No I In Team

The team comes first. It's hard, even impossible to disagree. It's just that some days, certain sound bites resonate less. Some days, they sound like empty words with no real meaning to them.

The team comes first, yet the team took four hits in the same exact manner in De Rossi's absence. The team comes first, and in one sense it certainly did: we, the fans in last place bear the brunt of Sunday's sisyphean task. The team comes first, which is why De Rossi was dropped for arriving three minutes late to what must have been the world's most fascinating meeting in the recorded history of events, since whatever meeting I have ever been to in my life involves at least five minutes of people settling down and platitudes served up at breakneck speed. The team cannot tolerate missing a single minute of the meeting, so the team robbed itself of its greatest player, the sole dam built to withstand a deluge running through Roma's central midfield and defense since August of last year.

I don't think I would have minded as much if we weren't served up such misleading explanations for DDR's exclusion. That he was sent to the stands because "he wasn't ready" is certainly a gross exaggeration which seems to misrepresent events, for unknown reasons. Normally, you want the lie--or let's play nice and say your own version of events--to be serving a purpose, and not be actually worse than the truth. If De Rossi was late and there are rules against that, that's one thing. That is harsh, but acceptable. But it doesn't mean he wasn't ready to play. Luis Enrique said he was ready at 7 AM, which is cool and all, but it's a statement that just makes me wonder what he spent all of Sunday morning doing. Because it sure as hell wasn't working on a way to avoid a beat down by Atalanta. A beat down delivered by way of four identical blows, mind you. So maybe he wasn't so ready after all, nor does he seem to be anytime soon considering this game was lost in the same way the first games of the season were lost.
            Another troublesome aspect of the suspension is that it is placing punching a teammate on the same level as being late three minutes. I argued in the past that the club handled the punch-up post-Udinese well and with aplomb, but this seems almost draconian in nature. If De Rossi had a history of misbehaving (nothing we know now supports that theory), if he did this routinely (nothing suggests that either), if we didn't know him to be one of the few to set examples by his actions (we do know this), perhaps the punishment was apt. But by placing it on the same scale as punching a teammate, and handing it out to De Rossi of all people, it feels almost indulgent. I reserve the right to withdraw my disagreement with the club's decision if it turns out that De Rossi is a serial offender, or that his offense was graver than we have been led to believe so far. But until such information is revealed: wouldn't a public berating of his lack of respect be enough? A heavy fine would be met with no protests at all. De Rossi is an intelligent man, and on the off-chance that he was deliberately late would likely have responded just as well to having his behind handed to him verbally. This isn't because De Rossi is De Rossi, and stars and captains should be exempt; it's about De Rossi having shown in the past that it likely wasn't about a primadonna being indifferent to the job at hand.

Ironically, by sending out the statement that punching a teammate and arriving three minutes late are one and the same there's a risk respect for the rules are lost, not strengthened. I have seen nothing in life to dissuade me from the notion that in order for rules to be effective, they must be understood. And for them to be understood, they need to be treated separately, in a manner befitting them. This isn't to say that I disagree with the club's objective of trying to force a change of culture to a city that football-wise needs it, and I don't disagree with trying to rise above the laments and childlike accusation the striped directors, coaches and fans reveled in on Saturday. But like playing a high defensive line with little effort to put opposing in attackers in offside, perhaps there's ground somewhere in the outer edges of the gray which is more effective than the black or white of fundamentalism?

A small aside (not entirely unrelated), as I have been too grief-struck by the development to properly put my thoughts into writing earlier: Roma used to have a number 7 playing for the club who was pretty good. But since the team comes first, now we have a not so good number 7 playing for the club instead. Midweek, Pizarro laid two decisive blows to last year's winners of the Europa League in that same competition; on the weekend, Marquino went into Gerrard Lite™ mode (that's all of the brainless decisions, none of the...none of the...actually, we'll get back to you on that one), and had his slider for long shots set on "No diggity no doubt", when it should have been set to "You try that one more time and I'm replacing you with one of the coaches, no one would know the difference anyway". But since the team comes first, I guess we're better off regardless.