NAPLES, Italy (NNS) -- The thrill of victory with no agony as you eat.
Signed portraits of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, a Brett Favre jersey, autographed baseballs from Cal Ripken and Oral Hersheiser and a variety of posters, cards and letters from sports figures across the broad spectrum of the sports world hang on the wall. A veritable hall of fame of sports, but this is no multimillion dollar shrine built to canonize our athletic idols. This is the Naval Support Activity Naples Ciao Hall.
"Every time I open the mail, it's like Christmas," said Chief Mess Management Specialist Mark Adams, who is the galley leading chief petty officer at the Ciao Hall. Adams has spent the last few months gathering sports memorabilia across the United States to give the galley a sports theme.
"When I got here in January, Chief [Brian] Scanlon asked me what changes or ideas I had in mind for the galley," Adams said. "And creating a sports theme galley was one of the things I'd done on the USS Georgia (SSBN 729). I contacted all the Georgia teams -- the Bulldogs and the Falcons and the Hawks -- and stuff started coming in from the teams to put on the walls of the submarine. The crew loved it."
Adams said that after a lot of discussion, they decided that if they were going to do it, they were going to go all the way.
"I sat down and sent out about 600 e-mails to every sports organization; NFL, NBA, NHL, WNBA, and every college in the NCAA, in addition to individuals like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, Richard Petty and Roger Staubach," Adams said. "I just went online and tracked them down.
"The idea is to give the people here a taste of home. Wherever you are from, you can probably find something on the walls that represent either your state or your city. There's minor league teams from Aberdeen, New Orleans, Albany -- teams you wouldn't even know existed unless you were from the area," Adams said.
"There are a lot signed items here," Adams continued. "Most of the people I've e-mailed have really come through. I got an e-mail from George Foreman. The very first package we got was from the Green Bay Packers -- the Steelers response came the same week.
"Roger Staubach sent us something in about four days; that is four days from the time I e-mailed him to the time the item showed up here in Naples," Adams continued. "I've got, so far, close to 700 items that have been sent in. Everything from baseball cards, football cards, stickers, you name it."
"I think my favorite would probably be the stuff from Stan Musial, who was a hall-of-famer in 1969. He pretty much disappeared in the early sixties, and yet he was one of the ones who responded to my e-mail," said Adams. "The poster that I think is really cool is of the Padres of the two players on a ship with Sailors on it. The Padres are the only team that has their own military uniform -- they have two opening days -- one for the general public and one for the military, and on the military opening day, they wear camouflaged shirts."
Galley Chief Mess Management Specialist Brian Scanlon said that, while sometimes there is no response to an e-mail, many sports stars have been very supportive.
"There are a lot of pro-military sports teams out there. Especially with all the things going on in the world today, there is a lot of support, for not just the fighting forces, but for people who are overseas, who are away from home, Scanlon said. "There are also a lot of people who are prior military and people who have retired from sports who were in the military."
"Chief Adams has done a great job, beyond belief of what normally would be done," said Scanlon. "You know sometimes you see in galleys a sports corner? In this case, it's half of the galley. And it really hasn't cost anything except for a few frames. Everything else was donated.
"When the Navy food management team was here, they told us that when you have a five-star facility like this one, you have to make other improvements to your facility in order to keep coming out on top," Scanlon continued. "And I think it's going to keep getting better."
Adams said he continues to receive about one or two items per week and expects that to continue for the next year or so. He added that some of the e-mails are really memorable.
"There was an e-mail I got from a fighter pilot from the Korean War era who is a collector of sports memorabilia. He thought it was great we were doing this and sent us some baseballs from his collection along with the display cases for them," said Adams.
"Also, Dennis Conner from the Star and Stripes sailing team was actually in New Zealand for the race when he got my e-mail and asked me for instructions on how to mail something from New Zealand to Italy. They sent us this picture with 66 signatures from every crew member and a flag from the boat signed by Dennis Conner," said Adams.
"Everywhere I've been, every command I've been to, I've tried to boost the morale of the people I'm stationed with," Adams said. "That was one of the biggest things I wanted to do was to try and boost the morale here. The people here are halfway around the world from home, and I want them to come into the galley and see something from back home and say, 'Hey, that's my little chunk; that's my little piece of morale!' And I think I've done that, so I'm very happy. It's great, and I think it's going to get even better."
For related news, visit the Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/nsanaples.