Mamma Mia

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.