Monday, July 9, 2007

Er Santo di Roma

I was asking myself the other day why these idiots in North America fawn over celebrities so much. Why are dozens of magazines devoted to revealing the most intimate details of people we will never meet? Why do we even care? Why are these people worshipped like living gods? None of the answers I came up with made any sense to me, so if you have an opinion here, I would love to hear it. Anyways, I thought to myself, "how can I be a part of this crazy North America that turns heiresses into idols, and singers into saints?" Seeing as I am above all this petty celeb-worship, I decided that my peers are idiots, and I am the only sane person around. I mean, I'm probably the only person I know who never spent even a second worrying about Princess Diana's life or death...what in God's name does it have to do with me? I felt so superior, that I almost fell over when I realized that I am NOT exempt from idiotic hero fact, I'm just as bad as everyone else. The only difference is that I don't worship actors and singers, but (and I have this in common with most Italians) soccer players.

There is one man in particular who I hold up above all others: Fracesco Totti. Let me try to explain the reverence and awe that is felt for Totti in his home city of Rome. Totti is one of the best soccer players who ever lived, yet despite multi-million dollar offers, he has never played for any team but Roma (which is a second-rate team at best), and refuses to leave no matter what he is offered. He has the mark of the Roman legions, SPQR (senatus publicus quis Romanus) tattooed on his arm, and refuses to speak any Italian whatsoever, using only Roman dialect. Also, he resembles the paintings and statues of Emperors that abound in the city. Finally, Totti is a man of the people. He was born poor, acts like a peasant, and donates exorbitant amounts of money to the poor of Rome, as well as building schools and children's hospitals in Rome.

So, to Romans, who feel (and are) discriminated against by much of the rest of Italy, Totti is something of a hero. He is more Roman than Rome itself, the ideal that all Romans strive for, yet none can achieve. Needless to say, Francesco Totti is worshipped as a God, and even more extremely than any North American could worship an actor. Roman people refer to him as 'the king', but more recently he has taken on the name, The Patron Saint of Rome. People pray both to him, and for him. They swarm him on the streets hoping to touch him and receive his blessing. They throw their children at his feet in the hopes that his touch will bring them eternal luck. In short, Totti is treated the way saints, prophets, and holy men have been treated throughout history...and he is a soccer player.

Here, I could get into a long discussion about why our time worships people we see on TV in the manner that people in the past treated charismatic preachers. I could also get into a long discussion as to why Europeans treat celebrities with less awe than soccer players, while it is the opposite in North America. But, I'm not going to. What I want to stress here is two points. Firstly, although Totti's following may sound much like that of other celebrities, it is actually quite different. His has taken on a spiritual aura. He is simultaneously a hero, and icon, a cause, a man, and a saint, as well as a visual reminder of the past glories of Rome. This is far deeper than the cheap and fickle way in which North Americans idolize singers. Secondly, I realized that even I am not immune to the hero-worship that I was deriding earlier. Just because I revere soccer players rather than singers does not make me all that different (although I like to think that mine is a less tacky cause than Hollywood).

So, I guess you never know what you can learn about yourself, and the world around you when you least suspect it. For now, I'm going to watch some Totti highlights on youtube. Goodnight, and make sure you say a prayer for Er Pupone...may our Lord Francesco Totti watch over us all. Ciao.

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