This post was guest-blogged by Weston Pagano. Follow him on Twitter (@wpazzurri).
Most of my fellow Juventini friends live in Europe, or at the very least New England, where Italian-Americans are more abundant, and where there are actual professional soccer squads (e.g. New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution). However, near my home in the Deep South, the general population has never heard the word “calcio”, or even watched the FIFA World Cup. My geographical peers are often beguiled and confused by these strange shirts with black & white vertical stripes that I wear.
These are the top 5 (most annoying) comments I have ever gotten, whilst wearing a Juventus jersey.
5. “Oh, so your favorite team is New Holland?”
The jersey I wear the most is my 2008-09 Del Piero home kit, which has the New Holland / Fiat Group sponsors plastered across the front in bright yellow. Naturally, that being the first thing they see, my fellow Americans attempt to strike up a conversation about my supposed neo-Dutch prison athletic team, much to my distress.
Surprisingly, and despite the love for money in my country, shirt sponsors have never caught on. With few exceptions (i.e. NASCAR, the painfully boring, redneck equivalent of Formula One) all major American athletes’ jerseys contain nothing besides the player’s name / number, and the team name / symbol. It is because of this that most people assume New Holland is the name of the team. Other variations include “You play for Flat / Fat Group?”
4. “Are you a referee?”
By far the most common response garnered by my Bianconero attire is referee-related. For those of you that don’t know, the officials in most North American sports wear uniforms similar to that of our beloved Juventus: black & white vertical stripes. While the refereeing outfits more closely resemble the thinner stripes of a 2008-09 Udinese kit, and as much as I hate to give the “no one cares about soccer”-claiming ignorant masses surrounding me any credit, it would be unfair to begrudge them of the connection too harshly.
Still, this is something I have never understood, as it seems to make much more sense to give match officials a solid fluorescent color or plain black, and allow the actual teams some creative freedom in the clothing department. But on this side of the pond it is quite the opposite: most teams opt for a single, boring, solid color on their chests. According to Wikipedia: “The stripes were first introduced in the 1920s, before which plain white shirts were worn. College football referee Lloyd Olds is credited with the idea after a quarterback mistakenly handed the ball to him. The officials are colloquially called “zebras” due to their black-and-white striped shirts”.
Maybe I’m just biased, but all I managed to gather from the article was that not only did American football steal our fashion sense, but also one of our nicknames. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Bastards!!]
3. “What are you, an escaped convict?”
This one elicits a deserved scorn, not associated with the aforementioned referee question. Because unlike its usually serious counterpart, this is one is always a joke. I had a slight laugh the first time, but the obnoxious repetition with which this response is administered now makes it incredibly annoying.
One could argue that a name number and badge could all be found on prison uniforms, yet I highly doubt the people offering this commentary have taken the time to think things through. Not to mention the tradition of striped inmate clothing was ended in the early 20th century in favor of normal work clothes, and eventually the orange scrubs you see today. And even then, the black and white prison stripes were mostly horizontal.
I usually counter this one with something along the lines of “Yes; and I know where you live.”
2. “Can you watch my cart for me while I go out to my car?”
This one is more hilarious than annoying. I may have only gotten it only once, but the sheer ridiculousness makes it rank quite high. One day I was roaming about in my local Ingles (American grocery store common in the South-East) when a middle-aged white woman approached me. She put her hand on my chest and shoulders and said in a soft but commanding voice,
“Can you watch my cart for me while I go out to my car?”
I gave her a funny look and replied, “I don’t work here…”, to which she countered “Oh? I thought I saw a name tag”.
I looked down at myself and mentally facepalmed. “Nope; this is a soccer jersey” I informed the woman, and slowly backed away.
What makes this all the more absurd is the Ingles uniform itself: a solid green apron. Where is the connection? I still don’t understand. This little encounter led to countless jokes about my alleged secret grocering career. My friend Jacob (who you may remember from my other guest post) and I went back to the store a few times after that, with our matching jerseys and the (still un-autographed at the time) Juventus flag-turned-cape, in the hopes of finding the lady again. We were unsuccessful.
1. “Hey, who is Del Pahy Roh?”
…and the WRONG way!
Repeat after me: DEL-PJEH-RO!!!
What began as a mildly acceptable accidental butchering of Italian pronunciation soon descended into my new nickname sometime during middle school. Thankfully it has died down for the most part by now. My own last name, Pagano, is Italian, and is verbally destroyed on an almost daily basis despite it being, I think, quite simple and phonetically obvious.
Because of this I already have a depleted patience for this sort of thing, making “Hey, who is Del Pahy Roh?” the #1 most annoying comment I get whilst wearing a Juventus jersey in my South Carolinian home town.
Special thanks to Weston’s friend and professional photographer Zorah Olivia, for photographing Weston’s “facepalm” moment.