Napoli clinched the Scudetto yesterday afternoon with a 1-1 draw away to Udinese. How might you have been able to discern that if you lived in Naples and weren’t watching the match? Definitely had to look closely:
The best ERA+ belongs to who? | Stats that will blow your mind
This is what my house will look like when Mercedes Moné shows up in AEW.
Perhaps the most striking image, the most joy-filled, was the pitch invasion in Udine. Naples is 523 miles away, and most of these people would have only known they needed to make the trip after Sunday when Napoli whiffed on their first attempt to clinch the Italian title. Didn’t seem to matter, as they turned this into a home game anyway:
Napoli’s first Serie A title in 33 years
It has been 33 years since Napoli won Serie A, and it’s hard not to notice that both the club and Argentina took home the big prizes in the past five months, both for the first time since one Diego Maradona was winning those baubles for each. Sure, it’s just a coincidence…but you can’t help but feel that it’s not, can you?
It’s hard to quantify just what this means to Napoli and their supporters, beyond the 33-year wait. As you may know, Italy is kind of a weird country in that it’s still a very young country, and isn’t all that much of a country really. There’s a great divide between North and South. While there are other clubs in the southern half of Italy, at least at times when they haven’t been relegated to Serie B, Napoli are the only “big” club south of Rome and nowhere near the usual monopoly of the north. And don’t think fans from the north of the country don’t let them hear about it. Naples have something of a black sheep attitude, and this success isn’t just about the glory of the football club but also the size and passion of the middle finger to their rivals in the north. Tumescent would only scratch the surface of a description.
As we’ve written before, the beauty of this season’s Napoli isn’t in its permanence. This may be all they get, though their owner was certainly talking big yesterday while he was assuredly very sober. Given the finances of Serie A, the vultures will come for this squad. Victor Osimhen is heavily rumored to be off to Munich or Manchester. They will struggle to turn down the money being tossed at their feet for Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Same goes for Kim Min-jae. It very well may never be like this again.
Which is why Naples will be like this for many days, weeks, and maybe even months to come. Not only did their team win the Scudetto, but they did it with a style and flair that Mick Jagger could only dream of. Their play was art at times, both viscous in its lethalness and sublime in its intricacy. It was basically My Bloody Valentine on a soccer pitch, and if My Bloody Valentine ever wrote a happy song. When you get a once-in-a-lifetime team, you’d better enjoy it. Even if it means burning part, or all, of the city down.
That’s not how this works, Leafs
While a sense of relief from the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans would certainly be understandable after their years-long journey to simply win a playoff round came to an end last week, perhaps they missed the memo that told them it would be OK to keep going. After all, the frustration of the Leafs putting their thumb in their ass at the first possible hurdle for so many straight years wasn’t just the inability to get to four wins but the distance between them and the Cup, which they really should be vying for.
Still waiting on that though, as the Leafs dropped their second straight game at home to the Florida Panthers, 3-2, despite grabbing a 2-0 lead early in the first period. They got goalie’d for sure, with Sergei Bobrovsky making 35 saves, some of them of the fuck you variety.
But once again, the Leafs were made to pay for a defensive corps that simply can’t move and has Tonka toys for hands. The Panthers made life hell for the Bruins with their souped-up forecheck, and the Bs are mobile on the blue line. The Leafs are decidedly not, rostering mushroom goombas like Jake McCabe or TJ Brodie, or the clinically dead Mark Giordano. It causes the Toronto forwards to both start and finish all their breakouts, which doesn’t really allow them to get out on the rush where they’re lethal. While Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews get far too cute in their own zone leading to the Panthers’ winner, it is a fine example of how deep they need to get to help out their utterly buried D:
These playoffs have been extremely weird and rife with road teams winning, and the Leafs had better hope that continues. They’ll need their defensemen to start just immediately firing the puck up the ice, which carries its own risks, but whenever they wait around they’re finding Panthers crawling inside their pads. Losing the second round easily wouldn’t completely erase the joy of finally winning a playoff series for Toronto…but there’s also no other way to finish that sentence.
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