I love the sport. I do. I grew up on it. I’ve already written about why I love it. There’s something absolutely magical about going to a match and following a team. I don’t think there’s anything unique about my feelings. Talk to any fan. Any sport. Any thing, really. A die hard baseball fan will tell you about the joy they encounter while at a game. Regardless of park and teams playing. Talk to a musical theater fanatic and they will tell you about how amazing it is to see a show. Regardless of whether it’s on Broadway or in their local high school gym.
That’s how I feel about soccer.
But I’m also a fan. I also want my team to do well. I want the boys in light blue of Napoli to make me proud. And do they?
At least not lately.
Today the boys lost to Roma. And is pisses me off. I know I need to not take it personally. These things happen. Teams lose. But this particular concoction of players are individually quite talented. And usually when individually talented players get together some good things can happen, regardless of egos and outsized personalities. (I’m looking at every Brazilian national team ever.) Not so with these guys. I just finished watching the match and it felt like my niece’s travel league of 9 year olds were playing Roma. Honestly though, Roma looked like a slightly more organized high school team with a couple good shots on goal and then a tightened up defense.
In other words, this game was not a pretty one.
It also most likely marks the end of Roberto Donadoni as manager for Napoli. If managers were scored on looking amazing in suits – Donadoni would be tops. The guy cuts a fine figure in his exquisitely tailored suit on the side lines. No, really. He’s a good looking guy.
But unfortunately, that’s not enough. I like the guy. I like his laid back appearance. But something has not been cutting it. Maybe he just lacks the fire. Exhibit A is his experience as National Team coach during Euro 2008. Maybe he’s not inspiring his players. I watch a lot of Friday Night Lights and it has taught me all I care to know about American football. And one thing it demonstrates is the power of inspiring coaching. If Coach Taylor was managing Napoli, those boys would be having emotional breakthroughs everyday on the pitch that can only improve their game. Even if Matt Saracen gets benched.
But I digress.
Donadoni is probably out. And maybe that’s a good thing. The season is still early. Last year at this time, Napoli was on fire. At one point they were actually in first place. It’s time to shake things up. And maybe that shaking involves a coach who can inspire. My dream pick: Robert Mancini.
He also looks good on the pitch in a suit. But I loved his work with Inter. I also remember watching him play with Sampdoria when I was a kid.
On a total side note, I am going to jump on the “BRING CASSANO TO THE NATIONAL TEAM” bandwagon. I’ll be secretary. Seriously, the man is inventive in a way that so few players are. Sure, he’s got a past of “Attitude problems.” He wrote a book talking about how he basically didn’t care about what people told him to do when he was younger. But, um, Sampdoria is at the top of the table. And it’s because of him. They beat the unbeatable Inter. And it’s because of him. And, well, the Italian national team needs some flair and attitude.
You won’t get that from smiley Cannavaro or Buffon or any of the other national team mainstays.
But these frustrations, these anxiety inducing mornings, the mood setting experiences for the end of the weekend are what being a soccer fan is about. It’s why I signed up. The agony of watching your team struggle and then (ideally, hopefully) win gloriously is why I keep watching. Again, it’s not unique to me. It’s not unique to this sport. But it’s my experience.
And maybe next week I’ll be writing about a completely revived Napoli.