Sometime when I was a student at the University of Iowa, a school with a football history of slightly-above mediocrity with many close, disappointing losses and just enough success to give you a little bit of hope each year, I developed a habit the sagacity of which belied my youth: Each time Iowa lost, by default, I wore some piece of Iowa clothing the next day. The habit stuck. When for several years I was a die-hard Oklahoma City Thunder fan — a team that reached the precipice and faced ultimate defeat multiple times, not to mention the many brief heartbreaks in between — I wore something emblazoned with “OKC.”
Today, I am wearing my Juventus jersey.
I will wear my Juve jersey if we blow the Scudetto. If we lose the Coppa Italia. If we sell Paulo Dybala, if we get dropped the Europa League.
We are fans because we are fans when we lose — not when we win.
Fino. Alla. Fine. No matter the end.
A tantalizing collection of titillating tidbits.
- Juventus did not win! Damn it.
- Sport wields an uncanny ability to drive people apart and to bring them together — often at the same time. I was angry yesterday; other people were angry. Some Madridistas came in trolling; others came in with kind, sensible words. Some Juve fans reacted logically rather than emotionally; others felt very deeply and only now — maybe not even now — can translate the emotion into thought. Gianluigi Buffon was sent off for reacting emotionally; we have no idea what he said. I think all the reactions are OK, and I think that when the dust settles people understand that people react different ways, and that there can be mutual acknowledgement of these adverse, varied reactions and mutual progress without going back and profusely analyzing what people said or did in the most heated moment. Let’s move on without belaboring any of it or shaming each other for reactions.
- My two cents on the penalty, after the dust has settled: I think it’s a 60/40 split in favor of being a penalty. I think that one must acknowledge that almost every decision made in the box is neither black nor white, but instead a judgement call based on a number of factors. The only thing black or white is the decision the official makes. But to me what makes this the incorrect call — even after that split I mentioned — is not only the moment (a 3-3 aggregate score in the last 30 seconds of stoppage time) but the fact that Juventus were denied a penalty (two if you include the Casemiro handball, three if you also think Dybala was fouled in the box) in the first leg. This isn’t even to begin trying to parse Dybala’s “simulation” yellow card and the lack of the same decision against Ronaldo. I think given the circumstances the decision was wrong, and circumstances play a part in the decision, no matter what people say. The official needs to be more aware.
- I’m literally never talking to anyone ever again about that penalty, though. That’s it for me.
- Blaise Matuidi is certainly an imperfect player with a pretty poor touch and not a lot of technical ability, but the dude never stops running, is full to the brim of grinta, and nearly played a vital role in helping us. I really dislike all the talk about Matuidi being a “useless” player, because he’s been good at what he’s good at, which is exactly why we brought him here. In hindsight, too, from a PSG perspective: so dumb to let him go.
- Stephan Lichtsteiner: Not perfect, but pretty damn good. This game may end up being the swan song for quite a few Juve legends, and it was a hell of a way to finish.
- That is precisely why I love Max Allegri and love Juventus: The Bianconeri are more than the sum of the parts; Real Madrid are, really clearly, less. Real Madrid are more talented. Barcelona are more talented. But Juventus just displayed over 180 minutes that they are the superior team. Damn I love Juve.
- Sampdoria is going to get an angry, wounded stampede of lions this weekend surrounding a rested Paulo Dybala. Heh, good luck with that.
- How to fix the financial gap between Juventus and Madrid/Barcelona: Literally all it takes is to start selling those black Juventus keeper kits. Holy shit, man! Those things are beautiful. If we start selling those on the Juventus store, then we’ll easily make billions of more moneys to make Fefu happy and give us the money to buy SMS and whomever else we want. I should be head of marketing or something!
Onto the awards, lots of awards for the lads who deserved the awards:
The ‘Rubbish Bin for a Heart’ Award
For the referee who, in his past, underwent a successful rubbish-bin-heart-transplant surgery and is using the rubbish bin to devastating effect.
In some publications, Michael Oliver is being called “brave” — would you believe that?
Piazza San Carlo Award
For a potentially overlooked yet stellar showing.
Sami Khedira was wonderful, I thought. And I’m happy to admit that my judgement on his usefulness to this team was misplaced and flat-out wrong earlier in the season. I suppose one of two things was happening earlier in the year. Either Khedira was simply in a really, really bad run of form — because I don’t think you can deny that, for stretches of this season, the German international was really terrible; there was a reason he got an award named after him and was tagged with the monicker “Casper” (slash, also, maybe he has been reading BWRAO and got really pissed off and hates me personally and that’s why he’s been playing so well; if so, you’re welcome!). That’s one option. The other option is the weird, disjointed midfield that Juventus currently have, the absolute weirdness that is Miralem Pjanic, and the fact that Max Allegri’s recent tinkerings have re-unleashed Khedira.
Whatever it is, we’re glad to have you back. Because we’ve got a motherf—— Scudetto to win and a Coppa Italia trophy for the taking.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award
For the man of the match.
Mario Mandzukic is, of course, a player who has reinvented himself, and his bossing of the 5-foot-8 Dani Carvajal nearly propelled Juventus to another semifinal berth. The Croat did what he has done for the last 18 months in that strange left wing position: He was left back, left mid, left wing, and target striker all at once. It’s almost a shame, actually, that Mr. No Good couldn’t have discovered this positional option a bit earlier in his career when he had slightly more speed on him, but man did he bring hell to Madrid tonight.
On a night when Gonzalo Higuain wasn’t much of a factor except as a positional player — a feat for which he is always overlooked or underrated at the very least — on a night when Juve’s most in-form player sat on the bench for simply bad calls, Mario dominated. His performance was an absolute inspiration, and he was one of the many players in black and white yellow who could’ve been designated capitano.
Giuseppe Garibaldi Award, Pt. II
For the man of the match.
There are two precise moments that define Gigi in this game: The first before the match began, the second as things fell apart.
When the referees and captains convened at the center of the field, Gigi was his affable, affectionate, jovial self — goodness, how I love that about Juve’s capitano. He rubs Marcelo on the shoulder. He makes a joke. He laughs, mouth-open laughs. He’s at ease. Down 3-0 in Madrid, the man is having a genuinely good time.
Then, the fury. I can’t bring myself to watch the replay — I don’t know when I’ll be able to do that — but he unleashed the fury, didn’t hinder it, let it run, let himself feel as he always does and as a good man ought to and certainly as good Italians do.
I will have more to say about Buffon, because I think his exit was everything, a master class of legendary proportions, and I cast neither shame nor judgement on him for the red, no matter what he said, but rather laud the complete, utter earnestness with which he reacted, for he is a man who doesn’t just wear his heart on his sleeve — he is heart, all the way around.
At the end of the day, what happened versus Real Madrid does not feel like justice — not for a team that clawed itself back from the grave in Madrid, not for the players who erased Cardiff (and Turin) from their minds in the most hostile environment against the two-time defending Champions League victors and absolutely drubbed the opposition on their home turf, and certainly not for Gigi Buffon, whose career at Juventus, and competitive career as a whole, is likely in the final refrain. I am reminded of the words of Ecclesiastes that, no matter your religion or non-religion, are wrought with wisdom about this world, and although they certainly are meant to address weightier matters than sport — because, after all, this is sport — they remain true. In a world that feels like there ought to be justice, often there is not. And so ends the tale of Gianluigi Buffon, sent off with a red card in perhaps his final Champions League tie.