Joseph Monardo | Sunday, February 10, 2013
BOLOGNA, Italy – Two Sundays ago, my first one in Bologna, soccer was nothing but an impediment to the NFC Championship Game. As I walked along the rainy streets of the city with which I was only barely familiar, it seemed as though every restaurant and pub in Emilia Romagna’s capitol had devoted every TV to football, just not the type I wanted to see. “Calcio” ruled the night.
I was denied the familiar comfort of the NFL, but it didn’t really matter. I never would have chosen to come to Bologna had I not been ready to embrace Italian culture. Accordingly, the next Sunday, I rode the bus to the southwest of the city to walk the crowded streets surrounding the soccer stadium – Stadio Renato dall’Ara.
I, along with several other students from the study abroad program, had tickets to see Bologna host A.S. Roma that day. By the time the noon kickoff arrived, the less-than-capacity but rowdy home crowd was enjoying rare sunshine and warm weather on a late January day. The match itself was equally kind to the spectators as the two teams battled back and forth to a 3-3 draw. In the final minutes, Rome turned away the Rossoblu’s frenzied attack as the Bolognese fans allowed their nervous excitement to spill out in the form of meaningless exclamations and slang lamentations.
I had seen a “bella partita,” a good game, as nearly every Italian I spoke with in the coming days would assure me, but the American in me felt undeniably disappointed by the balanced scoreboard. Part of the order that drives sport deep into the hearts of fans in the United States is the finality it delivers at the end of the game. There are the events of the contest, surely, but ultimately there are winners and losers. From there we find the storylines of vengeance and defending the crown. Additionally, some of our most treasured and most memorable sports moments come in extra time. Extra innings amount to “free baseball,” (2OT) in the box score immediately heightens the significance of the result and a three-hole playoff in a major draws otherwise uninterested viewers to CBS.
The possibility of a draw is one of the most basic rules in soccer and it is certainly one I was familiar with, but perhaps being there in person to see it made me actually think about the cultural significance of the rule. Obviously, it is not a rule unique to Italy, or one that permeates every popular sport in the book, but the concept of a draw can be instructive nonetheless. At one level, it seems to threaten the most basic precept of professional sports – if there is no winner and no loser, why even play the game? But that is far from the truth.
Rather, it seemed that ending the game in a tie preserves the identity of the sport. The events of the match are all there is. The passing, scoring, coordinated defense, athleticism and intelligence of the players is all that remains. It was a “bella partita,” and why would it need to be anything more than that?
Contact Joseph Monardo at firstname.lastname@example.org