On a recent visit to the North End, I decided to explore the pride that is associated with Italians and sports.
As a proud Italian-American, I already know that there is a special relationship that exists between Italians and their teams, but I wanted to see what else I could find. As I walked down Tony DeMarco way, it became apparent to me that there is a lot to explore.
In my anthropological research, I learned that the question of ‘why’ is central to understanding any type of phenomenon. So, off I went to see how I could respond to this question.As Italians and Italian-Americans, we know one thing is certain: We are passionate people. We are sentimental about winning games whether it is soccer, boxing, bocce or whatever it may be. Losing is even worse. We wear the suffering on our faces until our next victory. We use the word ‘our’ in speaking about teams, because we become part of the team. Chanting, chasing and providing commentary and advice as we observe the actions being displayed before us. Devotion to a team becomes a part of our life. Wearing a jersey that represents a sport is synonymous with waving a flag to represent dedication to our roots. This is why I decided to explore this passion through a mini walking tour and randomly ask individuals their thoughts or feelings about sports in relation to being Italian.
During one brief conversation, a person I spoke with expressed that Napoli was their team. A sudden change came across them. Fierce excitement and a descriptive analysis of why their heart beats to the tune of Napoli became evident. But truly it was more than that. This person, (who asked not to be identified) told me, how cheering for Napoli was more than just an expression of love for the team, but a statement of joy for being Italian. This too made me think.
As I continued observing and contemplating these comments on my sleuthing expedition, I stopped by various locations that I have visited often to reexamine things that have started to blend into the scenery due to frequent visits. I noted that it was clearly time to dust them off. At various locations, posters of the Italian national team are hung, soccer scarves are lifted proudly at area cafes, while images of athletes and other Italian sporting logos are worn proudly on the chests of passersby.
At one point, two individuals began to yell across the street at one another to announce that the game was on and that their espresso was ready. Another indicator of how sports and our culture are intertwined.
I continued to walk through the soggy streets of the North End post-snow storm and realized that images of World Cup glories were hung in windows and Italia blue shirts were swinging in the breeze. A further leap over a snow mound and I landed at the foot of the Tony DeMarco statue.
Coffee in hand and grin on my face, I realized that my walking tour had come full circle. Results of my anthropological study: Sports to Italians is yet another expression of our pride and joy for our heritage. We celebrate the joy of victory and wear it proudly for a lifetime. When our athletes lose, we mourn with them. Soccer we love, bocce is handed down, winning athletes become a part of our lives and the wearing of our blue and the flag of our roots is never far behind.
Just as I sat writing my article, another group passed by me wearing jackets that had ‘Italia’ spread across them. Yet, another expression of the fervor that continues to brew and be sustained for pending athletic competition, whether it is local, national or international. As the warmer weather approaches we are reminded that the soccer season concludes but our next round of sports will be approaching!