm of such proportions that I seriously pondered relinquishing alcohol altogether and retiring to clerical life. If I were to make a list of the six worst things that have happened to me in my life, I'm sure that three or four of them would somehow involve absinthe. At the top of these is without the shadow of a doubt what has come to be known in the circle of my closest friends as 'the story of my first girlfriend'. It occurred on the night I first tried absinthe, but at least until I gather significant more spirits (figuratively speaking, naturellement) you can forget about reading it here, because there's some black pits into which I'd rather not gaze).

We drink of it moderately of course, and we get home after that. The next day is the day of the big match. What happened is written, in different words, in the books of Paradise Lost concerning the fall of man, and the most impatient of you may read it there. For the rest, this is going to deserve a whole blog entry of its own.

Give me a couple of days!

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