Bonjourno, Yanks and Yankettes. Guess whose back? Apologies for the two week layoff, but I have been out of the country generally kicking ass. That’s right, Puck took his foul-mouthed, USMNT loving, beard growing self overseas to see what life is like in the land of meatballs and Cannoli. In truth, I was attending the 21st international conference for the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC ) in Milan. For those of you that are thinking, “What a bunch of Nerds!” you are exactly right. Picture any Revenge of the Nerds movie, but take away the Alphas kicking ass and the happy ending where the Nerds land all the hot coeds. Lame, you say? I know it is, but it is also necessary for my chosen career path. After the conference, I got some time to backpack Italy and see some places I did not get a chance to during my last visit. While some of the places I went were truly amazing, this is not Rick Steve’s travel blog, and you clearly do not want to read about it. However, I did have some wonderful experiences meeting Italians from all over and talking about soccer. Hopefully you will enjoy these three short tales.
Rocking my JFT USMNT Away Jersey in the Streets
Many travelers will tell you that you should not go out of your way to identify yourself as an American when traveling overseas. Some jackleg backpackers from the States even go as far as to sow Canadian Flag patches onto their backpacks. That’s unpatriotic and it is cowardly. Instead, just be decent to people and don’t disrespect others and you’ll be fine. The basic guiding rule is that you should not act like a completely idiotic Giuseppe Rossi when in a foreign country; it does not really matter where you are from. With this belief, I had no problem rocking the USMNT kit when drinking at Italian bars. The reaction was just what I expected: most Italians paid no attention to me and we just sat across the bar from one another pounding Peroni’s.
The Italians I did get the chance to talk to tried to quiz me about soccer in some attempt to prove that I was just an ignorant American wearing the kit because it (or soccer) was the “European” thing to do, not because I actually cared about the squad. In each case these barkeeps or patrons were shocked to see the depth of my soccer (and USMNT) knowledge. Nearly every time, just because controversy makes better conversation, I started responding to the inquisition with my recollection of Roberto Baggio putting one over the goalpost in 1994. For the most part, this went well. I then quickly busted their balls about De Rossi’s criminal elbow to Brian McBride’s skull in the 2006 draw. They were quick to remind me that they won that World Cup. And finally, I vented to them about how much all American soccer fans hate that Giuseppe Rossi, Giuseppe Rossi. Of course they would laugh, and tell me they were lucky to have him and could not imagine how USMNT fans could deal with the Benedict Arnold. After hearing enough of this shit, I asked them about the Italian performance in the 2010 World Cup, effectively ending the conversation.
Making Fun of Mario Balotelli
Anyone who reads this blog is well aware that I am a huge Man City fan. Watching them bring home a trophy for the first time in what seems like forever was a very gratifying experience. It would have been truly amazing if Carlos Tevez was able to find the back of the net, but either way, it was a great feeling. Why do I bring this up? Well, the man of the match for the FA Cup final was professional pain in the ass Mario Balotelli. Even as a huge Man City Fan, I really cannot stand Balotelli. He is a completely insufferable jackleg. His soccer talent is unquestionable, but I want someone to superglue his damn lips together so I never have to hear him bitch and complain ever again. Let’s just say that if he left Man City, I would not be disappointed.
Anyway, during my time in Italy I spent a lot of time looking around soccer stores and shops searching for jerseys. In each store I made it a point to see if they had any Manchester City gear. I was hoping to come back with some cheap knockoff versions of a couple players. Unfortunately, this being Italy each store had only one type of Man City Kit: the jackwagon himself Balotelli. Every time I asked a shopkeeper if he or she had any Man City Jerseys, out came Balotelli garbage. The very site of Bibbo’s shirt makes me uncomfortable, but this did have one upside: it allowed me to consistently inform the storekeeper or employee that they should: “Put that shit away, what a lazy bum! I hate that guy.” The good news? They can’t stand the guy either!! One shop owner was so pleased with me we took a couple shots of some Italian Liquor to celebrate our dual hatred. The unquestionable moral of this story is that everyone hates Mario Balotelli, me, Italians, even his mom.
Gooch Vs. Zlatan Ibrahimović
Like I previously mentioned, I spent a lot of time in soccer stores looking to buy jerseys. Milan, just like any other large and sports crazed city, had officially licensed product stores all over the city. I must have seen one of these for either AC or Inter every couple blocks. After a couple days I was determined to stop in each AC store and see if they happened to have any old Gooch jerseys sitting around in a storage closet or something. I knew the deck was stacked against me, but I figured I’d give it a shot regardless. In each of the first 5 stores I stopped in, no dice. Of course they did not want me to leave without buying something, so they all tried to sell me an Ibra jersey. Each time I declined saying I was not a fan. On the way back to my hotel, I tried one final store. Of course they did not have a Gooch kit, and again they tried to sell me an Ibra jersey. Tired of this bullshit, I said to the attendant: “Yeah I will buy one of those. You got one that says, his name on the back, with I got my ass kicked by Gooch on the front? Or how about Ibrahimovic is a C-Ron?” He was less than amused and I was quickly and forcibly removed from the store by security. Moral? There isn’t one, except that while folks know enjoy having a bit of fun with Gooch; he is still my homeboy.
Gold Cup starts this weekend people, “let’s put the women and children to bed and go searching for dinner.”
PUCK’s FREE ADVICE
While in Italy, I saw one of the most absurd things ever at nearly each bar I visited. I am sure this happens in American bars and pubs, but I must have missed it. If you are going to be showing music videos on each of the bar’s flat screens, under no circumstance should the audio coming from the speakers be a different song. All that confusion is going to give someone a seizure.
It’s time for me to catch a plan for my Richmond 5-Year Reunion. I can’t wait for those awkward moments when people come say hello to me and I have no idea who the hell they are.
Sorry for partying.
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