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"USA Ha una Squadra Brava"

My friend and colleague Richard Boyd, who is on vacation in his wife's hometown in Northern Italy, sent this to me a few days ago:

Given their obvious passion for soccer, or, as they call it, calcio, the Italians are surprisingly good sports. When strangers learn we are American they go out of their way to approach my brother and I and extend their heartfelt condolences over the US team's elimination at the hands of Ghana. We search their eyes for signs of insincerity or mockery, but it isn't there. USA ha una squadra brava, they say with an appropriately bereaved look, hoping sincerely to relieve some of the deep anguish which we must surely be feeling. From their expressions you would think that the whole team had gone down in the Alps in a fiery ball of twisted aircraft metal.

The first to extend this courtesy was my wife's Uncle Tino (short for Benedettino which means 'little blessing', which is in turn short for Benedetto, like the Pope). My brother and I received his double hand shake and fervent eyes with confused looks. Then we tried to reassure him. We shrugged and said "Just isn't our sport. Not a problem. No, really." We learned quickly that this was not the appropriate response. To Italians this sounds too much like denial and can, in some cases, be construed as an insult to Italians and soccer fans everywhere. So now we immediately adopt hang dog expressions, shake their hands and thank them for their largesse, their kindness in our hour of need and their empathy with our pain. Then we say Va Italia and they are touched by our selflessness.


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Hahah, that's great!

Oh, and have a great holiday, Frank. We've got my niece and her friend in from Australia this week and are running about DC on a touring frenzy.

It's neat to see them taking it all in. My niece's friend has never been to the states, and at 15-16, they can appreciate much of what DC has to offer.

In any event, thanks for the story from Richard and have a great holiday 4th!

I'm sure you're having fun taking people around DC, especially someone from Australia. I tell foreigners that if they want to truly understand Americans, they have to visit the Lincoln Memorial. We think of Washington as the father of our country; of Jefferson as our most brilliant president; of Roosevelt as he who led us out of the Depression and to victory in World War II... but Lincoln is different. We go to his memorial and we're emotional in a way that we aren't about any other president.

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