Tom Ross: Are you ready for some futbol? |

Tom Ross: Are you ready for some futbol?

Tom Ross

— It's not an easy thing for a red-blooded American male to agree to a trip abroad in the middle of October. I mean, there are the conference championships in Major League Baseball, the fate of the NBA season hanging in the balance and FOOTBALL.

Fortunately for me, my traveling companion planned our itinerary in Italy around the Wisconsin Badgers' bye week. Is she a sweetheart or what?

What's that, baby? It was purely coincidental? I see.

Everywhere we went in Italy, from Venezia to Cinque Terra to La Spezia and Firenze, our hotel rooms were equipped with dinky television sets. Not that they were much help. In Venezia, the hotel required me to check out a remote control from the front desk. As if I might want to steal an Italian remote control that only tunes in endless European soccer matches and the British version of CNN with scintillating news updates from places like Cyprus.

I have to say that even with Italian commentary, European soccer highlight reels are quite effective at taking the edge off when a guy is jonesing for some American futbol.

Aside from soccer, Italian TV seems to consist of quiz shows and soap operas.

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Of course, we didn't travel all the way to Italy to watch television; we went to visit some of the greatest art museums in the world, sip great red wine, hike the rugged coast, sip more wine, window shop for Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, sip wine to recover from the sticker shock, watch German tourists posing for pictures of themselves holding up the leaning tower of Pisa and eat a little pasta with our wine.

Anyway, being away from the tube was a healthy thing for me. I could check out some scores and highlights on my phone in an Internet cafe for a euro or two. But missing out entirely on Sports Center was a form of withdrawal. I even missed me some Big Ten Network.

Walking back from an awesome seafood dinner in Monterosso al Mare late one evening — you're regarded like an early-bird senior citizen if you go to dinner before 8:30 p.m. — we walked past a rowdy bar where people were spilling out into the cobblestone street. I'm not certain, but they might have been tipsy.

I paused to look inside the bar, which had no front door (that's my kind of bar) and froze in my tracks. The big flat screen inside read "ESPN America," and a Thursday night college football game was being rebroadcast. Or maybe it was live — I never fully grasped the time difference.

The Cal Golden Bears were playing the Oregon Ducks, and the crowd in the bar was really into it.

However, there was a very fine pasticceria right around the corner, and suddenly, making a dent in those exotic desserts became way more important than touchdowns.


To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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