By Danielle McCartan (@CoachMcCartan)
BERGEN COUNTY, NJ- Ottobre: il mese per celebrare i contribuiti degli italo-americani. What better way to celebrate Italian Heritage Month than hearing from current Tennessee Titans’ tight end Anthony Fasano, former New York Yankees catcher Rick Cerone, and Jessie James Decker (wife of New York Jets WR Eric Decker)? I asked the Italian-Americans tough questions about their heritage and about their respective teams and careers (click the links to view/download the full interviews).
LEZIONE 1: La Lingua Italiana
Mangia! Come on, everyone knows that is Italian for “eat”! Beyond that, however, the Italian language seems to have been lost in recent generations. This loss of heritage is a serious issue within the Italian-American community. Take it from Cerone, whose last name is mispronounced every, single time it is said:
In fact, his last name is pronounced “Cher-o-ne”, not the commonly mispronounced “Ser-one”. Next time you see a word starting with ‘ce-‘ or ending in ‘-one’, remember Jersey boy Cerone’s pronunciation lesson.
Country singer Jessie James Decker, born in Italy, fares a little better than Cerone. She, like Cerone, not only understands my question, but can respond with a full Italian sentence… almost. She, apologetic when I asked, was born in Vicenza, not New Jersey, let’s give her a break.
LEZIONE 2: La Cucina Italiana
Le Tagliatelle al pomodoro, gli gnocchi al pesto, gli spaghetti bolognese, la pizza napoletana, gli arancini, il tiramisù, il gelato… capisci? Everyone, and I mean everyone, loves Italian food. With each region specializing in its own typical dish, there is something for everyone. L’italiana, Jessie James Decker tells me about her cooking prowess:
LEZIONE 3: Il bel paese d’italia
Whether it is skiing in the Italian alps, swimming in the Adriatic Sea, or picking the famous oranges in Sicily, there is something for everyone in Italy. There is something special and nostalgic about, as an Italian-American, returning to the motherland. Former Yankee catcher Cerone explains his trips to il nostro paese:
In its rich history, Italy (especially its islands) has been inhabited by many people: the Etruscans, the Byzantines, the Normans, etc. They have left their legacies on the nation in many different ways. For example, Sicilian dialect, drawing from each language of the conquering people, is complete different than the “standard Italian” language. Sicilian people even specify that they are “Sicilian, not Italian”. Jessie James Decker is one of those people, reiterating the difference to me:
LEZIONE 4: Le Canzoni Italiani
Not only is Italy synonymous with world class cuisine, it is also known for its famous music. The Italians invented opera music around 1600 and have dominated the international music scene ever since. From Giuseppe Verdi to Il Volo, there is not a person in this world that does not know an Italian song, especially with the emergence of the Italian-American Rat Pack singers in the 1960s. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop crooned Italian classics throughout their careers. Watch as Titans’ TE Anthony Fasano tackles 3 Italian classics in “Athlete Karaoke”, including a 1953 Dean Martin rendition of “That’s Amore”:
LEZIONE 5: LE PAROLACCE
Growing up in an Italian household, chances are, you have heard some of the most colorful Italian swear words ever created. Standard Italian or dialect, you probably did not even know what they even meant, but you knew they were serious – especially when said accompanied by a brandishing of a wooden spoon. For this lesson, I’ll turn it over to Cerone:
mannaggia – damn/cursing (male ne aggia/male ne abbia) [MAA-NAA-juh]
So, it is October, Italian heritage month. Whether you are of Italian descent or not, my advice? As evidenced by Fasano, Cerone, and Decker above: Learn a couple Italian words, sing an Italian song, cook an Italian dish, or take a Google Earth trip through the country. In bocca al lupo!
To download any of these interviews, visit my Soundcloud
or “take it to go” on iOS from my official iTunes podcast.