Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pasta, Pasta, Penalties

A couple weeks ago, the New York Times did a piece on the flagging country that is Italy. Minus the world's adoration for their food and unique not-so-modern way of life, the small boot on the Mediterranean Sea needs a kick in the ass.

So as tennis suffers through one of the most embarrassing and far-reaching scandals its ever known, two Italians have been thrust into the spotlight for their involvement.

Potito Starace and Daniele Bracciali are certainly no household names in America, but their involvement in tennis' betting catastrophe has cost the two men a combined $50,000 and nearly five months off the tour. Italian tennis officials call it "injustice."

Welcome, tennis fans, to the new America.

Following their Davis Cup win earlier this month, the Stateside boys have officials lifted themselves out of the cellar of the tennis world. Yes, the cellar. Who cares that there are two top-ten men in Andy Roddick and James Blake, and that the Bryan brothers are arguable the best doubles team on the tour today. America was in a funk.

But now that funk has been passed on, and while many countries could run and catch the flying piece of embarrassing hardware that such a label might be represented by, Italy has taken the new gold medal: king of crap.

The thing is, it shouldn't be this way. As of late, Italy has experienced something of a tennis renaissance. At year's end, five players are in the top 100 (including Starace) and there are 28 Italian in the top 500.

But, as life and sport go, scandal always overrides achievement.

While a country like Russia may suffer from the centerfold of aforementioned scandal (Nicolay Davydenko), the Russians' ability to boast numerous personalities (Safin, Tursonov, etc.) and produce high-quality tennis exempts them from falling to the depths of tennis hell.

So one question comes about: can tennis (and Italy) escape this sea of ugly with lessons learned? Or will accusations continue to be flung in every direction, fingers thrust at chest after chest and "injustice" claimed with each penalty?

It's hard to say. And as for Italy, their poster boy and a journeyman are rank with wrong doing. Maybe a bath in tomato sauce and some of that pasta will wash them clean? But I highly doubt it.

No comments: