Sunday, May 27, 2007

He Who Doesn't Jump

Milan had just won the game against Liverpool in Athens, becoming the Champion's League's victor. Maurizio and I head down to the area between the Post Office and City Hall, where crowds gather to celebrate. We parked a few blocks away, and began to hear car horns and air horns and when we climbed the steps of the post office building, there was a fair-sized crowd gathered opposite us on the steps of City Hall. Almost without exception, every person was donning the Red and Black of the Milan team. We sat and enjoyed the show.

"...chi non salta, nero, azzurro, e'...e'...chi non salta, nero, azzurro, e'...e'..." Among others, this was the chant that we heard. Let's break this down as it captures the spirit in that piazza well:
CHI NON SALTA: he/she who doesn't jump
NERO: black
E': is

A couple of details to help you understand: if you were chanting this, YOU WERE JUMPING. While black and blue can indicate a bruised, and beat condition, which you might interpret in general terms as the loser of a fight, in this specific, Italian soccer context, 'nero e azzurro' are the jersey colors of the Inter team, the arch-enemy of the Milan team.

So, an accurate translation of this chant is: "If you aren't jumping up and down you belong to the losing enemy!" The chant was accompanied by screaming, whistling, clapping, fireworks, flags, banners, posters, flares, hugging, laughter and of course, jumping. Scooters and motorcycles cruised by, honking horns, drivers standing and engines gunning. Overloaded cars and trucks, too, drove by slowly, people hanging out of windows and yelling and cheering.

While entertaining to watch, I was reminded of the first time I attended an Italian soccer match and the question that we asked as a team afterwards - how do we capture this passion, which lies dormant in the heart of every Italian man, and give it to God?

Nowhere else will you see it here. Businessmen, grandfathers, dance instructors, bankers, college students, grade-school kids, housewives, you name it, they were there showing their excitement, their joy, their loyalty to their team but these same people will go days or weeks or months without letting this passion show. So, one might venture to say it is because of their usually passion-less lives that when the opportunity is afforded them, they express it with extra force. OK, maybe so, but my question is, in all of life's events and activities and moments, what is it about a victory on the soccer field that really brings it out?

I know. Jumping isn't the litmus test to inherit eternal life. It isn't as if God will say someday, "He who doesn't jump, hell-bound is, is." But, it is indicative of the spiritual condition of the people here - calm, calculating, compartmentalized - at all costs avoiding the brutta figura, but somehow, a team from a city 5 hours away wins a soccer match against a British team in a stadium in Greece and all inhibitions are cast aside. Suddenly, the guy who runs the bank is jumping up and down next to the guy growing vegetables for a living. Luxury sports cars are riding side by side with old, beat-up delivery vans, both holding screaming fans inside. Lines are crossed, walls are torn down, if only for a few hours and I simply ask, how?

The flip-side of this is that in this Gospel-saturated land, where the words of the Gospel, while still powerful, fall on desensitized ears, disciple-making is about living with the people and showing them Jesus. So before asking them why they aren't 'jumping for Jesus', I need to be sure I'm not becoming 'he who doesn't jump'...


Josh Furnal said...

nice thoughts. i could hear the ruckus from my house. it is strange to observe a people (of which may not even come from ancona originally) rooting for a team that is ranked in two series above their hometeam and, like you said, 5 hours away. The average italian wouldn't think to drive that far for anything!

with your final thought though, i have gone back and forth on this, and as i type this, i am of the persuasion that this is NOT a "gospel-saturated land" for if it were, we wouldn't be here. i think what your gesturing at is much more along the lines of what C.S. Lewis was gesturing at with the antics of Shift the Ape and Puzzle the Donkey posing as TASHlan, or in this case, as a "gospel-saturated land."

i dunno, what do you think?

Casey Family said...

Right - I'm glad you pointed that out. For sake of room (as it is, a LONG post), I didn't go into detail nor try to define Gospel-saturated land. I agree, if the land were saturated with the Gospel in the way it SHOULD be, we would see holier lives, faith lived out, justice being done more than we do now, etc. However, I was trying to capture the daily reality that crucifixes are everywhere and 9 out of 10 people you meet on the street have been through catechism and have heard the Gospel indications of its saturation... Perhaps 'religion saturated culture' or 'tradition-saturated culture' would be more accurate? jp

Brian said...

I hope that soon a chant like this one will be something that I will be able to understand. When I read it I really didn't have the slightest clue what it was talking about. Glad you translated it for us!

Sigh … Italian can be such an expressive language, but at the same time seem like a secret code that you have to be on the inside to understand.