Friday, January 10, 2014

The Miracle of Castel di Sangro

Joe McGinniss - The Miracle of Castel di Sangro (soccer history/memoir)

I started this on Tuesday while Sylvie was playing with toy food. It's going to be a fun, quick read. Part fish-out-of-water, part travelogue, it's a pretty simple story so far, and the writing matches it.

Joe McGinniss is an American writer who was completely new to soccer. He has a bestseller that I almost read called The Selling of the President 1968, about the marketing of Nixon - a book I'm interested in reading.

After the World Cup was held in the US in 1994 he fell in love with the sport and decided to chase the story of a team from a tiny town in Italy that against all odds was promoted to the second tier/division of Italian soccer.

(For those new to this: soccer in most parts of the world works in a promotion/relegation pyramid - that is, the best teams move up to higher/better divisions and the worst teams move down at the end of each season.)

It's rather simple for any fan of the game - he actually explains (in just a sentence or two, luckily) how the game of soccer works. But so far it's fun, and I'm a sucker for a story about soccer in small towns in other countries.

I was thinking of what this book might mean, at the heart of it, but I feel like I'm pretentiously searching for something that isn't there. It's a travelogue/cultural immersion sort of book that the food world thrives on.

In the end, there is a seriousness to it that I enjoyed. The first half floats along, painting a picture of a slightly buffoonish fan, stumbling through a world he doesn't really understand, but the second half explores some more difficult issues - death, morality, obsession. And it's worth the trip to get there. 

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