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Quickly On Either Side I Like To All Or Nothing A Season With The Carolina Season Four, All Or Nothing The Carolina Panthers, Tells The Story Of A Talented Team Striving To Compete For A Championship In The Face Of Inevitable Change Just Three Years Removed From His A season in European football alright, soccer lasts about eight and a half months, going from fall through winter into spring and early summer but that time can seem like an eternity to the sport s countless fans across the continent The fervid fan culture surrounding European football can be an astonishing thing to the usually sedate followers of North America s major professional sports and author Tim Parks, an Englishman and avid football fan who lives and works in Italy, provides a valuable look inside soccer fan culture in his book A Season with Verona.Parks teaches at university in Milan, but lives in Verona, and follows the Hellas Verona football club and the travails of being a Hellas Verona fan, as Parks describes them, might sound familiar to Americans who follow one of the smaller market Major League Baseball teams Can a small market team win the championship of Serie A, the highest classification for Italian soccer Yes, theoretically Hellas Verona won the championship back in 1984 85, just as small market baseball teams like the Kansas City Royals or Minnesota Twins have won a World Series title from time to time Yet from year to year, the same major market clubs across Italy Roma and Lazio in the capital region, the two Milan clubs A.C Milan and Inter Milan , Juventus from Turin always seem to win and the fans of small market teams like Hellas almost seem to savour the unfairness of it all.Parks, while not Veronese himself, is fully invested in the on the pitch fortunes of Hellas Verona, as is his Italian born son Accordingly, for this book he commits himself to attending every single one of Hellas Verona s 34 matches during the 2000 01 season, both home and away, and to record his impressions of the entire season This commitment will involve road trips up and down the entire peninsula of Italy sometimes in a filthy bus full of noisy fans sometimes in a chartered plane with the players, as an official guest of the team It is from this ethnographic, experience based approach thatA Season with Verona gets its subtitle Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character, and GoalsCertain themes emerge as Parks follows the team through a series of often frustrating matches One is the divide between northern and southern Italy Fans from Verona, the northern city that is the locale for Romeo and Juliet, like to characterize the fans of teams from southern Italy as somehow slower, not as cultured or civilised indeed, there is a different stereotype to be directed against the fans of each rival team Yet Hellas Verona fans, as Parks describes them, have a reputation for racist behaviour in contrast with other Italian teams, the club had never, as of the season that Parks chronicles, fielded a black player At several points throughout the book, Parks looks on in dismay as some of the team s most hard core fans direct racist chants against black players for opposing teams.Yet as Parks tells it in a manner that a great many sports fans from many countries will no doubt find eminently relatable much of one s ability to think critically goes out the window when victory or defeat for one s favourite team is at stake Parks, remembering his impressions of a frustrating game between Hellas Verona and Inter Milan, differentiates in a splendidly literary manner between the fan experience of competitive professional sports and that of other cultural ritualsI have often thought about the relation between competitive sports and aesthetics You can become intensely engaged in the outcome of a play or opera I still remember my adolescent horror when I realized that Cordelia was truly dead Yet it is not like worrying about the result of a game.Yes, I could actually leave this stadium, it occurs to me, feeling appalled about Verona being beaten than by watching the representation of a young woman cut down in the prime of life Or indeed any other narrative awfulness Forget Silence of the Lambs , watch Hellas losepp 112 13 As the season goes on, with one frustrating Hellas loss after another, Parks and his fellow fans cease thinking championship, and begin worrying about the prospects for relegation European fans already know this concept well others might benefit from a refresher Every season, a couple of the worst teams from major league Serie A get relegated or sent down to minor league Serie B, while a couple of the best Serie B teams get promoted to Serie A If such a system existed in American baseball, then the Balti Orioles, the majors worst team last year, might have gotten sent down to the Triple A International League while the Memphis Redbirds, who won the 2018 Minor League World Series, might get to join the American League and play teams like the Yankees and the White Sox Once relegation becomes a serious prospect for Hellas Verona, its fans become even energized by their determination that this humiliation must not become the fate of their beloved team.Parks focuses occasionally on the players and the strange, totally soccer focused lives that they have lived since they first demonstrated football talent as young schoolchildren Immensely privileged, they are hopelessly deprived They have no ordinary life Above all, they are paid huge salaries p 205 but his main focus is on the fan experience Whenever fans of Hellas Verona, or any other Italian team, travel to a rival stadium to watch an away game, their arrival in town is treated like a barbarian invasion police escorts, segregated cars in trains, strictly limited areas where they can sit together in stadiums There