desire to be so honest and just to those who have so enthusiastically and earnestly welcomed me, that I burned the last post on Mario Balotelli I wrote to you—even to you to whom I would speak as to myself—rather than let it come with anything that might seem like an ill-considered word of disappointment. I preferred that you should think me neglectful (if you could imagine anything so wild) rather than I should do wrong in this respect. But it is not so much this decision to which I am anxious to call your attention, as this:—
I learned this morning on my way to New York, with such hussle on the Path Line to make any cheerful celebration unwise, that, by crossing the yardstick of 10,673 visitors in its second month of activity, this site is now in a state most favorable and advantageous to the best influence Catch-22 could possibly exert upon the blogosphere.
We are getting, as it seems, among bigger and wider [sentence continues on left-hand side] halls, but the audiences are immense. Baseball here and in Philadelphia (not for the first time) bowled soccer clean over. Having only mortal powers of digestion, I knew only one body of readers at St. Louis—a decadent town in the Mid West, on the confines of a formerly Indian territory, that would corrupt a Nunnery in a fortnight—and then I thought of myself, once I moved Eastward, as a footballing story-weaver. So was Our Mutual Friend; so was No Thoroughfare. Under which equitable circumstances, I doubt Mr. Pickwick himself would be putting in an appearance. It is impossible to tell what a reception I have had among these page-viewers. People within my family send me a certain number of affectionate greeting—I only wish to God that you could see it—while other members of our community put my pieces into a folder of weird anecdotes, like scratches and marks in a book, at greater and greater length from the velvet curtain of their interest.
Most ardently, however, starts the day after tomorrow. Up now [displayed passage begins here], the halfprice is coming in—now they’re calling for Catch-22. The early fall birds, Mr. Pickwick, do sing in the Twitter groves. Are you quite sure that you do not view the press through the pleasant mirage of a eigtheenth-century coffee house? Are the birds to be trusted? Again I pause for a reply.
n several occasions, Mario Balotelli has made a very repulsive exhibition of himself. He has used the most horrible language, beer cellars, and knives. He induced a Jemima Hiscock, at home, and a Mary Joynes (!) to drink the beer with him; and those young ladies were not only drunk, but stupidly and drowsily. And I want to interpose something between their wrath and Mario, impetuous as he willfully appears.
I am a Balotelli Reformer heart and soul. I have nothing to gain—everything to lose (for public quiet is my bread, my family’s solace)—but I am in desperate earnest, because I know it is a desperate case. There is not a throat in Britain, where Balotelli’s lies and glozings and shortcomings, stick more intolerably than in mine. And, as a general principle, I have no such thing as patriotism about fellow countrymen from Italy. (Britain and Britons, as I am informed, never never never will be slaves of an Italian striker!) But my sentiment is:— Success to the United States as a golden campaigning ground, but blow the English Premier League to ’tarnal smash, as a footballer’s place of residence. Gentlemen, are you all charged?
Still it is of no use. My father infinitely preferred a liberal Monarchy of soccer—even with its sickening accompaniments of Court Circulars, and Kings of Prussia—to the Republic of my childhood imagination. In every respect but that of national education, Italy and its press would have disappointed him. The more I think of its youth and strength, the poorer and more trifling in a thousand respects, it appears in my eyes. In everything of which it has made a soccer boast—from the poster of the “heroes” published by the Gazzetta dello Sport, to the ominous, mind-numbing wordplay of Tuttosport—it sinks immeasurably below the level I had placed it upon. Strike down the established churches, and I would reject without a pang or moment’s hesitation the front pages of Corriere dello Sport, where miserable headlines, bad and faulty as the old land is (‘Lazio—the choice,’ ‘Roma—the admonition,’ ‘Milan—the certainty’) rise daily for comparison among abundant breasts and fancy motorcycles. For all my regard to the rational freedom of men, I would not condemn you to a year’s residence on that side of the Atlantic, for any money. Freedom of opinion! Where is it? I see a press more mean and paltry and silly and disgraceful than any country ever knew—slave upholders and abolitionists, Tories and Whigs, showering down through ink and black saliva a perfect cataract of abuse.
Now to our serious subject, Mario Balotelli.
After speaking of the struggle which, he says, he feels must occur with the Bad Spirit, he adds this to his coach:
“Do not think me very foolish in again requesting, Roberto, not to sleep in my villa after the shopping to St. Trinita di Monti. Although I am so much better, I cannot yet bring myself to believe all I heard and saw there, was a fevered dream of fireworks. And without, as yet, being able to explain to myself the reason, I dread my going there, without you. I trust I shall soon be able to tell you what has left so remarkable an impression, but as yet I find it impossible. May Heaven and my friends from Brescia preserve me from passing another such day and night as I did then!”
I will finish this letter after I have sat an hour or two, in a state of nervous excitement, and seen how he is [letter continues on verso, not visible].
even o’clock. Afternoon. Balotelli is greatly better, and has very much surprised the Doctor. He had a casserole of potatoes and a bit of boiled mutton for his dinner, and dispatched them in a twinkling. He made divers overtures in the locker-room (in Mr. Mancini’s absence) concerning a glass of wine—which his teammates didn’t understand; so he went on swallowing water. Appearances greatly improved, and spirits better altogether. It should seem that he changed Manchester City fans from disbelievers into believers. I think he is at least 100 per cent better than he was last season.
As you are interested in Catch-22, I will tell you of harmony and disorder in the most peculiar form, and dispatch very curious pieces of observation in reference to it—a flannel Portmanteau of a story on coaches drawing formations on an iPad and making the sign of the Cross with the holy fluids of Saint Agata, tales of how a German chemist investigated football, or how a Hungarian tactician really overdid the thing. Pursuing soccer’s magnetic power, being near to it and with it, I believe that I can shiver my pamphlets like glass, imploring the international copyright before the Blade of the Guillotine fall upon my head. When I think of what lies before us, in fact, I have a perfect conviction that I could magnetize a frying-pan. I need not say that you never heard of my name in a book. ♦