Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.
I am trying to escape.
For many, 2020 has been a nightmare within a nightmare. You wake up and think everything is all right, and then you’re falling again, or trying to flee monsters, legs unmovable, or trapped in a room without doors confronted by a familiar enemy. Or maybe I’ve been reading too much Stephen King.
Personally, beyond the elephants in the room, I’ve been dealing with my own crisis of conscience. Familial fissures. Existential predicaments. Internal excavations of the past. And while alcohol and literature have helped, other forms of escape have been indefinitely postponed. Sunday league cancelled. Wilco tickets ripped in half. Surfing only in the predawn, vacant sea. And Roma. My guilty pleasure. My reason for waking. My 90 minutes of pure escape...
But she is coming back to me. To us.
June 24th, 2020, a day shy of my 33rd year on this buoy in the universe, AS Roma hosts Sampdoria at the Stadio Olimpico after 116 days of no competitive play. And while for some this may not be such a colossal moment, it marks a significance for those who lose themselves in sport. Those whose hearts bleed Roma.
Now, it must be said, sport is such a trivial thing. Life, death, social harmony—these are matters slightly more important. But it is not really the sport as much as it is the psychological effect that watching sports has. I need a release. Many need a release.
I work for children. As an educator I’ve been forced to teach through a screen since mid-March. News flash: it doesn’t work. Since late-May, and the murder of George Floyd, I have embarked on a long-overdue analysis of my life as a white man and the implicit biases bred within me. I have moved cities. Struggled in marital affairs. Questioned my upbringing. And through all of this, I, and those closest to me, have been fortunate to stay healthy.
Everyone is dealing with something.
To those who have been affected by sickness, both socially and epidemically, my heart goes out to you. I stand with those who have been marginalized, and while I have my own demons, my intentions are pure, not perfect—I am a work in progress.
So, Roma. Articulating this is difficult. How does one explain fandom in way that isn’t absurd, selfish? How do I make sense of what you do for me? Why I need you more than ever?
Some say that escapism is inherently problematic, because one can shut their eyes, but when they open them the world has not changed. But I, and likely others, say this: we need to escape, not forever, but momentarily. The mind needs to take a walk, a jog, a trip. It needs to get away from the weight of reality, so it can return equipped to deal with it. Social media has become toxic, or perhaps it always has been. The media, those sneaky devils, know what sells. And fear is a light blanket for shrouding. Bad news for people who like good news.
On Wednesday, the whistle will sound, echoing through the Olimpico, a siren’s song, luring us away from the now, but not deceptively, rather maternally calling us home after being out too late. Empty resonations may travel ghostly around the stadium, but we will be there, in those seats, raucous and intent to back the team on their return. And while uncertainty plagues the club perpetually it seems, all that will be set aside in the then, back in reality, while we venture into our temporary world veiled in red and yellow, a world that will always be there for us to escape to when we need it most.