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Curry Kirkpatrick
October 09, 1989
With a huge salary and all the pasta he can eat, Danny Ferry doesn't regret having said ciao to the NBA and pronto to pro hoops Italian-style
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October 09, 1989

Sitting Pretty In Rome

With a huge salary and all the pasta he can eat, Danny Ferry doesn't regret having said ciao to the NBA and pronto to pro hoops Italian-style

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•hobnobbed at a Rome reception with some of Italy's most renowned entertainers, including Heather Parisi, a glamorous blonde dancer along the lines of Joey Heatherton, and Pippo Baudo, a sort of Gianni Carsoni;

•attended a team dinner at the breathtaking apartment of Il Messaggero president Carlo Sama, Gardini's brother-in-law. The apartment overlooks the famous fountains of the Piazza Navona. "Carlo's terrace seats 40 people!" said Ferry. "I could reach out and touch the church steeple";

•practically won single-handedly his team's first nationally televised game, the 90-86 road victory over Vismara-Cantú, with a pair of late three-point baskets. (He had the chance to be a hero again on Sunday against Philips Milano, but he missed a free throw with 19 seconds left, and Philips won 96-94 before a capacity crowd of 13,000. Ferry scored 28 points.)

None of this conveys the excitement generated by Ferry and his American teammate, 6'6" Brian Shaw—who left the Boston Celtics backcourt to take another $1 million chunk out of Gardini's gardens—whenever they appear on the streets of Rome. Shaw has acquired the Italian title of Signor Quattro Formaggi. "That's four cheeses," says Signor Shaw. "I order everything with four cheeses, and when I sprinkle the Parmesan on, I'm Signor Cinque Formaggi."

As any visitor who has ever flipped a coin into the Trevi Fountain might expect, Ferry and Shaw have made their only real language strides in the restaurants of Rome. Away from the table Ferry's vocabulary consists mostly of pronto (hello) when answering the phone and non ho capito (I didn't understand) when he doesn't want to elaborate. Both players have learned the common Italian obscenities, courtesy of their new teammates. Still, Shaw was unprepared for a recent incident involving Italy's only female referee.

"First I cursed her out in English, which it turned out she understood perfectly," says Shaw. "Then she cursed me out in Italian, which I understood. Whew! Some real nasty stuff. Later she kept smiling, and I thought she was my friend again. Then she hit me with another charging call. I think she wanted to gain respect. She sure got it from me."

It's not as if the two innocents abroad are that innocent—although they did shell out $50 for ice cream for four people on the Via Veneto the other day—or that difficult to miss. "A tall white guy and a tall black guy walking around together in Rome—who else could we be?" says Ferry. Now that Lori Butler, Shaw's college sweetheart from UC Santa Barbara, has joined him in Rome, the two players are not always together.

When left to his own resources, Ferry sometimes has trouble adapting to Italian customs. For one thing, he was kicked out of the Vatican complex for wearing shorts. For another, he nearly kills himself every time he ventures into the insane Roman traffic, which has no rules, only recommendations.

"If you drive politely here, you're either a fool or soon to be dead," said Ferry one day amid a temper-meltdown of a journey along Via Salaria between the team's practice site and his hotel. Normally a 15-minute trip, the adventure took Ferry, who alternated between being hopelessly lost and sideswiping several rearview mirrors off other motorists, more than two hours. "When Danny's at the wheel, I wear a helmet and a blindfold," says Ballard.

"The dirt and the pollution," says Ferry, changing the subject. "That's the downside of Rome." He also misses his friends and the NFL on Sundays. For Shaw the downside of Rome is the lack of ice in his drinks and "karate movies dubbed in Italian rather than in English." Ah, but they're encountering some of the world's most glorious art, finest food and most beautiful women. "I rate the women here as definite pieces of art," says Shaw, a quick learner even under the watchful eye of Butler.

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