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Basketball in Italy is something else again—like Jupiter, says Doug Moe, one of the U.S. stars playing there. Referees all but root for the home team, and who can blame them, since fans are so rabid (left) they threaten to make every game a riot

The former All-America basketball player, Douglas Moe, of Brooklyn and the University of North Carolina and Elon College, now finds himself, at the advanced age of 28, playing in fogbound northern Italy, and we pick up the action as he takes a pass at midcourt and heads into enemy territory, dribbling like Meadowlark Lemon. He absorbs a home-team elbow in the side without breaking stride. He fakes an opposing guard right down to the floor and then nimbly steps over the strategically outstretched foot. He weaves through a traffic jam in the foul circle, lays the ball up perfectly and descends into a threshing machine of enemy elbows, knees and fingernails. "Spingere!" the referee shouts, and signals that Moe has pushed and therefore the basket does not count. He hands the ball over to the home team, while the partisan crowd applauds the lunatic decision, and Doug Moe takes up his defensive position with no show of annoyance. "I'm used to it," he explained later. "It's another world. It's Jupiter."

A dozen or so Americans are playing in the Jupiter of Italian basketball (or basket or pallcanestro) with mingled joy and discontent. Until last season foreigners were banned from the Italian leagues, but the level of play was so poor the authorities decided to permit each team a transfusion of one foreigner. Immediately the 12 teams of the big league recruited 11 Americans (including Bill Bradley of Princeton and Oxford) and one Yugoslav, treated each one like King Farouk and watched the game soar in popularity. But of the Americans who went over in the first wave only three returned this season, forcing the Italian teams to recruit eight new Americans, one of whom has already gone AWOL from the team in Leghorn. And Doug Moe, the first American player to arrive in Italy, has vowed not to play after this season. "It's a dead-end street," Moe said. "They treat you great, but what do you have when you're finished playing here? I'm going to North Carolina and teach school."

The best Italian basketball league is made up of 12 teams which are supported to varying degrees by publicity-hungry Italian businessmen and which play in the soggy, bone-chilling north of Italy, a piece of real estate that rivals Novosibirsk for pure winter misery. To most of the American basketballers, one season of Italy in midwinter is more than enough. Milan and Venice and Padua and other northern Italian towns are at almost the same latitude as Duluth, Minn., and if they do not experience Duluth's occasional dip down to 30° below, neither does Duluth experience northern Italy's constant saturating fogs and rains. "My feet stay cold all winter," said Moe's wife, Jane, who was brought up on a tobacco farm in North Carolina and has found the going rough in the old country.

"At first there wasn't anything we liked about it," Moe said in the family's terraced two-bedroom apartment in Padua's "Garden City," where Moe and his wife and their two preschool boys have lived, all expenses paid, for the last two winters. "They put us in a hotel, and we didn't speak the language, we couldn't move around, we had no car, nothing. A couple of the players on the team spoke English and they tried to help us, but we couldn't understand anything anybody else said, and it was depressing, and we were freezing to death, and there was nothing to do with our free time." The Moes are not serious Shakespearean scholars, but they would have taken violent issue with Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew, one of a handful of plays Shakespeare set in what is now Italy's fanatical basketball region. Lucentio spoke of a "great desire I had to see fair Padua, nursery of arts," and went on:

...I have Pisa left
And am to Padua come, as he that leaves
A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep,
And with satiety seeks to quench his thirst.

What made the Moes hang on was not any satiety that was immediately available in the ancient town of Padua, but the wondrous goings-on down at the gym, where the 6'5" former Tar Heel was taking the leading role in what the Italian press came to call "a homemade miracle."

Moe had been signed on to play for Unione Sportiva Petrarca, the David of the league, a sort of church team in Padua, the middle-size industrial town some 25 miles inland from Venice. The original function of U.S. Petrarca had never changed: any boy in Padua could enjoy the fun and games of the sports club provided he attended one hour a week of religious instruction by the foxy Jesuits and also attended Sunday Mass. The sports club, in other words, was a carrot held out by the church.

Unlike big industrial teams such as Simmenthal of Milan (meat) and Ignis of Varese (appliances) and Oransoda of Cant√π (soft drinks), clubs which recruit all over Italy and seldom utilize any local players, the team of U.S. Petrarca came exclusively from Padua. Sticking to its lily-white policy, the team of the Jesuit fathers wallowed in the cellar of the league for years and never finished higher than sixth. But last season a wealthy and influential Padua industrialist, Giacomo Galtarossa, decided to give the team a few gifts out of his own pocket. The gifts were Douglas Moe and a new coach. Thus began the "homemade miracle."