is always the sense that all this football fandom could break out into real, brutal, large scale civic violence.At the same time, Parks takes advantage of the opportunity to relate the wild and unpredictable qualities of Italian football to what he has observed regarding Italian society generally In terms of parallels with politics, for example, it is fortunate that he was writing this book in the early 2000 s, when Silvio Berlusconi, a man with strong ties to both media and football, was moving toward victory in Italy s 2001 national election Strong parallels between Italian football and Italian national life also become apparent when Parks relates perceptions of unfair refereeing in football to the odd and arbitrary manner in which he has seen laws being enforced, or not being enforced, across ItalyIn any country there is a gap between formal boundaries and reality But the peculiarity of Italy lies in the exact balance between rival versions of the world, the equal intensity of people s emotional commitment to private loyalties and moral commitment to public justice Everyone wants their team to win at all costs and everyone earnestly wishes the world to be fair It s not an easy state of mind to administratep 299 All of this leads up to a delightful chapter titled Abandon All Hope, in which Parks evokes the inscription above the gates to Dante Alighieri s Inferno to describe the hell of fandom Mentioning, in the process, that as Dante s Inferno has 34 cantos, so the Italian football season is 34 weeks long, Parks describes the police escorted bus journey of Hellas fans to a crucial away game at Napoli, in terms that sound distinctly Dantean Guided by the police into the fenced in yard of an abandoned warehouse, the Hellas fans are told that they will have to wait there for hours in an area smelling of raw sewage until it is time for the game to begin Against this grim context, Parks reflects that We re like a group of sinners arriving in hell and finding it doesn t have adequate sanitary facilities Perhaps hell, it occurs to me, will be the ultimate away game, an interminable wait for a match that never begins in the circle of some infernal stadium, tormented by devils in the shape of policemen and opposing fans p 403.It is no wonder that, at this point in the season, Parks reflects that Hell never ends but the football season finally does p 419 or that, when the bus breaks down on the way back from Napoli to Verona, Parks asks, Oh where, I wonder, is that poet Virgil to lead us out of here p 403 Does the tragedy of relegation occur Does Hellas Verona get moved down to Serie B Do the team s avid fans have to endure the indignity of getting relegated while watching their cross town rivals Chievo Verona go up to Serie A You ll have to read the book to find out But A Season with Verona succeeds both as an exciting, outcome by outcome book of sports drama, and as a thoughtful ethnographic study of fan culture Parks may not have achieved his schoolboy dreams of becoming a star footballer for a top tier English club like Manchester United but he excels as a perceptive and evocative writer, and he certainly hits all of his goals here. On principle, I have to give five stars to any book that could inspire in me, of all people, an interest in sports In this highly engaging and endlessly fascinating memoir, British expatriate Tim Parks chronicles his experiences attending every Hellas Verona game throughout the course of one season, in 2001 Honestly I can t say enough good things about this book it was a dramatic and profound experience I was so invested in the outcome of each game despite how long ago it was despite being a fan of AC Milan and, as a result, am so eager to understand the vastly complex phenomenon that is Italian soccer I enjoyed so much the way that Mr Parks was able to relate so many aspects of Italian civic and cultural life to the sport how passionate he was about the team itself while still able to to relay the story from an outsider s perspective I so enjoyed reading his Italian Ways, being very fond of the trains myself, but I think this was even better Forza Milan
One of the best books about football s deeper appeal Verona,a city often forgotten about in the classical litany of great Italian cities,has some of the most intense footballing rivalries with minnows like Chievo Verona, the Flying Donkeys ,but also with the near neighbours,Brescia,Padova my Italian team,Vicenza I followed the biancorossi for the 1985 86 season which ended in the calcionero fall out a punishment for corruption Vicenza s promotion from B to A was overturned Tim Parks really gets under the radar, analyses enthuses over the commitment devotion of Hellas Verona s combative fans.As an Englishman italianised ,he is a very devil in literary terms not holding back in his judgements on Italy s troubled post war political history, the often unpleasant aspects of Italian football alleigances.There is something here for all italianophiles,as Parks understands the dynamics of modern Italy as no foreigner has a right to.I found myself nodding at his observations assertions but this saga reads well too, will have you wondering why no one has ever tried it before.It has reality than Nick Hornby s Arsenal panegyric, is a welcome addition to the genre of football non fiction most footballers employ ghost writers,whose deathless prose condemns many of our sporting heroes to open ridicule in countless autobiographies.I like Tim Parks s novels but his non fiction work stands tall too. Absolutely brilliant from start to finish this is as gripping as any fictional thriller, hilarious in parts and an absolute must if you re a football fan as opposed to just a team name fan Don t look up any results from the season in the book, part of the fantastically unbearable tension is not knowing what s going to happen next Superb.