The funny thing about being a Roma fan while simultaneously worshipping and loving Daniele De Rossi is that, even though you know he’s combustible and that’s precisely why you adore him so much, it still catches you off guard when he flips his lid like he did this past weekend. Red cards are just part of the De Rossi experience, and outside of the elbow to Brian McBride’s nose during the 2006 World Cup, I can’t (off the top of my head) recall one that was quite as consequential as Sunday’s slap to the face of Gianluca Lapadula.
Of course consequential is in and of itself subject to debate and dependent upon the context in which the infraction occurred. Getting sent off in the World Cup isn’t exactly a feather in any player’s cap, especially not when it warrants a four-match suspension, but in De Rossi’s case it didn’t really hurt Italy in the end, as they still progressed to the final against France, one in which De Rossi played and scored during the penalty shoot-out. The context of that foul was simply this: De Rossi was 22-years-old and even more of a hothead than he is now, but removing DDR, the youngest player on the squad, from arguably one of the best national sides of the past decade was no big thing in the end. Inexcusable and stupid, sure, but not a damming foul.
On the surface, De Rossi getting booted from a November match against Genoa and missing out on a home match against newly promoted SPAL and an away tilt to Chievo can’t possibly compare with drawing a red during the World Cup, but for his club the consequences could be just as grave if they miss one of Italy’s automatic berths into the Champions League by a handful of points. De Rossi’s slap in and of itself wouldn’t be the sole reason for falling short—other points have been dropped—it’s more that this sin was avoidable; it wasn’t a matter of tactics or the bounce of the ball.
In the grand scheme of things, this is just De Rossi being De Rossi, but as the past 48 hours have shown, that doesn’t make it any less divisive. Here at CdT we’ve lamented it as a potential death blow to Roma’s European hopes next season—again, in the context of an extremely tight top four—while a quick scan of social media produces a wide range of reactions, from calls for his head to laughter at the simple act of slapping Lapadula.
And much like he did following the McBride incident—going so far as to personally apologize to McBride face-to-face—De Rossi was quick to own up to his transgression, recognizing its foolishness, its impact on his club/nation and the manner in which it reflects on him as a player and a man.
With De Rossi you’re always walking the razor’s edge, and for the past decade and a half that’s precisely what led so many to sing his praises; he played the game with a passion seldom seen in the modern era. So the extent to which you’ve found your patience tested over the past couple of days depends almost entirely on the lens through which you currently view De Rossi: Is he an aging lion still worthy of your adulation, or an anachronism—the last desperate, gasping breath from the Roma that the American regime is so desperate to kill?