Monday, June 24, 2013

How to Raise a Milanista

Typically on this blog, I insist that everyone is a fan in their own right, so regardless of our experiences or efforts, we are all on a level playing field. But there is one area that I can claim a bit of expertise in, and that is how to raise a Milanista. Despite making the tragic mistake of marrying a Juventino, I am proud to say that our two children are both Milanisti. It took a lot of work and careful nurturing, as well as faith and trust, but I have triumphed over evil, and lived to tell the story. So, while I hope most of you have childrearing duties well ahead of you, I thought I should impart my wisdom to you now so that you are prepared when the time comes.

Some things were just meant to be

Most people believe that your child will automatically choose your club. This is a fool’s logic. Despite the fact that you may bleed red and black, Milan blood is not necessarily genetic. So you should start praying now that your spawn are not born with Interista blood. Likewise, dressing your baby in Milan clothes does not guarantee they will grow up wanting the red and black. After all, don’t you remember how your parents dressed you as a child? Enough said. (But still dress them in Milan outfits if you like, because they are freaking adorable. And take lots of pictures. That way they will either proudly show them off when they are grown Milanisti, or you can use the pictures to blackmail them should they turn out to be a bad seed.)

Dressing up as a Milanista is working out for Riccardo Saponara, shown here

Teach Them Well
Children are like sponges. So you want to take advantage of this time to teach them all that you can about Milan. But it needs to at least appear to be fair and balanced. Particularly if you’ve made the same tragic mistake that I have, it is important to instill in them respect for the other parent’s club, and all other clubs, really. Well, except Inter. Obviously, it is important to teach them good and evil from birth.  But Milan will naturally dominate your conversations, and as a Milanista yourself, it will naturally be passionate conversation, win or lose. But by not calling daddy’s team, say “Gobbi” or “Rubentus,” they will develop a healthy respect for Juventus and other teams, too. Which means that if for any reason this backfires on you, you won’t hear them calling Milan disrespectful names, either. This holds true even for Inter, as I have always maintained that to call them “me**a” is an insult to the me**a. Show respect and you’ll be given respect, a lifelong respect that may just coax the red and black into their veins.

But of course the most important part of a Milanista’s education will come from watching Milan play. Watch the games with them – don’t force them, but make them such a part of your life that your children will be drawn to the TV on their own. Keep in mind their short attention spans, and also save the games and watch highlights together. Teach them the names of the players and bring them to life for them. Some people tell their children bedtime stories, you tell them Milan stories. Like when the evil Inter tried to take Milan’s Scudetto and the knights of the red and black fought valiantly to win it back. Never miss a learning opportunity, like teaching them the words to Inno Milan as you drive in the car, or pointing out red and black colors everywhere, such as red and black clothing while you shop. Always let them choose, but make sure the Milan choice is always offered. If you can take them to the San Siro for a game, it will be lifechanging, but in all honesty, it will be the little things that will test their bloodline and see if they truly are Milanisti.

Boys and girls experience Milan differently

Gender Differences
Always be aware of the gender differences and individual preferences of your children. A boy will be drawn to the sport, the heroic plays, and the competition. A girl will be drawn to the colors, the story behind the players, and the history. The boy is more likely to sit and watch the games with you, whereas the girl will like the ceremony and the news and stories about the players. Both will love seeing the youth team players, the first team players as children, or seeing the players’ children, as they can relate better to them. Just follow your child’s lead and remember to never force Milan on them, but always have it available to them.

Faith and Trust
If you are doing all you can, showing your passion every day and inspiring them with your love of the rossoneri, eventually, you will have to test fate. You must let them choose their own team. You know that saying that if you love something set it free, if it comes back to you it is yours, if it doesn’t, it never was? That saying couldn’t be more appropriate than in this situation. Remember that everyone has their own team’s blood running through their veins. Some things just can’t be helped. And if you’ve respectfully taught them to appreciate the other teams (except Inter, of course,) then that respect will be returned, even if the red and black blood is not. But chances are good that your careful and watchful nurturing will pay dividends. For even those who cannot feel the colors in their blood can choose a team, and even if they fall out of favor with you, chances are still good that they will hold Milan in their hearts, because it is familiar, it is what they know, it is home. And if you put your faith and trust in them, they will nearly always come home.

Give them heroes, make Milan your family

Milan will always be home. Despite what is going on at the club, Milan have always been a family. So make Milan part of your family, too. If you have a spouse who supports another club, don’t fight it, but take advantage of every opportunity to bring Milan into your home. When you play football at the park, pretend to be your favorite Milan players. The opponents should always be Inter. When something goes well, tie it into a Milan victory or trophy. When something bad happens, always blame Inter. Unless, of course, you’ve married an Interista, in which case you should only do this behind their back. (And shame on you for making an even worse choice than me.) Talk Milan at the dinner table, and even when you are away from TV or the internet, tie Milan into everything you can. Let them see you cheer Milan, let them see your Milan tears. Your emotions give them emotions, and they will feel what you feel. Milan will become synonymous with family for them, a part of their hearts forever.

You would think that cramming Milan down their throats is the way to raise a Milanista. But it’s not. And teaching them a healthy rivalry is much more productive than teaching them childish insults and hatred. A healthy rivalry will also never come back to bite you in the butt. Including Milan in your daily life will naturally pique their curiosity, but be careful not to overdo it. Follow their lead and have faith and trust that your love of Milan will naturally become their love of Milan if it is not forced. At the end of the day, unintentional indoctrination is far more powerful than intentional indoctrination. So just be yourself. Your red-and-black-loving, passionate, Milanista self. With a little luck, your child will naturally follow.

This post inspired by the music of “Inno Milan”