"We first got together in preseason training," Moe recalled, "and it was the Tower of Babel. The new coach was Alexandar Nikolic of Yugoslavia, the man who coached the Yugoslav national team for 15 years. He didn't speak a word of Italian, but he had some English and French. Most of the players could understand his French, and then he'd repeat everything to me in English."

"Was very bad at first," Nikolic said in his rudimentary English, one of his five languages. "Was what somebody call 'language cocktail.' Many of basketball words were English; I could said tira or I could said shoot. Jump shot in English is jump shot in French, but in Italian is tiro sospensione. In French dribble is dribble, but in English is difference between dribble and drive, and in Italian you say palleggio for dribble and entrate for drive. At first made terrible mistakes. Would tell player to cover other player and would cover wrong one. Would take player out and would think was telling him a good boy."

"To make things worse," said Moe, "Petrarca had always been a loser. They were always down in the mouth. Before every game they'd say, 'We can't beat this team, we can't beat this team.' And I got there and I couldn't understand this, and I said, 'What do you mean, you can't beat them? You're finished before you start with that attitude.' So the first game was against one of these teams you can't beat, and we beat 'em, and before the preseason schedule was over we'd won 10 straight, including one with the European champions.

"By this time the coach had learned Italian, and I could understand it a little, and we were beginning to do everything in Italian, and we began working together better. If I wanted the ball I knew how to yell 'Dammi il pallone! (give me the ball) or 'Guarda, guarda! When the coach talked to us in the time-outs he began using Italian, and some of those language screw-ups began to disappear."

By the end of the first half of the long seven-month season, U.S. Petrarca was leading the league. "In the second half we came back to form," Moe recalled, "but we still finished third only to Simmenthal and Ignis, and they're practically professional teams. It was the best finish in Petrarca's history, and it had the whole town going crazy." Moe was the hero of Padua, and the happy Galtarossa moved him and his family into a pleasant apartment, provided him with a car, a few vacation trips and a cushy job paying $6,000 a year. "The people couldn't do enough for us," Moe said. "One day we went to the corse al trotto (the trotters) and one of the drivers slipped Jane a piece of paper with the names of all the day's winners on it. We bet 200 lire (about 30¢) on every race through the fifth, and we won every one. Then Jane mislaid the paper, and we bet on the wrong horse in the sixth. The winner paid 25 to 1, and it was listed on the sheet the driver gave us. We found it later and felt like shooting ourselves."

Newspapers all over northern Italy joined in praising Moe. A typical article called him "the fabulous Moe" and observed that he could do anything "with or without the ball." The newspaper Il Resto del Carlino, published in Bologna, said: "Italians view it as extraordinary that he thinks every match can be won. That is something out of our mentality, and is considered typically American and typically sporting." Cesare Rubini, coach of the champions from Simmenthal, said that Moe was "easily 50% of the Petrarca team," and Signore Galtarossa proudly remarked that Moe's presence made every other member of the squad play far over his head. Moe had averaged 30 points a game and led the league in almost every individual department except slugging.

"The only problem from the beginning was learning the Italian style," Moe said recently. "It's a different game. Italians don't usually start playing basketball till they're 17 or 18 years old, and by that time all their training has gone to their feet. You throw a ball to an Italian kid, and four times out of five he'll flub it. But throw it around his feet and he'll make a perfect stop. They're all soccer players. All this makes them bad passers. I would cut into the basket 100 times before one of them would hit me with a pass, and finally the coach said, 'Look, don't bother making the cut.' We have one player on the whole team who's a good passer—now I wait till he has the ball before I go into the pivot. But what else can you expect from kids that've been drilled for 18 years never to touch the ball with their hands? If they were allowed to kick the basketball I'd be in the pivot all the time!"

Italians play by international rules, which are vastly different from American college rules. There is no three-point play; if a player is bumped as he makes a basket, a foul can be called against the defender, but no free throw is awarded. On a drive to the basket, the dribbling player is allowed one extra step at the end and, to the uninitiated spectator, it looks as though players pick up the ball at the foul line and simply run to the basket and lay the ball up. "That makes the play a little faster at the shooting end," Moe said, "but they slow it down at the other end by making you bounce the ball right away when you start to move. In the U.S. you try a fast break and somebody throws you the ball and you start off with a step and then begin to dribble. Here you've got to dribble before you can move a foot, and it slows down the fast break. Another thing here, there's no backcourt time limit. You have 30 seconds to shoot—there's six different colored lights under the basket, and one goes out every five seconds—but you can keep the ball in the backcourt for the whole 30 seconds if you want."

