Mamma Mia

On October 22, 2007, in Racing, by peterb

The American conception of Italian masculinity is somewhat out of step with reality. 30 years of Italian-American gangster movies have firmly ensconced the idea of Italian men as sort of irrationally hyper-macho. The truth is a little more prosaic. Any native Italian woman will tell you: Italian men are mama’s boys.

I say this without rancor or intent to insult. It’s not inherently negative, it’s just the simple truth, to the point where the Italian government offers tax breaks to men to move out of their mothers’ houses already.

You see the effect of this in many ways, great and small. One of the most obvious is in the Italian attitude towards sport. In Italy, winning by cheating isn’t just considered acceptable, it’s pretty much par for the course. This gives observers with more British notions of fair play conniption fits. To be perfectly clear, let’s zero in on the difference: the British cheat just as much as the Italians, but they pretend to feel bad when they’re caught. That Italian sports figures don’t bother to do this drives the British newspapers completely insane.

But it makes perfect sense if you put it in context: these are men whose entire strategy for dealing with reality is “make Mom deal with it.” In the sports context, that means “convince the ref.” And if someone other than the ref doesn’t like it, too bad.

Just last week, A.C. Milan goalkeeper Dida took an embarassingly transparent dive, for which he was suspended for two games. Milan, shamelessly, has appealed the suspension. Uffa, mamma!.

Today, Kimi Räikkönen won the Formula 1 drivers’ championship. The constructor’s championship was already gifted to Ferrari earlier this season, by an FIA management that follows a “Ferrari wins at any cost” refereeing policy. Two teams were, apparently, playing fast and loose with the rules, but the stewards decided to not penalize them. McLaren is appealing that decision while claiming to accept that they were beaten, but the point is made: What would have happened if the situation had been reversed?

If those cars needed to be disqualified to ensure a Ferrari win, no one anywhere on the entire planet doubts for a moment that they would have been disqualified.

Thanks, mom.


5 Responses to “Mamma Mia”

  1. Boo! I am in no way convinced the FIA is in any way biased to help Ferrari win. Any argument I’ve seen to the contrary is just a few cherry-picked rulings… if you look at the big picture the FIA appears to be just as arbitrary and capricious as they are with any team (if there is any bias, it’s between Tier1 teams and everyone else.)

  2. Chris C. says:

    When I was in undergrad me and some of my Italian friends would regularly sit around at lunch and play “brisk” (a.k.a. briscola). As far as I can tell, that card game is all about what cheating you think you can get away with. The more blatant the cheat you did not get caught at, the more impressed your friends would be… Dunno if that fits in with “British” sensibilities, but it sure was a hell of a lot of fun!

  3. AndyP says:

    Strangely enough, the World’s press (or at least the non-British part of it) are utterly convinced that there’s been an FIA conspiracy to make Lewis Hamilton champion this year, and that the rules have been bent in his favour.

    Seems they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t. If the cars get disqualified, they get criticised for gifting Lewis with the win. If they don’t get disqualified, they get criticised for gifting Ferrari with the win.

    Fact is this: Raikkonen won six races this year, to Hamilton and Alonso with four each. That makes him as deserving a champion as anyone, doesn’t it? The politics have been an embarrassment to Formula One this year, and I’d be as happy as anyone if Lewis had won it, but I really think we should celebrate the fact it’s been the closest championship in years, rather than start talking about who’s biased in favour of who, or appealling the result after it’s already been handed over.

    (Yeah, that guy who took a dive though… I mean… seriously).

  4. peterb says:

    AndyP: I am in no way suggesting that the FIA should have disqualified the cars and/or gifted the race to Hamilton. Kimi is a fine driver and clearly earned his points. The problem is more systemic, and I think that any dispassionate observer of the FIA’s decisions over the past 5 years would come to the same conclusion (the ridiculous tire war antics from previous years being the most obvious example).

    I’m a Ferrari fan. I’m happy when they win. But as an American, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when they win this way.

  5. Yeesh says:

    This “momma’s boy” thing strikes me as a primary reason Italy isn’t replacing its present population. It’s sort of pathetic to see the heirs to all Italy represents come to that.

    Also, I actually think that in the British inspired fair-play model there is some genuine remorse or shame on the part of those caught. They’re not simply sad they got nicked, they’re sad and ashamed they couldn’t win without resorting to cheating.

    “Fair play” system guys may want to win more than they hate cheating, but they truly feel cheating reflects badly on themselves and their comrades. There’s also a line, never quite defined, across which a little cheating as part of the game simply becomes too much, becomes sort of unmanly and embarassing.

    Those particular pangs have never troubled Italian football on any level. Which is partly why Italy is such an unsatisfying world champion. Not only do they win ugly and boring, they win like whiny momma’s boys. If the US had defeated Italy the way Italy defeated the USA (quite possible in that game), Americans would have had the decency to be a bit sheepish about it, not blustering and arrogant, to name one example close to home.

    And Serie A – why on earth would cheat in order to attain that level of exquisite torpor is beyond me.