When you grow up in a sports-mad environment, the battle lines are typically clearly and distinctly drawn. If you're a Cubs fan, you can't speak or even think about supporting the White Sox. If you spend your Sunday afternoons watching the Oakland Raiders, you can't say anything remotely complimentary about the Denver Broncos. If your family drapes themselves in Michigan maize and blue every fall, you don't dare utter the word Ohio State in mixed company.
Growing up when and where I did, the notion of having a second favorite team was fodder for bullying and ridicule from family, friends and peers alike. Dividing your allegiances between two teams in the same sport/league was seen as a moral and intellectual failure; put in even simpler terms, it was fucking lame. You can't do that. You didn't do that. You pick your team and you stand with them through thick and thin; you ride or die with them. (This same logic applied in middle school if you were dumb enough to wear an Adidas shirt with Nike shorts into the cafeteria at lunch-time. Talk about bullying. Oof).
While I admired players from my teams’ adversaries, I never allowed myself to really bridge that divide, so you could imagine my shock and amazement when I got to college and fell in with some soccer fans who were, somehow, allowed to have multiple favorite teams. They'd wear a United shirt one day and Real Madrid shorts the next. A Bayern Munich hoodie on Wednesday and a Milan jacket on Thursday. It was madness.
But it didn't take long before I discovered a gaping loophole in fan law: if you follow European football, you're allowed to have multiple favorite teams without having your loyalty or credibility as a sports fan come under question, as long as those teams played in different domestic leagues.
As far as exploiting the vagaries of international law is concerned, this wasn't exactly on par with what some oil companies do, but it was still a paradigm-busting moment for me back in the early aughts. While Roma remains the only club to whom I've committed my soul, there are several other football clubs I love and admire from afar.
It's in that vein that we present a new series: Other Teams We Love. Throughout the coming days, weeks, months and probably years, we're going to sprinkle in some personal narratives about other clubs we support. And I'm going to kick it off with my hometown team.
Other Teams We Love: Pescara Calcio
Okay, let's dispense with some more legalese before we go any further. You are not allowed, under any circumstances, to have multiple favorite teams within the same domestic league. Full stop. The UN High Council on Football Fandom passed that measure decades ago under Boutros-Boutros Ghali.
As a corollary to that measure, the UN allowed for, but ultimately advised against, even rooting for multiple teams at different levels within the same country; the chances for conflicts of interest is simply too high.
So, while I may be flouting that by rooting for Pescara—currently in Italy's second division, Serie B—there is one notable exception to this otherwise hard and fast rule: if your family hails from said town, you can let your fandom run wild without fear of judgment or repercussions.
It is into that last provision which my Pescara fandom slides. While I love my life here in America, were it not for the advent of The Great War, I'd probably be writing this piece from a modest flat in Abruzzo—my familial home for God only knows how long—with my pet Abruzzesse mastiff named Ciro at my side, both of us feasting on mussels pulled from the Adriatic that morning.
Perhaps there's an alternate reality in which that's the case, but full-scale global conflicts tend to provoke diasporas, so my family was bathed in the navy blue and white of the New York Yankees rather than the sky blue and white of Pescara Calcio. However, as I outlined over seven years ago, the proximity between Abruzzo and Roma was a contributing factor to my Roma fandom; without an Abruzzesse club in Serie A, Roma offered the most authentic experience I could find at the time.
While I can't claim to be an expert on the history of Pescara Calcio, my tenure at CdT happened to coincide with the Dolphin's rise back to Serie A under the watchful eyes Zdenek Zeman in 2011-2012. Led by the Bohemian and his nicotine-infused attacking football, Pescara ran roughshod over Serie B that season, scoring a ridiculous 90 goals while sporting a +35 goal differential.
With burgeoning talents like Ciro Immobile (28 goals), Lorenzo Insigne (18 goals) and Marco Verratti (six assists), Pescara earned direct promotion to Serie A for the 2012-2013 season. With Immobile heading to Genoa, Insigne to Napoli, Verratti going straight to PSG and Zeman now managing Roma, the Dolphins managed only six victories in Serie A that season and were dropped right back to Serie B the following year; where they've remained every year since then, except for one spot appearance in Serie A during the 2016-2017 season.
But my love for Pescara isn't rooted in wins and losses, it's rooted in, well, roots. If my family never left Abruzzo 100 years ago, my weekends would have likely been spent sweating out the results at the Stadio Adriatico-Giovanni Cornacchia, my walls adorned with Delfini scarves and my hard-earned money spent on blue and white striped kits.
Some say that life is nothing more than the sum of the choices we make, and while my great-grandma Virginia really had no say in the matter (wars, arranged marriages etc.), her choice to leave Abruzzo did improve the lives of the generations that followed, but it came at a cost: the ties between our family and the land we called home for centuries was forever severed.
There are certainly greater tragedies in the world, and certainly far, far, far more dire circumstances under which people found themselves in the New World, but it's these little questions that linger even a century later: how would my life be different if I grew up in Abruzzo? Would my personality, my values and my beliefs be different? Would I have the same type of friends? The same job? The same pet peeves? Would I enjoy the same things as I do now?
These are obviously impossible questions to answer, but nevertheless, they linger. So when you can find some tangible connection to your true hometown—like, say, a football club—you can't help but fall in love with them; they become a vehicle for your imagination, a means through which you can vicariously live the life of your forebears.
Pescara Calcio—their history, their legends, their hopes and their struggles—will never occupy the same space in my brain as AS Roma, but as the symbol (if not the outright embodiment) of the life I could have had were it not for a few twists of fate, they'll always live within me—and I'm not sure any other club can quite match that.