The Church's State Of Affairs, Et Cetera

Paolo Bruno

Today, the co-ownerships between Roma and [name a club here] will be decided and announced. You care. Me? Eh. I wish I could. Honestly. It is indeed one of the more curious aspects of this, the Italian edition of the sport. That, however, is not what this is. What began as a brief post with purpose became a long, rambling exploration into quite a bit more of me than I realized. There will exist no transfer rumors here. I honestly don't know what happened. I almost did this in video too. Ain't that scary.

Last year, I wrote my departure letter. It was very brief, only a few paragraphs. It wasn't knee-jerk; in fact, I hemmed like a seamstress and hawed as though a thoroughbred (god, so gouda) - even on whether or not to join SBN at the time. Ultimately, I was glad I did. When I began, I had so much time on my hands due to life matters out of my control I could have been offered honorary Swiss citizenship. That is no longer the case, and increasingly so. But more, that letter has moved from Dropbox to my Documents folder. It's local now. The sands, they run.

Can I be honest? I'll pull up a chair here for a minute. We'll chat.

Everyone has their "reasons." Reasons why you do this, or that. Reasons to get up in the morning. Reasons not to drive a butter knife through the bullseye in your pupil whenever the mop-topped Brazilian picks up the ball and runs at a defender like he's Jesus H. Dodo. My reasons for watching sport as a kid were two-fold, even if I was quite good at them for awhile - one in particular again: it was an escape for me, and I couldn't relate to my peers any other way but to talk about sports. Yeah, I was "that kid." I got teased for doing math for fun and my manner of speaking. It got me social skills I wouldn't have acquired otherwise. It served a purpose; clearly, since I'm now such an affable and charming young chap, you lowlife scumbags and whores. (Kisses.)

I'm not a kid anymore and I've long given up the pretense of sport. Now, if you try to make me watch nearly anything with a ball, I turn into a three-year old child on a power trip. "NO I DON'T WANNA AND YOU CAN'T MAKE ME." I then lose all negotiating leverage when I throw my Spongebob blanky. Sod off.

However, this weekend I was walking around the city I call home. No matter where I live, it may always be home. It is indeed the place in which I finally defined this abstract "me." As many know, I'm from Boston, born and raised, but Boston is not my home in any sense of the word - it's merely where I'm from. I have a love-hate relationship with the city and the people it bestows upon the world. "I would fucking die for you, but six days a week, I detest the very existence of your soul." It's like everyone's your relative. James Pallotta rarely helps. I can relate to The Town and Good Will Hunting and The Departed and anything else Matt Damon/Ben Afflick-y. I get it. I lived it. Though I was a good boy (swear...no really...err...), fiercer loyalty than that of a blooded Bostonian I have never encountered. The city and its inhabitants are not without their virtues.

When I moved away for college, I refused to do anything, despite the protests, but get the hell out - not a unique story among the adolescent, that'un - and the only real reason I returned for years was health-related. The rest, I will say, has always given Boston a difficult association, as typically I was flying back to enjoy the blade of a scalpel for a lifelong bone condition and resulting web of issues, along with a lot of fighting with my mother about eating the goddamn hospital popsicles, no matter how old I got. Perhaps the origins of, "NO I DON'T WANNA." Though it's not quite the most glittering "Mirror, mirror," retort on my nature, there was actually one instance when I was so annoyed with her unrelenting insistence I eat the damn popsicles I purposely ate one knowing full well the only resulting outcome, the initial reason for my refusal, would be a rather violent return to sender, as I'd been there a bit and things were not going swimmingly. Incredibly ill and in a great deal of pain, I was peeved. I grabbed the cherry one from the dish. I knew precisely what vague appearance it would offer. Your child is in the hospital vomiting red fluid down his face. I am the reason she drinks.

A normal childhood through young adulthood mine was not, if I feel mine was luckier. The city has always assumed a familial feel: you can dislike so many things about it, yet it's still a part of you, good or bad. The sensory reminders a time machine, transporting you back to moments not of your own choosing; they are the smelling salt of memory.

Everyone has their "How did you meet Roma story?" and many have asked for mine. I dance around it, but there she is. Though my series of disorders have given me so much, and alarmingly, built the most unexpected path, sport and Roma became escapism for me, logging weeks and months at a time in beds for well over a decade while scarfing enough meds to make a ball bouncing to and fro my intellectual ceiling. I found it because some family liked them and I saw them on TV - oh, what an anecdote - instantly wooed by Vincent Candela, of all, then later, Vincenzo Montella. Francesco was okay too, I suppose. They simply became something I clung to; something to pay attention to rather than the wistful longing for a normal life. I didn't instantly love Roma - actually, I took an immense shine to Valencia and then Villarreal later - though I knew I could call it my team from the start. Something of a reluctant resignation befitting the outcome years later; perhaps because I was so inherently structurally flawed myself, Roma was my destiny. The gifted athlete with a broken body. The eternal carrot. She is I and I am her. Or perhaps most of the blame is due to a combination of painkillers which could wipe out the Kentucky Derby. At least that's what I'm claiming. That's all sport became to me. That's all any sport became to me, if I'm honest, and any team. In this era of twelve billion channels, on demand, wifi, and portable devices, it never would've happened. It was just another "something on the television" while I attempted to take my mind off it all. That's what Roma was. That's what they all were. Escapism.

