I hate the derby.
I didn’t always feel this way. Some of my strongest memories as a romanista comes from the derby. I have Marco Delvecchio’s clinched fist tattooed on my retina, and I can only hope that it lasts forever. In the space of fifteen seconds after Mihajlovic missed a penalty, I sprained an ankle, bumped my head against someone else’s and had my throat quit on me, in what would later prove to be a 36 hour emergency shutdown to minimize further damage. Alessandro Nesta’s voluntary halftime substitution, Montella’s unrepeatable spree and Totti’s dagger—gentle and merciless at the same time—will live on forever as bedtime stories I will tell my future children.
I am all too familiar with the accepted norm that both romanisti and laziali alike view the derby as the event of the season. A derby can save a season, and all that mess. Since both clubs have had little success through the years, the derby have grown into a behemoth capable of salvaging a little bit of pride and joy from an otherwise gloomy year. That’s precisely the problem. I have come to loathe the derby, because each one is a reminder that Roma are still not big enough to treat it with the arrogance its other participant deserves, or that of a simply superior club.
In Il Romanista this week, Tonino Cagnucci deconstructed the derby:
The derby can’t be considered a derby at all by a Roma fan, seeing how it’s against a team, and its supporters, hostile to the name, to the colors and to the symbols of the city.
There is no honor or greatness to bask in after beating them, simply because of the low esteem in which they must be held. Beating them should be expected, a routine job simply performed, rather than the emotional thrust it now is. To wrestle with Lazio—worse yet, the ignominy of having lost the last three in a row—is to be reminded of the old saying not to argue with fools, because people from a distance can’t tell the difference. By engaging in the derby on their terms, terms dictated by a severe minority complex and paranoia of persecution, Roma have already lost a little. Lazio should be treated as the non-factor it is within the city, not indirectly elevated into actual city rival, a status way beyond their means and history.
It used to be better. In the 1980’s, there often was no derby, because there was no Lazio in serie A. While Lazio flew like an empty plastic bag back and forth between serie A and B, Roma were champions of Italy and finalists in Europe; a reasonable division of duties. In a three year period before and after the millennium, the clubs were Italy’s best. They had no more claim to partake in a city rivalry while historically hostile to that city back then than now, but at least they were a sporting rival worthy of the name. This Lazio? This Lazio shamelessly tries to co-opt a city’s legacy and history after a lifetime of turning its back on it, is run by a confederacy of dunces, and is captained by a man soon buried under evidence of throwing games and consorting with criminals trying to manipulate the game. If these are indeed our cousins, I favor emancipation and an immediate stop to family gatherings.
It causes me no small amount of cognitive dissonance that for two seasons in a row, a club which openly brags about buying players on the basis of YouTube-viewing, whose captaincy is a curse passed on to whatever unlucky soul happens to be left standing as former captains disappear for one reason or another, has finished better than Roma. Especially last year, when Roma had Franco Baldini, Francesco Totti and was trying to lay foundations to something grand, only to see it all lose out to what from the outside seems an endless string of random reactions.
As Joyce said, history is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake.