Italian Sports: From Racing to Soccer to Basketball and Back
Not Just Soccer Fans
Italians don't live exclusively for soccer. It's more of a 360 degrees love for sports in general and even though the soccer ball remains the highest in the hit parade of our national desires, there is a good number of sports t hat still represent a traditional importance for all Italians. These professional activities have contributed building the history of our land just as much as soccer has. We won't be able to list all the of the games that have made this country great, especially if the little space given doesn't begin to grasp the vicinity of such a vast sight of traditionally popular Italian sports; but a well detailed analysis is definitely due for review for some of them. There will be a time and place, in this case many more reports to follow...
Right next to soccer, it is not an exaggeration to place basketball as the likeliest competitor for the title of most important agonistic vice for us Italians. Obviously too fresh of a sport do be even compared to the universe of NBA, the truest Olympus of American Basketball. The 'European red ball' has recently, without any doubt, felt the presence of a strong Italian group alongside countries like Ex Yugoslavia, the ex Russian Republics such as Latvia and Lithuania and naturally nations traditionally very capable in this sport - Greece and Spain in particular. Italian Basketball has recently changed connotations with the new arrival in NBA - Italian Serie A for Americans, of Andrea Bargnani (Andrea the giant for everyone else), roman and ex star of Benetton Treviso. Recently becoming also one in the Toronto Raptors roaster and notably changing the American point of view regarding Italian capabilities in this discipline.
Nando Gentile and Rusconi were only able to graze the NBA dream, while the most important signal came a few years ago when the Argentinean Ginobili signed for the San Antonio Spurs. It may seem absurd to mention Ginobili because he is not Italian but both his career and life have been significantly shaped by the 'Boot'...but let's talk about Bargnani who will most likely win the award for Rookie of the Year. In Toronto he plays around 20 minutes a game and has a consistent high scoring average. Many Canadian fans already love him and spell out his name at every game.
A variety of sports could be mentioned right after basketball but one that deserves that spot right now is definitely cycling. Cycling means history - it is a piece of Italian life. It is enough to mention legends such as Coppi and Bartali, their duels, their victories to refresh our memory. Coppi and Bartali have represented an entire generation of cyclists and still today are the symbol of a cycling not yet ready for extinction. The face of this sport has suffered the loss of champions like Moser (due to age retirement) - maybe the last hero of the 2 wheels. With the tragic death of Pantani, passion for this sport has opened the doors to a brand new era of doping and drugs and leaving slim but substantial hopes that the truest spirit of this competition is yet to perish with him.
A word or two about motors why not. About Ferrari? The 'Rossa' is the symbol of Italy. The shiny red of Maranello represents the authentic dream car, and not just for Italians. With the great Shumacher retiring - victories after victories made the joy of the 'Cavallino' fans for years, we are all left wondering if a true heir sits dormant among the new faces of Formula One today - Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen will sit in the two F2007 race cars hoping to reach such a spot.
Motors also include the two wheels of the invincible Valentino Rossi. Unfortunately last season was the only year the 'doctor' has seen the championship slip by his hands. Rossi is one of those champions history only creates every 50 years - intelligent, passionate, but mostly of amazing talent. He will undoubtedly give us more to cheer for in the future.
In closing it'd be fair to cite tennis. Where have the Italians been? 30 years have passed since Adriano Panatta's Davis Cup victory. A variety of great players, but no true champions. Many blame the Federation, which has been said, stopped believing and investing on young pupils...for the tennis fanatics of our nation, for those who are still hoping of an Italian come back...the Russian Sherapova and the Swiss Federer are still a great watch!