Primavera, an adherent of the metodo francese, thinks both techniques have merit. "We work from the best Stradivarius we can find," he says of his method. "I'm not interested in making a 'personal Primavera' violin, but I'm as proud of my workmanship as they are. The classicisti are guessing. There's no such thing as a bad modern-method violin, and now and then you get a super one."
Violinmaking is a fusion of woodworking, music, chemistry, geometry, business and art. "It's very complex," Primavera says. "If there's a parallel between violin-making and coaching football, that's it. Football is the most complex game there is. When we started, there were 40 or 50 enthusiastic players, and all had to be given roles. You tell one, 'You're a running back,' and he says, 'Good! What's a running back?' The real challenge has been to get the whole team functioning as one.
"And that's really gratifying."
On an ugly, raw October Saturday, Primavera has shoehorned eight restless Steel Tigers into the VW bus he normally uses to deliver cellos. He has taken them to suburban Milan for a game with the Bollate Vikings.
"I can't believe you guys fumbled four straight punts," Primavera says when Cremona trails 7-6 at the intermezzo, after a half in which officials have called touchdowns back like defective Fiats. Primavera is delivering a sort of anti-pep talk. "In the U.S., coaches try to get their players emotionally up," he'll say later. "Here the players are already so emotional you have to be careful."
With the Steel Tigers gathered around him, he continues his serenade in the key of low. "You have to start concentrating," he says. "You're playing too recklessly. Use more effective blitzes and put more pressure on Bynum. A hundred thousand lire [about $55] to the guy who puts Bynum out of the game!"
Rich Bynum is Bollate's American mercenary, a $500-a-month halfback who first played in Italy for the U.S. Army Blue Knights of Vicenza and then in the Italian league while on leave. Two seasons ago he was named MVP of what's ambitiously called the "Super Bowl," when the team he was then selling his services to, the Milan Manin Rhinos, won Italy's A title. But Primavera has erred in putting a bounty on Bynum's head; it only serves to pump the Steel Tigers full of more brio.
Late in the third quarter, Cremona's Curzio Bertazzoli sticks Bynum on a sweep, knocking the ball loose. Bertazzoli is typical of Primavera's players: By day he sells ads for the Yellow Pages from behind horn-rimmed glasses; after hours he doubles as a 232-pound Steel Tiger defensive tackle and the club's president. A teammate recovers the Bynum fumble, and in short order Cremona scores the touchdown that seals an 18-13 win. Bynum flings his helmet in frustration and stalks off the field, accusing his line of not blocking for him.
"He took himself out of the game," Primavera says. "I should send him the 100,000 lire."
Primavera has become inured to the slipshod play, loose lire and—as we'll see—outright cheating that are all part of spaghetti football. On a fundamental level the Italian game is like mediocre American high school ball, only most of the players are in their 20s and hit accordingly. "You get guys knocked unconscious, stretchers brought out—a lot of good, physical action," Primavera says. "That's what the people want to see."