The last word on gamesmanship, Italian style, was written years ago by one Monsignor Chitarrella in a book on card games. "Rule No. 1," the monsignor wrote, "is: Always try to see your opponent's cards." Fair play, in the rigid Anglo-American sense, is all but unknown in Italy, although there is a plethora of backslapping and embracing and after-you-dear-Alphonse between players when they have tried to assassinate each other.

"The idea is to see what you can get away with," Moe said. "One of the biggest heroes of Italian basketball is a guy who'd get thrown out of any American basketball game in the first five minutes. Last year, when we were still in the fight for first place, the other teams'd throw in some little 5'6" guy—you know, a chopper—toward the end of the game, and he'd work on me alone. They didn't care if he was thrown out. One game I got seven or eight stitches in the head, and the next game two more. Both times it was under the basket after a shot. There was blood pouring all over the place, but they wouldn't stop the game. I'd get it every time. They'd start a box and one. The box'd take care of the basketball game, and the one would take care of me. This year, now that we're off to a bad start, they've been easier on me. But there's still one player from Ignis—the big team from Varese—he'll smack you every chance he gets. The ideal way is to play 'em at their court first, because then you've got to play 'em again at your court, and they know you can get 'em then. But if you play a team at home first, you're dead."

Italian referees seem to follow certain strange rituals almost as though they were written into the code of the game. "They have a dramatic sense, and they think of themselves as a bunch of Fellinis," said Steve Chubin, who played at Rhode Island and is now in his first season with Simmenthal, the meat-packers. "In the early part of a game they tend to keep things even. In the last 10 or 15 minutes almost all the fouls are against the visiting team. In Italy you just don't win away from home. Back in the States the home-court advantage is about five to 10 points; here it's more like 25. Some of the refs'd get shot in the U.S."

Simmenthal and Chubin played Petrarca and Moe at Padua early this season and, according to Chubin, "we'd have won by 30 points if it hadn't been for the refs. We'd get 10 points ahead and then start stealing the ball, and when you do that you can really take charge of a game. But every time we'd start to move away they'd hit us with walking violations or charging or pushing, and the first thing you'd know we'd be right down to a two-point lead."

"There's just no training for the referees," said Dewey Andrew, star of the Cassera Fortitudo team of Bologna and onetime player at little Elon College in North Carolina, where Moe went. "And they have no control of the fans. In the States if the fans get out of hand the refs'll forfeit the game. Here they'll just stop the game long enough to pick up the coins that've been thrown at 'em. And somebody's got to teach the referees to stop watching the ball all the time. That's when all the trouble starts. When the ball is up in the air the other team gives you 20 kinds of agony."

Said Chubin: "You could get killed while they're watching the ball. Somebody could pull a knife, stab you with it, wipe it off and put it back in his pocket while the referees are staring at the ball."

"It is all very simple," said a Milan newspaper editor. "It is not only that the officials are incompetent. They are simply afraid of the fans, and rightly so. They have to rule for the home team or they'll spend the next two or three hours running for their lives."

Early in his Italian career Doug Moe saw what happens to referees who make honest calls against the home team in tight games. "The coach and I went up to Cant√π to see Oransoda play Simmenthal, strictly a nonleague, friendly game. Near the end one of the Oransoda players charged a Simmenthal player—a perfectly obvious charge, you could see it from the third balcony—and the referee called it. The crowd went nuts, and the game was for nothing, had no importance at all! As soon as the game ended the whole stands came down on the referee, and they had to call in a couple hundred cops to get him out. So you can see why the refs call 'em for the home team."

The results are often childishly ludicrous. Once a Venetian team was playing at home and, despite the active assistance of the referee, could not seem to even up the game in the second half. The half droned on for 55 minutes before the Venice team went one point ahead, and instantly the referee's whistle ended the game. Other games have been shortened because the referees sensed that the home team was pooping out and might lose the lead.

"You can understand why they're afraid of the fans," said the outspoken Chubin. "There's a certain element of the fans here that're absolutely nuts. I mean, they oughta be hauled off in straitjackets. Some of these people'll blow an air horn right in your ear as you're walking by, deafen you for a week. It's different than the States. Sometimes it's sickening. One man'll keep hollering something dirty over and over. I couldn't take it at first, right in front of everybody. I mean, I don't speak Italian yet, but certain things you understand. You don't need a dictionary."

