Athens Diary / The Word on the Street

An old habit of sports correspondents is to engage taxi drivers in conversation and ask them about the event they are covering. On most occasions, the taxi drivers, real or imagined, turn out to be accomplished authorities in the field. On this particular occasion I engaged a hotel reception clerk, who, after checking me in, asked whether I could swing him a ticket for the Final Four.

Nikos, a 24-year-old Athenian, happened to be a fan of Olympiacos, the sworn enemy of semifinalist Panathinaikos.

"Obviously I hate them," confessed Nikos, "but it's still a major sporting event and I would like to experience the atmosphere."

Nikos' team went out of the competition in the quarterfinals after losing to Tau.

"To tell the truth I expected more of [coach] Pini Gershon. When he was at Maccabi Tel Aviv it seemed like he was a real magician. But from up close he is just flesh and blood. We expected more of Gershon and Olympiacos, but the matchup didn't work."