I'm a bit groggy today. I stayed up til the blessed hour of 4:18 a.m. to watch i giganti, The NY Giants, win an overtime thriller last night/this morning against the Green Bay Packers. The NFL's muddle-headed policy of scheduling early evening games in the U.S. all but kills any potential to draw new fans in more distant time zones. Not wise when you are trying to cultivate an international following. Don't send us two grumbling teams to play in the mud in London. Just schedule some meaningful games at an hour where a greater percentage of the planet can follow along.
Case in point: a few weeks ago, for the Giants-Bucs game, Stefano and Luca joined me at a local pub around 8 p.m. Despite the foreignness of the game, they seemed fixed on the action. (Luca, by halftime, was asking me technical questions about the difference between NFL and rugby infractions. I made something up. All I know about the infractions in rugby is that you are to address the referee as "sir" or risk getting a few more yards tacked off against you.) After the game, energized by witnessing their first Giants victory, they wanted to know when the next one was. When I told them the kickoff would be 12:45 a.m., they simply responded "ciao. Tell us how it goes."
So how does a Giants fan in a strange land get his game day fix? The answer, as always: Rupert Murdoch. His Sky Italia pay TV service carries NFL games. Perfect, I thought. I'll splurge. I ordered a month of Sky and prepared to watch my Giganti play in frozen Wisconsin Monday morning. When I flipped on the channel I saw the normal Fox broadcast, but muted. Instead, we had two excitable Italians giving play-by-play from some studio somewhere. I grumbled. Call me a spoiled American, but I don't want to see NFL games dubbed into Italian. It's just not right. Xtina, who only gets excited about cartoons and political talk shows, brightened. It will be good for your vocabulary, she said.
Sacked by my polyglot wife.
But she was right in the end. Soon I was getting into the televised coverage, even if it felt as if these guys were calling the play-by-play of a completely different sport, or perhaps a gun battle in Fallujah. It certainly wasn't football - American or otherwise. They would get terribly excited anytime there was any type of ball movement whatsoever. Think John Madden. After a double espresso. Under heavy enemy fire. In tone, one-yard gains sounded like Hail Mary bombs. Down field passes were DOWN FIELD PASSES to BO-rrrrrrress. Long running plays were flowing with detail. Bradshaw's run went something like this:
Brad-SHOW prende la palla. (Bradshaw takes the ball)
Brad-SHOW cerche per blocchi. (Bradshaw looks for blocks)
Brad-SHOW cerche per LA LUCE. (Bradshaw looks for the light)
Brad-SHOW AVANZA! (Bradshaw advances)
then it gets interesting... The more jaded American announcer might skip a few yards on a long run, maybe counting off every ten. Not in Italy.
we then hear:
BRAD-SHOW. SULLA 40. SULLA 38. sulla 35. sulla 30. sulla 25. SULLA 20. SULLA 15.... and on until he scored, never once inhaling. The cigarette, no doubt, still glowing.
I was angry with the call, but I felt also as if it was the announcer who was truly robbed on the play. He recovered though. This man and his sidekick, wherever they were doing this play-by-play from (mysteriously, we never saw their faces), were professionals.
They powered on into the early morning hours. The last few minutes of the game was one crescendo after another. By the time Tynes lined up for the overtime field goal attempt, I was emotionally spent. I muted the TV, fearing the call of a winning field goal attempt would wake up the building and require me to explain myself at the next tennant's meeting. The kick sailed through the uprights. I checked my blood pressure, then my watch. 4:18 a.m.
pazzi giganti!, I thought. I have to do this again in two weeks.