Doug Moe has become inured to the crowds, but the rookie Chubin is still suffering. In a recent game he missed four straight foul shots and ended up making one for eight, his worst performance since the backlots of his native Queens, because the fans leaned far out of their seats and waved handkerchiefs and towels around the basket as he was preparing to shoot. "Not only that, but they're yelling those words at me again. So I give the ball back to the referee to ask for quiet. Usually the referee in the States'll either get 'em to quiet down or he'll give you a technical. But here they don't know from technicals; so my coach says just shoot it, and I don't come anywheres near close. They got me. They just drove me crazy."

"I don't think the fans here are particularly bad people," said the soft-spoken Dewey Andrew. "They're just over-enthusiastic. They lose all control of themselves. One game when I fouled out I got hit with an awful mess of stuff from our own fans. Oranges, coins, garbage—everything but fresh fish. They were aiming at the referee, but they were hitting me."

"They're all right, they're just real fans, all-out," said a player who does not want to make any Italian enemies. "Why, last year after the championship game the Ignis fans came out of the stands and tore the clothes off their hero, Toby Kimball, left him standing there in his jock. Young girls'll think nothing of coming right into the dressing room after a game and trying to grab souvenirs. If you don't do a pretty good job of defending yourself you'll wind up naked."

"And they love to fight," said Moe. "Sometimes I think they just come to the games for the exercise of fighting. Before a game there'll be three or four fights going on in the stands and everybody egging 'em on and nobody trying to stop 'em. Sometimes it's one long fight to get back into the dressing room. This Italian basketball—it's like an audience-participation sport."

Nevertheless, the Moes have learned to enjoy Italy and the Italians in their two years, especially since they have picked up the language and found new ways to spend the long days off. The team forbids Moe to ski (although other players ski their heads off and are sometimes taken on ski trips by the Jesuit fathers), but the little family makes the three-hour drive to the pre-Alps just to ride the ski lifts. In the mornings Moe drives his cream-colored Fiat 850 over to the sports club and loses at tressette (three seven), an amateur card game in which 3s, 2s and aces are the highest cards. In the evenings the Moes may socialize with members of the basketball team, and one of their closest friends is the Petrarca player Pino Stefanelli, son of a Padua millionaire who owns bus lines. "We visit him at his villa," Moe said. "A little place of 50 or 100 rooms. He gave us a couple of books printed in the 16th century just as a memento." Usually the Moes avoid the monuments and museums that sometimes make Italy resemble a vast cemetery. "We go once in a while, but those art things don't do much for me," Moe explained. "When we were in Florence we went to see Michelangelo's work so we could say we saw it. I mean, how can you say you lived in Italy two years and didn't look at Michelangelo's work? But I don't really get anything out of it. So why force it?" Padua has original Giottos, a Renaissance wooden horse 25 feet high, the ruins of a Roman amphitheater going back to the pre-Christian era, the tomb of Petrarch (the Italian poet after whom the sports club is named) and untold churches, basilicas and ancient grottoes, but the Moes would rather go to the movies.

Not long ago I had the pleasure of watching one of these three-ring circuses called pallacanestro in Italy, and I am told by all involved that the game was one of the most drab and colorless affairs of the year. If so, I would not want to be on hand for a sprightly match. The game took place in the 6,000-seat Sports Palace in Bologna—a university city where-the rain falls mainly every day through the long winter—and pitted two teams that have been losers this season: Cassera Fortitudo of Bologna (clothing) and Unione Sportiva Petrarca of Padua (souls). The big sports action of the day was a soccer game, Inter of Milan vs. the Bologna team, at a crosstown stadium, but some 2,500 faithful basketball fans drove up to the Sports Palace in their four-wheeled Giulia Spiders, Maseratis, Innocentis and Ferraris and their two-wheeled Lambrettas, Vespas and Gileras.

Long before the appearance of the first basketball player on the floor, the fans began beating sheets of iron against pipes, blowing air horns hooked to tanks of compressed air, banging away at tambourines and castanets and screaming challenges at anyone whose hairstyle they did not approve of. One man walked proudly around the court carrying the red-and-dark-blue flag of Bologna and a sign saying, MY BEAUTIFUL BOLOGNA. A visitor from Padua carried an opposing sign reading, FORZA PETRARCA, OLE! OLE! But he was soon hooted off the court and fled back into a group of his fellows sitting in a remote section of the stands for safety.

