"There is no sports event like Opening Day of baseball, the sense of beating back the forces of darkness and the National Football League."—George Vecsey
So, here it is, Opening Day. There really is nothing like it, no matter what your sport, or your team.
Everyone starts level on points, everyone's thoughts are of what the season ahead will bring; nobody thinks of losing, relegation, or disaster. Here is your last chance to dream, your last day in denial, the last hiding place.
Tomorrow, everything changes. After the first game, the favourites are decided, the winners and losers, coaches are made or broken, transfers, successes, or failures.
While everyone agrees you don't win the title in the first few weeks, you can certainly lose it. This is particularly true of Serie A, where leads are rarely opened up, even more rarely blown.
"It's a game we've got to win. It's also a game we've not got to lose."—Graham Taylor, former England Manager
The belief of fans of all 20 teams, is there on Opening Day, in a way it never is during the regular season. Fans of Siena, Bologna, and Bari will head to their games against Milan, Fiorentina, and Inter, dreaming that they may spring the surprise story of the first day.
There is always one; a fairytale that carries on that little longer for one team, that dream that starts to come true.
A look at Burnley beating Manchester United in their opening home game of the English Premier League season gives hope to the little guy; it shows that supporting your team against the odds can pay off.
"I began by playing for the biggest club in the Lorraine region, went on to the biggest club in France, and ended up with the biggest in the world."—Michel Platini, Nantes, St Etienne, and Juventus
So we arrive at Juventus, starting the season her fans hope will be "the one." That, finally, Calciopoli and all its ills can be a part of history, rather than still feeling its effects; that Inter can finally be caught, that we can once again bear the Scudetto Shield on our shirts.
The pain of the season in Serie B will never truly leave us until we are champions again, the players who stayed will never feel vindicated until we once again can be the best.
Returning Juventus to their rightful place atop Serie A was a common mantra among those who remained loyal to the shirt, which was the reason Nedved struggled to walk away.
"Juve will always be Juve. There are a number of teams that have a winning spirit built in, and Juventus are one of them."—Emilio Butragueno, Spain
Claudio Ranieri could never understand, he lacked that Spirito Juve that never dies, that can never be explained, but that Ciro Ferrara has in abundance, so too Alessandro Del Piero.
The fans hope Diego and Melo have captured it too, that their Brazilian flare doesn't wilt and die in the ferocious spotlight that comes with the black-and-white shirt.
They hope that Amauri can play a full season in the form he started the last, that Iaquinta can start this term like he finished last, that Trezeguet can recapture his poaching skills, that Cannavaro can play like the "Berlin Wall" we admired so much, that Chiellini can grow into his potential, and that Buffon and Del Piero will be, well, Buffon and Del Piero.
We hope the club have struck the right balance, that a new manager, new formation, and new players can bring a return to the old days of victory and success, of Scudetti and Coppa, a third-star on the shirt, a European Cup in the cabinet.
So here we are, Opening Day, full of hope, dreams, expectations, and willing our team to victory.
"I'm proud to be a "juventino," to be a "bandiera," like you define me to be often. In reality, I'm just a small part of a big black and white "bandiera" (flag) that grows with the years, and if you look closely, your name is part of it...To continue making this "bandiera" grow we need everybody. Let's stay united."—Alessandro Del Piero
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