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Totti: The Bad Boy

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Even heroes have their dark moments

AS Roma v Lecce - Serie A
Seeing red
Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

As an adolescent I admired the bad boys, the ones who rebelled, fought, and dismissed authority, the ones who wore their emotions on their sleeves, the ones who could overreact, get physical, and be unpredictable. Perhaps it was because I was raised to respect the systems in place—listen to teachers, obey laws, show empathy to neighbors, friends, and elders. I was passive, bottled, holding my anger in rather than reacting. The bad boys represented a different kind of person that I could never be. It was as if they were superior to me because they were not hindered or constrained by outside forces. They were antiheroes, imperfect by nature, able to transcend the metaphorical prison brought on by law and order. So, it is no wonder that I felt pride in my idol when he failed to control his temperament. His fallibility proved he was mortal, not some comic book hero on a screen. His shortcomings intrigued me even more. The King of Rome could be both hero and villain, and that made all the difference.

When one has such a long career as Francesco Totti it is only natural for there to be dark times. While the moments of glory and greatness outweigh the shocking, embarrassing moments of weakness, Totti’s bad boy image cannot be forgotten. Sure, he ain’t no Cassano, but Er Pupone (which means big baby ironically) is no angel either. It is rare that you find a player who has never overreacted on the pitch, and Totti is no exception. Football takes a toll on one’s mentality. Sometimes the heat of the moment makes the best do the worst. In his 22 year career for club and country, Totti has amounted 16 red cards, only four of those coming in the last ten years. This is no alarming statistic, but it is the manner of some these red cards that will be remembered.

As a kid, I thought Totti’s outbursts were “cool.” I saw him as a fiery personality, one who, when the going gets tough, becomes inflamed. Kinda like the Flame, but unable to control his ability. His temperament definitely added drama to the game. But as an adult I now understand that these were instances that revealed Totti the man, not Totti the player. During these moments he is was a man misguided by his emotions, anger, and the overwhelming responsibility to his team and city. So now, on what is perhaps his farewell tour, we relive the unsavory past of Bad Boy Totti in these top five moments.

#1: Stomping Ramelow, 2004

What is the lesson learned here? Don’t try to two-foot Totti. There’s no doubt about it, Totti saw the challenge and reacted violently. But it must be said that Ramelow’s tackle appeared to be dangerous as well. He came in hard with intent (phrasing?). Yet, things didn’t quite pan out for the German. Fate is a bitch, my friend. Not only did Totti escape a red card for this, but he also didn’t receive a future ban from UEFA. Dare I say, if the glove don’t fit you must acquit!

#2: Totti Spits on Poulsen, 2004

This one was a bit disgraceful, I admit. Hocking one in someone’s face? That’s low. But did Poulsen provoke him? Probably. He definitely was throwing some unwelcoming elbows. Refs didn’t catch the altercation in real time, so it was left to the Danish football association to file a complaint. UEFA deemed the incident worthy of a three-match ban, which Totti didn’t appeal. At least he was man enough to regret and repent.

#3: Totti’s South Paw on Colonnese, 2005

No one insults Totti’s family, no one! But that’s just what Colonnese did, meeting Totti’s left hand in this 2005 encounter. Is Totti even left-handed? Or did he spare the Siena player the wrath of his true right? Whatever the case may be, Totti dropped Colonnese like a sack of pasta. Pity, but the Roma captain received a five-match ban for this outburst.

#4: Totti’s Meltdown at Livorno, 2007

Well that escalated fast! Two lessons here: don’t throw elbows at Totti’s face and don’t try to cool a gladiator during a rage. I’m not familiar with Galante, but the dude knew exactly what he was doing here. He throws a mean elbow and then acts the victim. Snaky. Gotta give Totti this one; however, the aftermath could have been better dealt with. I don’t know who the poor guy is on the sideline, but I am sure his intentions were in the right place. Surely, Totti sent him a nice “I’m sorry for pushing you” basket.

#5: The Balotelli Incident, 2010

Two talented individuals, both on the opposite spectrum of their careers, and a ruthless feud... how Shakespearean. Balotelli’s loose tongue and lack of respect set Totti’s revenge in motion, no doubt about it. But does that justify his actions? Absolutely not. When I watched this in real time I was shocked and a bit sickened, but the devil inside me also whispered, serves him right. Ultimately, this behavior doesn’t belong in the game, but something about this moment signified a turning point in Totti. Speculatively, it could be argued this was the end of Totti’s ill temper, the end of his bad boyness, as no other notable irrational incident occurred after. Could it be that he regretted his assault on Balotelli? I hope so. But if there was anyone to teach the pompous Balotelli a lesson, it was Totti.

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Now, you might be saying, “Remus, why shun God and bring up all his dirty laundry?” I’ll tell you. It’s important to look back at all facets of one’s journey. The good, the bad, and everything in between. Totti’s is my hero, the reason I love this club. And despite all his magic, his moments of villainy can’t be erased. So remember, forget, or tuck away, Totti’s not perfect, but god damn, is he one of a kind.