Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Molto Monday: Come si dice “Nice shot” in italiano?

Guru's Note: The following is the second in a series of reports from our Vassar student-basketball player-turned star foreign correspondent from overseas where she is providing commentary and other reports on her experiences while particpating in a five-month education program based in Balogna, Italy.

Despite one of Acacia's experiences of which she writes further down, the Italian equivalent to the NCAA, as well as FIBA, do not have committees formed at the present time to examine the issue of American female practice basketball players.


By Acacia O'Connor

BOLOGNA, Italy -- Last week, after the first installment of Molto Mondays, Mel suggested I write my next piece in both Italian and English.

I’m not quite sure I’m entirely proficient enough writing-wise to do that (without embarrassing myself to native speakers).

At least not just yet

But, hey, give me a couple of weeks.

However, for now, I hope the following will be a fun step in that direction:

When I was in the Bologna Public Library, I picked up a little pamphlet.

The cover reads: Bologna 10 storie. 10 Bologna Stories.

The stories offer a little insight into different parts of the city.

One of the stories, I was delighted to find, is entitled Bologna Come Basket or Bologna As Basketball.

This is the story of basketball in Bologna.

I'm sure WNBA Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi will find the following an easy read:

“Lo sport più amato a Bologna è forse la pallacanestro.

Negli anni Novanta la città si è guadagnata l’appellativo di Basket City, grazie alla contemporanea presenza ai vertici della Serie A1 delle due squadre bolognesi Virtus e Fortitudo.

Ma la pallacanestro a Bologna ha origini lontane.

Le principali società sportive cittadine vennero fondate già nell’Ottocento.

La Società Sezionale di Ginnastica in Bologna, che poi divenne la Virtus, nacque il 17 gennaio del 1871 in un’aula delle ex scuole San Domenico, per merito del maestro e divulgatore dello sport Emilio Baumann…

La Virtus vinse il campionato cittadino nel 1934, e negli anni successive dispute il torneo di Divisione Nazionale, valendosi anche del primo “straniero”, l’italo-americano Nunzio Stallone…

[Negli anni Sessanta fu costruito] il nuovo palazzetto di Piazza Azzarita (chiamato il Madison o la Bombonera del Basket), ai mitici derby tra i “cugini” della Virtus e della Fortitudo, con la presenza di tanti giocatori di levello internazionale.”

Now, in English for the American crowd.

Basketball is perhaps the best-loved sport in Bologna.

In the 1990s the city garnered the nickname “Basketball City,” thanks to the modern-day presence of the apex of Serie-A1 basketball with the two Bolognese teams, Virtus and Fortitudo.


(From what I can gather, Virtus is from the same latin root of the Italian word virtù, meaning virtue; My best guess with Fortitudo is “fortitude” from the latin root of “forte” meaning strong. Both are men’s teams.)

However, basketball in has a long history in Bologna.

The first athletic society was founded before the 1800s.

The “Società Sezionale di Ginnastica” (Sectional Athletic Society of Bologna), which would later become Virtus, was founded on January 17, 1871 in a room of the old school San Domenico, thanks to director and sport proponent Emilio Baumann.

Virtus won an inter-city championship in 1934, and in the years following competed in the National Division Tournament, making use as well of their first “foreigner”—Italian-American Nunzio Stallone.

In the 1970s the new stadium Piazza Azzarita (called The Madison – I imagine after Madison Square Garden?) was built, alongside the mytical “derby” between the “cousins” –Virtus and Fortitudo, now with the presence of many skilled players at the international level.


Consider this your Bolognese history lesson for the day.


Foreign Affairs or Pick-Up Italian Style

In other news—Sunday I had a great basketball-related social experience.

No, not that kind of pick-up -- but now that I have your attention:

It was an uncommonly beautiful day (it is grey and foggy six days out of seven) and just warm enough to necessitate outdoor exercise.

A couple of my friends and I walked to the nearby “Central Park” of Bologna, Il Giardino Margherita.

They went for a jog and I headed toward the basketball court, bag slung over my shoulder containing the ball I recently purchased from the Nike Store on the main Via.

When I got up to the court, a group of middle-school aged boys were playing a half-court game, and some guys my own age were messing around on the other half. I began shooting around with them.

Soon it became apparent that they were going to begin a half-court game as well.

“Posso giocare con voi?” I asked one kid. “Can I play with you guys?”

They nodded—I had demonstrated I could at least make a shot, so they were game. Plus, with me there were teams for 4 v. 4.

We shot for teams and I introduced myself to my teammates.

“Americana?” a tall kid in sweatpants asked after I pronounced my name.

“Si. Americana.” I replied.

I played with them for over two hours.

My friends had to go on home without me when they were done. But hey, when pickup is good, you stay.

Especially when you haven’t played in over a month.

Playing with these guys was a lot like playing Recreational Intramurals at Vassar.

Except, honestly—at the risk of insulting American basketball playing guys the nation-over—this was probably the most positive pick-up experience I’ve ever had.

My teammates passed me the ball, looked for me to be open, got open themselves; my opponents actually played defense on me (as much as anyone plays defense in pick-up ball).

The fact that I was female seemed to be a non-issue, something that I’ve rarely experienced in a life of playing sports against boys from time to time.

It was strange, since I don’t expect these guys know girls who want to play Basket with them.

But I guess I shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

More than anything, it was fun.

I left the park at dusk, smiling broadly. I might have to make
this a Sunday afternoon ritual.

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