Strange Things Have I seen

For forty five minutes, angels sang, planets and stars aligned, and the force was strong in these ones. Roma were coasting towards one of the most emphatic victories, Milan were losing at home and Lazio were losing as well. Then, the horror. Then, the jagged nails, chewed on incessantly for the entirety of the second half. Lazio caught up and went ahead, Milan had begun their resurgence which felt unavoidable. Atalanta caught momentum with the goal of the romanista Tiribocchi, and was no longer a true believer. There have been enough football played through the years, especially during Roma's 83 year gloriously inglorious history for me to start recognizing themes with the aid of nothing but a few clues. I thought I had this one down too, and after the 2-1 goal I was no longer a die hard believer (if I ever was one): a romanista scoring once, twice, to ruin Roma; Roma standing on the crisp of greatness and stumbling. How many times have it happened before?

But it didn't happen, my expectations of disappointment stalled. Roma stands atop the mountain, and I have no idea what to make of any of it. This is even without factoring in the context in which this is happening, the unlikely turnaround to a season marked for abject failure. That narrative is for another time, for when I don't have a resting heart rate twice as high as it should be and there are no more games left. Regardless of how these five games do turn out. No, this is hard enough to grasp even without all of that. What to we make of it? I don't know, normally I'd lock myself into a room and deny all likelihood of Roma standing a chance from now until the dust settled. But as today's game showed, this isn't history repeating itself, this isn't more of the same. During last summer's controversy around new ownership--ah, how far we've come--Carlo Zampa said in that completely different context that "those who don't believe by now are in bad faith". Turned out that those who didn't believe that then weren't in bad faith, but merely weathered skeptics proven right. But the same quote is appropriate now, much much more so now than those many months ago.

He who doesn't believe by now is in bad faith.

Ranieri flew against all predictions and benched Toni to begin with, starting Totti flanked by the omnipresent Ménez and Vucinic, showing yet again to be unpredictable in a studied out way. Then pulling Vucinic to not risk him getting suspended for the derby looming in the distance, like a volcano whose murmurings makes the Earth tremble and the people anxious. We can talk about tactics all day if we wanted to, but I think desire took the wheel today. Even when Atalanta cut the margin back to a single goal and had momentum going for them, and I awaited what I felt was inevitable, did Roma for even a second lack desire. It was full force pressing and challenging for every ball, and for that they deserve recognition. That too marked a difference between today and earlier games with similar outsets; this wasn't about being scared into inaction, and becoming more hesitant with every second passing. This was all about effort and desire, a reflection, I believe, of the players' awareness of what needs to be done. And if they don't believe in themselves by now, they'd be acting in bad faith.