A SEASON WITH VERONA: Travels Around Italy in Search of Illusion, National Character, and... Goals!
Parks (Italian Neighbors; Tongues of Flame) sets a daunting task of analyzing the life and mindset of a soccer fan in the wake of Nick Hornby's runaway hit, Fever Pitch, which is to many one of the finer books on soccer. He takes the reader on a tour of Italy, supporting his adopted home team of Hellas Verona through a season in Serie A. Parks in part sets out to examine the Italian national consciousness through the lens of Verona supporters. "The north-east of Italy, Verona in particular, is stigmatized as irretrievably racist. It is also considered bigoted, workaholic, uncultured, crude and gross." Hellas Verona have prided themselves on never having a black player on the pitch (until recently). Their fans shout monkey chants whenever an opposing black player touches the ball. It's a disgraceful part of soccer behavior that is well worth exploring, and this is when Parks is at his best. "I suggest... that the frequent talk about 'defeating' racism on the terraces is a mistake. The word 'defeat' only provokes the hardliners. They don't come to the stadium to think of themselves as defeated." When he applies his social criticism, he is able to engage on many levels, but when Parks gets caught up in play-by-play analysis he loses focus and his story. He travels with the team's fans in old creaky buses, singing songs and drinking beer. Parks's fanaticism toward lowly Hellas Verona is not unique, and the supporters are not the worst of Italy. Parks's prose often sings with the bravado of the terraces, but the result is at best a draw. (June)