When I'm not pouring over heat maps, using my intermediate Spanish skills in an ill-fated attempt to understand Italian sports journalism, or simply reminiscing about the sight of Luca Toni in a Roma shirt, you can catch me, in what is an annual rite, convincing myself that my life as a Chicago Cubs fan isn't detrimental to my mental well-being. I mean, how could loving a team that hasn't won anything since 1908 possibly be anything but beneficial?
The Cubs history is some 50 years longer than Roma's, but from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, their very existence revolved around Sammy Sosa. He was the Cubs; a reason for hope in the face of perpetual failure, the lone speck of sun on an overcast day, the only attraction at an otherwise dreary circus. Gradually, the club turned things around; they made some savvy signings, fostered some impressive young talent, and began to threaten the league's more storied franchise. Really, things in Chicago at that time weren't terribly different from what we're seeing in Roma right now. And sure, Sosa wasn't the best player anymore, but he remained an integral part of an improving core.
Then a funny thing happened in the midst of this turnaround, Sosa suffered an injury. He didn't tear any tendons or break any bones, no, he simply strained a back ligament. So, did he do this? Was it from his thunderous swing blasting a homerun onto Waveland Avenue, did he tweak it careening into the unforgiving outfield wall, or diving headlong into the stands?
No, he sneezed. He sneezed fast, and he sneezed violently, and he missed several days of action.
So, why, then, in this church do I bring this up? Sure, it's somewhat funny to think of a gargantuan athlete being felled by something as silly and seemingly innocuous as a sneeze, but our very own deity, Francesco Totti, has suffered a malady no less strange and as equally entertaining as Sosa's nefarious nose orgasm.
Er Purpone bruised his bottom, tweaked his tushy, and ruined his rump.
But think about it for a minute. Have you ever felt a twinge there? Maybe you were in a rush to class and you decided to deploy the skip-a-step-method and reached just a bit too far on the top landing. Maybe you slipped on some ice, or simply kicked too hard in your co-ed kickball championship.
Whatever it was, you don't realize how critical those muscles are to daily movements, let alone playing professional football, until they, well, bite you in the ass.
Though we don't know the exact source of Totti's tweaked tuchus, it is apparently severe enough to sideline the captain for at least 10 days, putting him on the shelf for Sunday's match against Sampdoria, and possibly Bologna on the 22nd.
This will be Totti's second extended absence this season, the first following Roma's 2-0 league victory over Napoli in October, a spell that made him a spectator for nearly two months. In his stead, Roma's run of ten straight victories came to a screeching halt. Resounding victories were replaced with stagnant, disappointing draws--four in a row, to be exact--until Garcia's men managed a Totti-less victory over the visiting Viola on December 8th.
And while No Totti sometimes does mean No Party, you still have to, you know, show up. In his absence, Rudi Garcia tried a variety of forward formations, shuffling the deck to include everything from an Alessandro Florenzi-Marco Borriello-Adem Ljajic trident, a Marquinho starting spot, the reappearance Zeman's failed Miralem Pjanic-as-a-forward experiment, and even a starting line that included, from left-to-right, Marquinho, Gervinho, and Alessandro Florenzi.
Yes, my friends, there was a time when Rudi Garcia not only used Gervinho as a center forward, but flanked him with Marquinho. Desperate times, indeed.
Of course, Borriello and Marquinho are gone, so the time might be ripe for those of you desperate to see Mattia Destro get some serious minutes. Young #22 certainly has his share of detractors in the wake of his performance this past week, but with little else behind Totti, Mr. Right needs to be Mr. Right Now.
While it may be strange, and sort of funny, Francesco Totti's ass inury is no laughing matter to a team in the thick of a European hunt.