"There's just no training for the referees," said Dewey Andrew, star of the Cassera Fortitudo team of Bologna and onetime player at little Elon College in North Carolina, where Moe went. "And they have no control of the fans. In the States if the fans get out of hand the refs'll forfeit the game. Here they'll just stop the game long enough to pick up the coins that've been thrown at 'em. And somebody's got to teach the referees to stop watching the ball all the time. That's when all the trouble starts. When the ball is up in the air the other team gives you 20 kinds of agony."
Said Chubin: "You could get killed while they're watching the ball. Somebody could pull a knife, stab you with it, wipe it off and put it back in his pocket while the referees are staring at the ball."
"It is all very simple," said a Milan newspaper editor. "It is not only that the officials are incompetent. They are simply afraid of the fans, and rightly so. They have to rule for the home team or they'll spend the next two or three hours running for their lives."
Early in his Italian career Doug Moe saw what happens to referees who make honest calls against the home team in tight games. "The coach and I went up to Cant� to see Oransoda play Simmenthal, strictly a nonleague, friendly game. Near the end one of the Oransoda players charged a Simmenthal player—a perfectly obvious charge, you could see it from the third balcony—and the referee called it. The crowd went nuts, and the game was for nothing, had no importance at all! As soon as the game ended the whole stands came down on the referee, and they had to call in a couple hundred cops to get him out. So you can see why the refs call 'em for the home team."
The results are often childishly ludicrous. Once a Venetian team was playing at home and, despite the active assistance of the referee, could not seem to even up the game in the second half. The half droned on for 55 minutes before the Venice team went one point ahead, and instantly the referee's whistle ended the game. Other games have been shortened because the referees sensed that the home team was pooping out and might lose the lead.
"You can understand why they're afraid of the fans," said the outspoken Chubin. "There's a certain element of the fans here that're absolutely nuts. I mean, they oughta be hauled off in straitjackets. Some of these people'll blow an air horn right in your ear as you're walking by, deafen you for a week. It's different than the States. Sometimes it's sickening. One man'll keep hollering something dirty over and over. I couldn't take it at first, right in front of everybody. I mean, I don't speak Italian yet, but certain things you understand. You don't need a dictionary."
Doug Moe has become inured to the crowds, but the rookie Chubin is still suffering. In a recent game he missed four straight foul shots and ended up making one for eight, his worst performance since the backlots of his native Queens, because the fans leaned far out of their seats and waved handkerchiefs and towels around the basket as he was preparing to shoot. "Not only that, but they're yelling those words at me again. So I give the ball back to the referee to ask for quiet. Usually the referee in the States'll either get 'em to quiet down or he'll give you a technical. But here they don't know from technicals; so my coach says just shoot it, and I don't come anywheres near close. They got me. They just drove me crazy."
"I don't think the fans here are particularly bad people," said the soft-spoken Dewey Andrew. "They're just over-enthusiastic. They lose all control of themselves. One game when I fouled out I got hit with an awful mess of stuff from our own fans. Oranges, coins, garbage—everything but fresh fish. They were aiming at the referee, but they were hitting me."
"They're all right, they're just real fans, all-out," said a player who does not want to make any Italian enemies. "Why, last year after the championship game the Ignis fans came out of the stands and tore the clothes off their hero, Toby Kimball, left him standing there in his jock. Young girls'll think nothing of coming right into the dressing room after a game and trying to grab souvenirs. If you don't do a pretty good job of defending yourself you'll wind up naked."
"And they love to fight," said Moe. "Sometimes I think they just come to the games for the exercise of fighting. Before a game there'll be three or four fights going on in the stands and everybody egging 'em on and nobody trying to stop 'em. Sometimes it's one long fight to get back into the dressing room. This Italian basketball—it's like an audience-participation sport."