Over time they've all drifted away. All but one. This one. No Boston. Just football, just Roma.

As I passed by some bars this weekend, the Stanley Cup finals were on. Until glancing them on the television, I didn't know the Boston Bruins had their hat in the rink. I never played hockey and thus never developed a particular affinity for the sport, but my dad watched and when I was much younger, would sneak me downstairs to watch with him after my mother, a school administrator and staunch education advocate, would go to bed. More than the sport itself, I recall the eye-shearing glow of that giant, Flinstones-esque tube television cast on the living room walls, lights kept off so as to keep the monster, Mrs. Mom, at bay.

I danced past the bars with nary a look, caring more about the next coffee shop for the life-affirming fix which has me thinking a cafe-brewed espresso bean chic is a one-man fashion movement I can nurture to supplant the heroin chic pinnacle of drug-lair-drawn sartorial rebellion in the 90's when Kate was God. "Let me see your bones." I think it something along the lines of, "Let me see you twitch." Appropriately progressive in this new YouTube/Vine/GIF era.

"Mommy, that man is dying."

"No, he's just 'in' this season, dear."

With each passing block, I began glancing into more and more bars. I was paying attention to this sport. A sport! I don't even own a television. I had a nice one. A big one. An expensive one. A proper, "Look at me, I'm a real man!" television. But I'd turned it on once in six months - I have family in Watertown, MA and the neighboring towns - so I gave it to the uber-cool German-Romanian guy subletting my old place recently, and in return he offered me an excess Philippe Starck chair set. Well hello. Fuck your friends in high places, I want my friends in well-designed spaces. Nevertheless, I'm a single male in his 20's who doesn't own a television. I have tried explaining this to my sky-blue collar Boston family with little to no success. It's like I'm a fucking alien. "How do you live?" I'm fairly certain my grandmother thinks I'm now on welfare. She's definitely sending a check to buy one. Apparently it's one of life's basic needs along with air, water and shelter; a series of mind-numbing technological advancements collected in one consumer product of defined geometry which serves as this bastion of progression and modernity, only to be smacked in the face with how little we've really come as a society when finally turning it on. She's more than definitely getting a nice but stern phone call in return. I think there's a Seinfeld episode about this.

The evening was a moderate summer one, with windows open everywhere to allow the slight breeze in and a decidedly contemporary urban feel to the open-front bars, each laying claim to a minimum of twelve fifty-inch flatscreens pitching vivid color settings directly at my corneas. Then I began walking slowly by these open fronts. Slower. Progressively slower. I was glancing, paying attention. I dashed home briefly to grab a blazer for the night. Maybe even knock on the door of the stunning redhead with the adorable laugh and big smile I recently moved next to in order to take her up on the offer to hang out. Maybe there was no answer because she was gone. Maybe I was slightly disappointed this likely meant she did indeed have a boyfriend, which I'd had no choice but to assume. Maybe I then saw her two days later and she was actually at a friend's wedding and oh, sure, let's go out soon. Maybe this is the nonlinear plot to a character study within the rudderless, empty generation of endless hope to which I have become betrothed, using coffee shops, redheads, and Kris Van Assche blazers as metaphors for the rampant caffeinism and consumerism I use in a doomed attempt to fill the unfillable void in my soul. Not really. I just like clothes. And coffee. Hair color is a non-factor. Nevertheless, what the fuck is my life, even if I quite like it?

Before I departed into the brightly lit city landscape, I sat there on my couch and grabbed my phone. I punched something into Google which shocked even me: Bruins. I wanted to know the score. Bloody hell. Me. I departed my apartment, tumbled down the stairs, smiled at the older, sharply-dressed couple returning for the evening as I clip-clopped out the door and skipped up to a main road. I got a coffee - black, like my heart. No, but it sounds good. I leaned against something entirely unsanitary to watch through the open front of a packed restaurant as the game finished out. I watched and something happened: I could feel my heart beat.

It wasn't the sport itself, if hockey is certainly one of the most watchable for the neutral. It was more. The sport itself is irrelevant. It was the peripheral. It was that television in the living room. It was seeing that familiar spoked B. It was, so briefly, home once again, even if I was already there.

