On this day 2 years ago, the whole Viola world shuddered to a halt with the news that Davide Astori had died in his sleep in the team hotel the night before a tie at Udinese. Unlike every other era of team history that I can remember, this one was anchored not by a victory or a defeat or a transfer or payer or manager but by a tragedy that struck the city and the sport at their closely-guarded hearts.
Like many of you, it hit me pretty hard. Astori was about my age but exponentially more fit. Part of the astonishment was that someone whose job requires perfect health, who monitored his body more closely than I monitor anything; if he could fail to wake up one morning, what chance does a schlub like me have?
More than that, though, he seemed, for want of a better description, like a really good guy. An obvious introvert, he kept his personal life as private as possible, minimizing his social media presence and rarely venturing outside of the standard cliches when speaking to the press. His actions, though, and the reactions of others to him, made it clear what kind of man he was. When the ultras were upset about the team’s form, he immediately approached the fans and talked with them. When his teammates seemed despondent, he was the one trying to fire them up. When an opponent was down hurt, he was always one of the first to check on him. On those rare, candid occasions when the camera caught up with him, he was always honest and open and entirely himself. In short, he was exactly the sort of person you want as a co-worker, a mentor, a friend, a brother.
My experience with grief is that time and distance don’t eliminate it. It’s a scab that never scars. You don’t know when a song or stranger’s gesture or some subconscious trigger will rip it off, leaving the wound as raw as it’s ever been. Time lessens the frequency of those scab-rippings, but not their intensity.
That’s how it is with Davide Astori for me. Two years and innumerable changes to Fiorentina later, he’s still the guy I expect to see in leading the boys out of the tunnel every week. 13 is still the number I expect to see sweeping up behind the other defenders and dictating play from the back. When it’s not, I still get the same sinking in my gut that I did that morning two years ago.
Ciao, Davide. We still love you.