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Black Lamb

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Les neiges d’antan

March 1st, 2007

BY DAN PETERSON

Snow in Italy is a must in the mountains, which depend on the ski industry for survival, but is a no-no further down the peninsula, where the tourist trade is geared toward “Sunny Italy.” Now, living in Milan, I find myself halfway between those two realities. Still, snow in Milan is rare. Fog is common. Rain is common. Snow is rare.

But, as happens in life, when it decided to snow in Milan in January of 1985, the elements did not go halfway. The basketball team I was coaching, Olympia Milan, had a European Korac Cup game one Tuesday night with Stade Français of Paris. That day it snowed like it often does in my home town of Chicago. Well, Evanston, but right next to Chicago.

When I say the snow banks were well over one meter high, I am not kidding. The town was paralyzed. Traffic in Milan is a hassle any time, as Milan has more cars per kilometer of street, some 750+, that I don’t even have a car. As I’ve said before here, you can’t drive in Milan and you can’t park here. So why should I bother with a car?

Lucky me on the night of the game. I was used to taking public transportation and the street cars didn’t have to worry about sliding. I was at the Duomo in about twenty minutes, only a little slower than usual. I then took the subway, called the Metrò here, and was at Piazzale Lotto in no time. That’s where panic set in.

We were not playing at nearby Palalido Arena but at the new San Siro Arena, right next door to the legendary San Siro soccer stadium. Even under good conditions, that was a twenty-five to thirty-minute walk. Well, I’d take a taxi, right? The taxis were paralyzed. Oh, my God! I had to go on foot. It took me one hour in show up to my chest.

I made it to the arena ahead of everyone. Oh, my God again! No players were there! I was in the locker room. Dumb old me! I didn’t look to see if Stade Français had arrived. They hadn’t, as they were in a team bus and that was slow-moving. But I was only thinking about my guys. What if no one showed up?

I’ll tell you what would have happened. We would have had to forfeit the game and that would have knocked us out of this event, which we went on to win at a later date. One by one, guys straggled in, all with transportation problems. Five guys were there: the second team. Who cared? I said, “You guys are starting tonight!”

Then I got the word that Stade Français was late. The FIBA Commissioner said the game would start at 9:00 p.m. and not 8:30 p.m., as they had also arrived late, as had the referees. Then my entire starting five made it. I said to the second string, “Guys, know what? I lied! You are not starting!” Everyone laughed. It was insane.

We won the game and I relaxed. Two days later, I got word that the roof of the arena had caved in under the weight of the snow. It had been tested to hold 10 kg of weight per square meter and there were over 100 kg of weight on each square meter. The roof did not actually cave in but simply detached from its pilings, by about four inches all around.

We never played there again. They had to dynamite the place as a public hazard and we left that 16,000-seat arena to return to little old Palalido, with about 4,500 seats. Some $30,000,000 went up in smoke and we were on the street. Whenever I see snow fall, especially here in Milan, I think I made it out of there just in time. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Peterson | Link to this Entry

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