The basketball diaries: Italian edition


The Penn men's basketball team spent the latter part of August touring Italy. Though the team was 1-5 in its matches with Italian and Swedish teams, the tour was nonetheless quite an experience for the team, which saw new sights, became acquainted with unfamiliar ways and played basketball by the rest of the world's rules. Team members kept a diary of their experiences as the tour progressed; here are some excerpts:

Aug. 21: Rome
The first site we saw was the Trevi Fountain. ... On the way to the fountain, we went through an alley and [Paul] Romanczuk (W'99) and [Geoff] Owens (C'00) were attacked and propositioned by Gypsies. It was the funniest thing I saw on the trip thus far because [Paul] was filming. When they began to grab at him, he was so surprised it looked as though he was going to take off in a dead sprint.
   ...When we arrived at Fondi [for the team's first game against an Italian squad], the team was amazed that there was no gym or locker rooms. We played outside, good thing it didn't rain.

--Michael Jordan (C'00)

Aug. 22: Rome
What my high school art teacher preached was certainly true: you can't truly appreciate the artwork until you see it in person. Everything from the frescoes to the tapestries to the sculpture [is] absolutely overwhelming. My favorite, however, was St. Peter's Basilica. Its size is incredible, and luxurious doesn't begin to describe the materials used for its construction. ... Although religion and athletics are not easily comparable, in a sense, it is to Christianity what the Palestra is to basketball.

--Matt Langel (W'00)

Aug. 24: Senegallia-Assisi-Siena-Florence
The view is breathtaking, but the curves are treacherous. It feels like we are in a boat rocking back and forth. ...About two hours later...we arrive outside the castle in Siena. ... Most of us would rather have stayed in Senegallia at the beach. The highlight was the medieval musicians were playing "Stairway to Heaven."

--Geoff Owens (C'00)

Aug. 27: Roseto degli Abruzzi
While taking a leisurely swim in the Adriatic, we were accosted by a large group of small Italian children. At first the children just wanted to talk basketball, and then all of a sudden they were challenging us to a game of soccer. ... The game started out to be very one-sided. The Italian children were very skilled with their feet and we had a handicap. ... The turning point of the contest was a substitution that brought our team of Mike [Jordan], Mike [Sullivan] and myself Geoff Owens, the destroyer. A bigger factor, however, was that the Italians made a grave error by putting a 6-year-old in goal. After manhandling the small Italians to a 7-6 victory we retired to rest for our game. Hopefully the winning will spill onto the court [the team was 1-2 at this point].

--Jed Ryan (W'99)

Aug. 29: Trevi
Following practice we went into the city of Foligno to meet the mayor. All the teams attended this ceremony. The highlight of the event was when the mayor called Coach [Fran] Dunphy forward to accept a gift and rambled off five minutes of Italian, of which Coach understood about two words.
   ...Following the game, Jed made friends with a local that played on the Foligno team. Raffaello came to the hotel and picked up George [Mboya (C'00)], Jed and myself. He showed us the town and it was a great time.

-- Michael Sullivan (EAS'00)

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Originally published on September 17, 1998