Aug. 30, 2010
Bona sera da Roma! Actually we are headed back to Rome on the bus from our first game in Latina against their hometown pro team, which we won 67-61. Today has been one of those days I will remember for a long, long time.
After our tremendous team dinner last night, the team awoke this morning with some jet lag still remaining. My roommate on our trip is the one and only Mike Capocci. When his alarm went off at 8:45 (and mine went off two minutes later), I thought it was still the middle of the night because it felt like I had slept for an hour, and our room has some high-quality blackout shades. Mike, John Shurna and I walked the streets of Rome for a couple of hours last night after our tremendous team dinner, so I got to bed at about 12:30. I got my 8 hours of sleep in, but man, it felt so short. Anyway, the hotel had a delicious breakfast spread of eggs and bacon, muffins, croissants, deli meats, fruits, and juice, so we fueled up right for our big day. We hopped on the bus at 9:45 for a quick ride through the beautiful streets of Rome. When we stepped off the bus, we were at one of the coolest places I have ever been, the Colosseum.
I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like the Colosseum. Think of Ryan Field, only twice as big. Our tour guide said it held 73,000 people in Ancient Rome, when the city population was about 1 million. It was a huge arena that entertained the people. Just think of it: the emperor needed to keep his citizens happy, so a lot of money was spent to do so. This is where the infamous gladiator fights were held; we actually walked through the gladiator entrance to the stage. Then we headed up the steep stairs to the middle level so that we could look at the Colosseum from a fan's perspective, and it was amazing. I just kept thinking, "How did they make this huge stone stadium in their time, and how has it lasted this long?" Of course, much of it is in ruin today (half of the outer shell is missing), but it still is an incredible sight to see. I don't think the guys on our team have used their cameras as much in their lives as much as they have the past couple of days. Davide Curletti, Ivan Peljusic and Mike came prepared with their professional quality cameras, Reggie had his disposable camera (hey, it gets the job done), and many digital cameras came along. We took a team picture outside of the Colosseum with one of the dudes dressed up as gladiators, and then it was on to our next destination.
After about a five-minute walk, we arrived at the Roman Forum in Roma Antica. I am amazed that buildings such as the Senate House, which was built in 80 B.C., are still standing and in great shape. Ancient Rome was the center and capital of the Roman Empire. We actually had to walk down a little bit from modern-day street level because much of Ancient Rome actually had to be excavated. What happened was that it became covered with mud from river floods over time after the capitol of the Roman Empire was moved to Constantinople. Anyways, it's awesome to see these ruins and think of all the history and culture that exists here. We passed the temple of Julius Caesar, the actual site where he was cremated after he was murdered. Nobody ever was buried or cremated in middle of Ancient Rome; Caesar's site was right in the middle. The three-hour tour of the Colosseum and Ancient Rome was incredible, but it was time to get off of our feet and go to lunch.
We headed back to the hotel relaxed for about an hour, then we headed off to lunch, which was technically our pregame meal. It consisted of salad, bread, and pasta, and again, it was buonissimo. The pasta here is only a little better than what John and Dav cook back at the apartment in Evanston (haha just kidding).
We took off for the 8:00 game at about 4:30 and arrived at 6. The jet lag effect took its toll on the team again on the way to the game; everyone fell asleep quickly. When we got to the gym, it was like AAU all over again. We came to the game with our jerseys on already, but we put on our ankle braces and stretched in the hallway before being led to our locker room. We had a bit of a wait before the game, but once we got out there, it was just basketball. We played with a FIBA ball, but it was basically the same as the ones we play with at Welsh-Ryan. The team we played was skilled but not too athletic. I think most if not all of their players were Italian. They played physical, but we handled everything pretty well for the first game. We led the whole way. It was fun to get out there, get a sweat going, and play...in Italy. I keep thinking at random times, `Wow, I'm in Italy right now.' It's quite the experience.
We are passing through Rome right now and I still can't get over the architecture and magnificent buildings. I want to thank everyone again who made this happen, and I can't stress enough how much of a privilege this trip to Italy is. The whole team really appreciates everyone who supports us, and we are ready to make you proud this season. I want to say hi to Mom and Dad, Sara, Liza and Ariel. Tomorrow we are headed to the Vatican, and our next game is on Wednesday. It's crazy that it's only late afternoon at home while we are approaching midnight here in Rome. Again, thank you to everyone who supports us.