When the first Petrarca player walked out on the court in his blue-and-white sweat suit, looking for all the world like the man who drew the short straw, there was prolonged hissing and whistling, and the other Padua players seemed to join their colleague reluctantly. The team had a distinctly humpty-dumpty look about it, what with socks of varying colors and short shorts that would have been banned in Boston, and the impression that they were bush was heightened when the team began shooting baskets. Ten, 20, 30 seconds would go by before one of the basketballs would go through the rim. They looked like the Little Sisters of the Poor "B" team. The appearance of Douglas Moe, last to appear on the court, as befits the leading scorer in the league, slightly improved the warmup percentage.

The Cassera team made a smart entrance heralded by a chorus of air horns that must have been cannibalized from the big tractor-trailers that now awaken the dead all over Europe. "I am sorry," said my companion, an Italian, "but you must understand that Italy is a noisy country. Why, one night when I was walking in London I came to a block where every television, every radio and every phonograph was being played at top volume, and I said, 'These must be Italians.' Just so. I checked and found out it was a block of Italian laborers. So do not make such a show of holding your ears. You will offend them and mark yourself as a foreigner."

"I don't suppose they care if they offend me," I said indignantly, but he couldn't hear me.

The Cassera players warmed up with the same lack of precision as the Petrarcas. Balls rolled around the hoop and dropped out; shots whistled over the backboard and a foot to the left or right. When a shot went in, pursuant to the law of averages, there was applause. Soon I caught on. The reason nobody was making shots with any consistency was because nobody was practicing normal shots. They were trying fancy jumpers from 35 feet, reverse layups from behind the basket, over-the-shoulder shots and other mockeries of Euclid. One Cassera player took up a position at midcourt and began dribbling his way to the basket through a phalanx of imaginary defenders. He bounced the ball behind his back to elude one opponent, head-faked and shoulder-faked two more out of position, shifted the ball from his right to his left hand in midair—and missed the layup. The crowd cheered wildly. Roaring down the court like that, baffling all those defensive chimeras, the virtuoso performer had not shown skill, but the appearance of skill. And in Italy appearance is everything. That is why, in the words of Luigi Barzini, "Little provincial towns...boast immense princely palaces, castles, vast churches, and stately opera houses, all disproportionate, sometimes ridiculously so." This same national personality trait now was showing up with mirror accuracy in the sports arena. Whirling around with their fancy dribbling and crazy shots, the players appeared to be marvels, and the crowd was exhilarated.

While I was musing, two cocky little referees strutted onto the court. One of them quickly assembled the players and threw the ball up at a pronounced angle, and the game was on. About 10 shots were tried before one was made, and the pattern of the game quickly became clear. The two Americans, Doug Moe for Petrarca and Dewey Andrew for Cassera, were assigned to guard each other, but the difference was that Andrew's teammates were providing him with some assistance, whereas Moe's teammates acted as though he had some contagious disease. Time and again he would cut for the basket or establish himself all alone in the pivot only to have a Petrarca player try a 25-foot set shot that would sometimes miss the basket altogether. Still Moe rebounded, stole the ball, kept his own shooting percentage well over 50% and in general dominated the first half much as he had dominated games when he was starring for North Carolina six and seven years ago. Andrew, one of Moe's closest friends off the court, bided his time and waited for the nonpareil to grind himself down. Anyone could see that Moe could not maintain such a pace unaided.

Meanwhile the other players were putting on performances worthy of Marcello Mastroianni. Every time a foul was called the offending player would spread his arms wide and look beseechingly at the crowd. One wondered if an Italian player ever accepted a foul call graciously. "It's just our style," my companion said. "You can grab the guy by the head, wrestle him down and then kick him, and when the referee calls the foul you're supposed to spread your arms and say, 'Who, me?' It's sort of expected of you."

Academy Award performances were also going on at the foul line. When a player missed a foul shot a look of incredulity, followed by one of deep puzzlement, crossed his face, as though this had never happened before and how was he to stand it. If, on the other hand, the player sank the shot, he would put on a look of shy modesty, while the audience cheered as though he had just made a field goal from the other end of the court. The game was controlled by sporting ritual as rigid as any in the days of the vestal virgins and the Colosseum.