That's what sport means to me now. Sometimes it's the more commonplace. Sometimes it's the tactical execution. There is beauty in order, after all. Sometimes it's the unrelenting, seemingly hopeless, ultimately match-saving fifty-yard dash of Simone Perrotta in the derby a few years back. But perhaps more often than not, it's simply the glow on the living room walls.

It is indeed the narrative, the metaphor, and there's nothing wrong with that - after all, we all have our reasons of diverse origins. You aren't me. Though it's been spit through these fingertips many times, football lends itself so well to the things I do consider passions, such as ballet and opera. There is not only an aesthetic beauty in the fluidity, but a genuine artistry in a considered yet undefined movement, and is perhaps a reason why I will live my life as President of the Simone Perrotta Fanclub, or spend eternity lamenting what Yoann Gourcuff, he of such grace and kinetic opulence, could've been. Football has an elegance so lacking elsewhere. It is the one sport which I still find to be so capable of grabbing my eyes by the metaphorical throat and engulfing my soul. But the narrative. If I may quote ma-self, "The narrative, Love. I want it. Write me a narrative."

Then there is she. She is more. Every week, every day. More. She is not a night's stroll to the window outside a bar once every few years. There exists no more enticing maiden than the one we've found in Roma; inspiring unbridled passion and unconditional love in every glancing turn. She, much like all of the fairer sex, is perfection in imperfection. She is beautifully broken; the quintessential oscillator of an acute polarity, showering us with her best and worst, rare if ever to offer us the sheltered comfort of an umbrella. But I think I'd rather stand in the rain anyway, as in happiness it delights us in baptism anew; in sorrow, it serves to mask our tears.

So let's all be open - you're in a safe place, tell us where he touched you: Roma's been a tough watch the last couple years. The tears have run. Black pen marks on the doll. Eyes scratched out. Who's the bad man? One needn't be a genius to understand the psychological and emotional impact of that dreaded word, hope. And though she was dysfunctional, that glimmer still shone like the sun through a solid oak wood door left slightly ajar, ever crueler when realization can't quite fit through. Over these last years, I have paid less attention to Roma than ever before because the regression has been palpable, stagnant. It doesn't leave, but the levels aren't quite so elevated. I doubt I'm alone in this. It all feels so very...Udinese, Fiorentina. Delight, but lacking in permanence. Hope, but fleeting. They broke up the band. Boo hoo. It's partly Roma, but it's also partly me: I've grown up. I see things very differently now. I'm not the same person I was five years ago - in fact, very few would recognize me in any respect. This was destined to happen. This is life.

The letter still remains in my Documents folder. What I won't do is give up completely - not yet. However, if I write another endless series of forced match reviews out of necessity, you are going to see me on the news threatening to do a triple toe-loop off the Empire State Building even though I know that's not the right sport I just don't know any diving dives/dive-y things so work with me mmmkay? Some people like that. It's not my thing. Happy to do it when sometimes, but my time is not endless, so a jubilant medium must exist somewhere. Clearly what we need to do is build an empire. Elevation through deconstruction.

The entire desire behind this little website was to do something different because it was a side project. It was three guys sitting at a virtual roundtable talking about anything but what they were supposed to be talking about. Yet to make it more than a side project, there are certain necessities and requirements to be anything but too weird or just one guy rambling about his life (hi). So we'll find a compromise.

The only way to do truly good work is do what you love. That's it. I would like to make this place as good as it can be. Though I realize it's unlikely, I would like to write about Roma for a long time because it's not a sporting organization to me - it's more. It is still, much like sport was to that kid at home in bed, an escape from reality via hope, metaphor, what have you. Sometimes it's nice to temporarily escape and focus on something so incredibly trivial. So read it, don't read it, I don't care. It's the neverending minutiae which seems to consume this club with which I and we need assistance. Which makes this the most unnecessarily convoluted Help Wanted sign in history. Apologies.

We're looking for at least one more contributor. Yes, priority will be given to those from the original contest (I have emails). Now that we have a democracy of sorts, selections will be determined internally and you'll never know who deemed you unworthy via lack of consensus. (It was Jonas. Jonas hates you and your whole family.) This time, something more specific: those interested in a focus on the day-to-day, though certainly not limited to. The match reviews, transfer rumors, and things one can otherwise be found elsewhere. Kind of newsy, you know? So...

Rules: 500 words max on the co-ownerships outcome by next Saturday (29th) at midnight CET. Email: chiesaditotti[at]gmail[dot]com. Make it creative. This isn't a book report. Style sells.

And in case you need inspiration, Bren landed here on a ballad to Luis Enrique.

Proof one needn't be right to be good.

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