While I hope that everything we churn out here stimulates conversation and throws new wrinkles into your brain, it’s time to try a new tact; direct provocation. If it’s good enough for daytime talk show producers, why not us? With that in mind, I present the first in a series of thought experiments brought you from the CdT Thinktank. Consider these essential questions for the Roma fan, those which have no right answer or simple solution, and those which hopefully give you and your views on Roma pause. This isn't exactly the Socratic Method for Serie A, nor is it my feeble recreation of Platonic realism (can you tell I studied Political Philosophy?), just consider it different from the usual CdT fare, something apart from formations, transfers and budgets.
First up, Roma’s place in history.
I'm not about unfurl another soliloquy about what makes this club special, nor will I attempt to sway any neutral observers. Quite the opposite, actually. Our first thought experiment casts Roma in a particularly poor light.
So, what exactly am I getting at? The simple fact that Roma has been basking in Schadenfreude over the past several years, their successes borne off the backs of others mysery.
I can’t quite recall where I first came across this notion—and it takes on added weight in the wake of successive second place finishes--but have all of Roma’s 21st century successes, few and far between though they may be, merely been the byproduct of a post-Calciopoli hangover?
In other words, were Roma’s string of second place finishes and Coppa Italia titles aided by Juventus’ recovery from their Calciopoli punishments and, to a lesser extent, the horrid, unspeakable mismanagement of AC Milan?
In case you forgot, due to their involvement in this systemic corruption ring, Juve were relegated to Serie B, only to return a year later. However, if you believe their lawyers, this temporary demotion cost the club an estimated €443 million worth of damage. In the more real and immediate sense, due to this black eye, Juventus had to rebuild after the departures of Lillian Thuram, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta and none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic. That's a hefty hit no matter your cashflows.
Though their stay in the minors was brief, once they returned to the top flight during the 2007-2008 season, Juve struggled (for them, at least) finishing third, second (10 points behind Inter), seventh, and seventh again in consecutive seasons before finally recapturing the Scudetto in the 2011-2012 season. Given what we've seen during the Antonio Conte and Max Allegri regimes, times were quite bleak in Turin.
Okay, so why am I spending so much time focusing on Juve?
Simple, they’ve practically run Serie A since its inception, winning the title nearly every other season over the past 35 years. Starting in 1980 and running through this current season, the Old Lady captured 13 titles (15* by their standards), including the past four. Meanwhile, prior to their 2001 title, Roma hadn’t even finished in the top two since the 1985-1986 season. Roll the decades back a bit and Roma's historic spot in the table looks even worse. Their '82-’83 title and second place finishes in ’80-81 and ’83-’84 notwithstanding, Roma had not cracked the top two since…drum roll, please…1942 when they won the first of their three Scudetti.
As much as I hate to say it, historically speaking, and for a variety of reasons, Roma has been no match for Juventus, falling far behind in merit and reputation. However, during their Post-Calciopoli crash (2006-2011), Roma managed three second place finishes and European appearances in every season but two, quickly rising the ranks among the world’s most valuable/valued clubs and giving chumps like us hope for the future.
Even if we look past Juventus’ period of misfortunes, which wasn’t even really that dire, relatively speaking, Roma have also benefitted from the mess that is AC Milan. During that same 1980-2015 span, the red side of Milan netted eight Scudetti and five Champions League titles (Seriously, five. what the hell happened to them?). However, for some inexplicable reason (well, maybe not that inexplicable) Milan has fallen on some hard times over the past several years, sparing Roma another traditional rival in the process; a well moneyed, well known and traditionally well run adversary at that.
Somewhat ironically, one of Roma’s other great foils, and the one that kept them from rising to even greater heights in Juve’s absence, Inter Milan, has benefitted from the Post-Calciopoli wake as well. Prior to their 2006-2007 title, Inter hadn’t actually* won a title since 1989-- a span of 17 years, longer than our current drought--but thanks in part to the punishments levied to Juventus and even their city rivals, AC Milan, Inter ran off four straight titles, leaving Roma in their immediate wake several times. *They were awarded one of Juve's stripped titles prior to their own threepeat*
And when you consider all that kept us from slipping even further into oblivion was the unparalleled and often unassisted excellence of Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi, the depth of our depression worsens. Yes, this is really a separate post unto itself, but how fucking lucky have we been? How much of our success is really due to their loyalty to Roma? Can you imagine how many titles, how much money and how much acclaim they would've received elsewhere?
So, what do you think? Has Roma’s recent success all been an aberration, conjured up by Juventus' completely justified sentencing and Milan’s bad-for-Serie-A’s-reputation down turn, or were they the victims of their own bad luck? If they couldn't even win when the chips fell in their favor, what happens when the Milanese sides get back on their feet?
These are interesting questions, particularly given how much bluster we've heard the past several years about Roma's sky high ambitions, not to mention how close Roma has come so, so, so many times to breaking up the northern hegemony.
So, is there any kernel of truth in this theory, or am I just being melodramatic?