Just before half time with the score tied, a Petrarca player named Varotto, renowned for his pugnacity, was yanked from the game by Coach Nikolic after a fourth foul had been called against him. Varotto did more than spread his arms. He began screaming. Someone handed him a sweat suit; he rolled it into a ball and drop-kicked it along the sidelines. When an elderly Petrarca fan rushed up and tried to calm him Varotto nearly knocked the little man down in his frenzy. For the last minutes of the half the angry player roamed along the sidelines, while thousands laughed and shouted "idiota" and "cretino" and held up U's made of index and little fingers, a signal that means "cuckold." When the half ended Varotto had to be restrained from going into the stands after one of his critics. "Glad he was held back," Nikolic confided. "He is fighter, but if you make strong puff with mouth, he fall down."

All through the half-time intermission arguments raged in the stands. One little knot of debaters on the floor of the gym engaged in shrill controversy with another knot up on the second level of the stands. Since the two groups were separated by steel rails and several policemen, the argument reached the decibel level of a Neapolitan open-air market. "Under those conditions, they can really let themselves go and say a lot of interesting things," my Italian friend confided. "That is regarded as the most enjoyable type of argument in Italy."

Varotto, with a native flair for histrionics, was the last player to return to the floor after the entr'acte, and the crowd reminded him once again that he was a cretin, an idiot and a cuckold. Varotto shook his fist at 2,500 people but diplomatically allowed himself to be steered to the bench.

The second half began, and the score was tied and retied, and the players seemed to rise to the tension and improve their performances. Soon I found myself becoming involved in the outcome. Would U.S. Petrarca, the honest little team from out of town, be able to hold back the mighty shirtmakers from Cassera with their unfair home-court advantage and their millions of lire of accounts receivable? For awhile the outcome was in doubt, and when Doug Moe took off on a breakaway I jumped to my feet and began shouting something I had heard the Italians cry: "Volo! Volo!"

Several people turned and stared at me, and I quickly sat down. "What's the matter?" I asked my Italian friend out of the right side of my mouth. "All I was saying was, 'Fly! Fly!' "

"You were saying, I am flying! I am flying!' "he said out of the left side of his mouth. "You should have said 'Vola!' "

"Oh," I said out of the right side of my mouth, and then I shut up.

Anyway, all the steam left the game when Dewey Andrew went on a personal scoring tear and gave Cassera a seven-point lead. At that point the referees took over, calling fouls and stopping play so often that for a while it appeared the game would never end. Indeed, the control was so tight that the players seemed to assume minor roles, while the two officials bestrode the floor like colossuses. They were calling fouls on almost every shot, whether there was interference or not. At one point the officiating dating grew so ridiculous that Dewey Andrew burst out laughing, and even the usually undemonstrative Moe spread out his arms like an Italian. Eventually eight players, four from each team, fouled out, and Cassera, aided by the inevitable letdown that overcame Moe in the last 10 minutes, won the game 69-66. ("Moe's play was inferior in the second half, but there are 1,000 attenuating factors," wrote an Italian sports-writer. "Moe has to score, he has to get rebounds both on offense and defense, make plays for his teammates and control the passing. Too much work!") Moe had scored 29, Andrew 20, and no one else had come close to the Americans in performance. The players hugged and kissed and exchanged commiseration and congratulation as though they had just finished an Olympic final instead of a battle for the booby prize of the league.

Afterward, in the cold, unheated and unhappy visitors' dressing room, Dewey Andrew flung an arm around his old friend's neck and said, "Never mind, Doug, you know you never win away. You just don't." Coach Nikolic was telling a group of sympathizers that "referees ruined game. Did nothing but whistle."

Over in the corner, a friendly priest was asked what would happen to Petrarca when both Moe and Nikolic departed at the end of this season with the team already on a losing streak. "Whenever the Unione Sportiva Petrarca has had a problem, something has come along to solve it," the father said. "Who knows from what quarter help will come? But it will come, you may count on that." By the slightest of upward glances, the priest indicated the quarter he was counting on.

A correspondent was talking about Petrarca's showing last season. "Ah, Petrarca, beautiful Petrarca!" he rhapsodized. "She danced only one dance, but what a lovely dance it was!"

"Aspettate l'anno prossimo!" said a chubby fan who had infiltrated the dressing room. "Aspettate l'anno prossimo!"

"What does that mean?" I asked my Italian friend. He said it meant wait till next year.



A group of Padua schoolboys, carrying banners that would make the Mets proud, root for Petrarca, the home team, and their hero, Doug Moe.


With his 3-year-old son David perched on his shoulders, Doug Moe shops for fruit in Padua.