If there is one thing that seems true to me about athletes, probably universally, whether that athlete is a loud-mouth, swashbuckling trash-talker or a quiet, soft-spoken assassin, it is this: great athletes have short memories. Moping is meaningless and unproductive; celebrations should be capped.
Juventus just lost a game against Lazio that stings for so many reasons, and not a single player in that locker room is happy about it. But these guys are goldfish; they’re up at the team meal a couple days later celebrating together, because they’ve got to get their minds back on track, get back to the pitch, and be a clean slate for another week of battles.
Fans, it seems, are the opposite. Fans are jilted lovers. Fans remember the bad stuff, the annoying idiosyncrasies, the epic meltdowns. Fans let the resentment linger and linger like a dead rat in the wall.
When, for instance, Juventus stumbled against Lazio over the weekend, just the Old Lady’s second loss since the Monza disaster in late January, one popular fan-run Twitter account asked whether this club has made any progress over the last two years. That, for me, typifies the modern fan, and it reminds me a lot of my 15-month-old who has recently learned how to thrash his body around in ridiculous, absurd angles when he’s unhappy.
I am not here suggesting that Juventus have suddenly transformed into the club we’d like them to be, but to imply that the club has made little to no progress — what about the astonishing developments in the youth sector? — and to ignore the fact that the team this year, as currently composed, has shown extraordinary character under intense pressure is just plain dumb.
A quick turnaround & the bigger picture
Emotionally toddler-esque reactions aside, Juventus have an opportunity to turn the mood around very quickly this week.
I wanted to write a joke about it, actually — “European football, Juventus, and a Portuguese side walk into a bar ...” — but given that setup I know the punchline wouldn’t pull a punch at all for the Bianconeri. But that fact Juve have struggled terribly against teams from Portugal would make a victory in the quarterfinals vs Sporting all the more sweet.
I really, really hope the team turns it around, but even if we lay an egg in Turin this week I am, as I wrote last week, still encouraged, even after the Lazio loss. I am encouraged because while I used to think this may literally be a years-long rebuild, I feel like the amount of fight here is way more than I would’ve imagined.
The number of adverse circumstances the club is facing is silly. Some of these obstacles have been self-imposed; some have not. Some have been years in the making; some are new. But almost all of the current obstacles seemed to really coalesce this year — a wonky roster, with some overpaid players and imbalance units; the financial woes; the managerial merry-go-round; the constant disco party at J-Medical — and then, on top of all of these issues, the penalty dropped a hammer.
Many teams, many clubs, I firmly believe, would’ve been crippled. There are teams without our long list of troubles who are crippling. Chelsea are literally in 11th place right now in the Premier League with a minus-2 goal differential after spending exactly €330 billion in the winter transfer window.
I don’t know whether I think Allegri is the right guy for this team long-term, or whether Allegri, at this point, even wants to be there beyond this season, or what the heck generally is going to happen with the manager situation. I don’t know if Juventus are going to be playing Champions League football next year; I suppose that the odds are not in our favor. But I do know this: there’s been lots of good stuff happening lately, and I feel like it’s pointless to be a fan if you don’t have the mental dexterity to acknowledge and feel that truth even in the hard times.
Fino alla fine is not for the fickle.