Monday, January 14, 2008

Catania Weekend Activities

First, I'm having trouble uploading pictures to the site, I'll continue to try to upload them when possible.

Last Friday night Davide held a fundraiser for the Elefanti at the Showroom Angiolucci where they sell high-end eyeglass frames and sunglasses, it was very upscale. Davide put together a very nice press guide, had players in uniform, raggaze (girls) in game jerseys, twice life size posters of the Americans and of our falcon, Renato Gargiulo that were posted inside and outside the Showroom. It was really a well done affair.

At it I got to meet Senatore Nino Strano of the Italian National Parliament whose son, Giuseppe, is our Tight End. I also met Giuseppe's zita (girlfriend) Valeria who is a Criminal Law Attorney. She was taking off after the event to join her ice hockey team (game jersey #7 on the ice) for games in Paris over the weekend. She was on the Italian Olympic Ice Hockey Team in the last Olympics. She is a very sweet, petite and outgoing young lady who is fun to be around.

After the event I joined a bunch of the players and their zite in the Piazza Bellini for food and drinks. It was a little strange to be with the players on the eve of the first practice having beers with them, watching them smoke and enjoying the company of their many lady friends.

At night, downtown Catania is like a clip from the movie "Night of the Living Dead". I left at about 1:15 a.m. as hundreds of people were just arriving to start the evening! At practice I asked our offensive guard Giulio what time he left the Piazza and his answer was "4:00 a.m.". You've got to love our training techniques.

Saturday was our first practice at 3:00 p.m. on the field next to Stadium Santa Maria Goretti where we play our games. The Stadium field is in GREAT shape, perfectly manicured. The practice field is a combination of dirt areas and 4 inch tall grass areas, not the greatest, kind of like Rio Mesa's practice fields. About 45 players showed up eventually, again, starting times are merely suggestions. Most had helmets and shoulder pads, some didn't. We had to cut practice a little short when the sun went down thus missing Punt team installation.

As for the players, they are in pretty good shape. I was very proud of the defensive players! They learn quickly and really like the blitzing we are doing. Their feel for the game is much better than I anticipated. They made adjustments, asked good questions and had a good grasp of fundamentals. We started work on tackling as if they were first day Freshmen, again they responded well.

Let me mention three players that stood out. First our linebacker from Palermo, a four hour round trip drive, Giovanni Pecorro, he can play! We only have him on Saturdays and Sundays because of the travel issue. He's a very smart player, fundamentally sound and likes to hit. Renato Gargiulio is a falcon (strong safety) and Christian DiMauro is our free safety. They also are leaders who picked things up quickly and made great adjustments. I think this defensive group will be a lot of fun to coach and hang out with!

I must mention that at practice our players look like the Rainbow Coalition, every possible color jersey or T-shirt was worn including our WR, Gregorio Barbaglio, wearing a complete ca. 1988 Los Angeles Rams road uniform. He did add BRIGHT yellow sox to enhance the look.

Attendance at practice will be a constant issue. Besides Giovanni's issue, our middle linebacker informed me that his job is taking him to Israel for the next four weeks, adapt and survive.

Big calcio (soccer) game in town Saturday night between Catania and Turin's Joventue squad, a 1-1 tie, go figure! I was going to watch it on TV since it was sold out not knowing that Rupert Murdoch's Sky Sports pay TV network has exclusive rights to all Italian games. The local channel I was watching has two guys doing a radio style play-by-play and shots of the crowd only. It took me a while to realize that this was not the world's longest pre-game show.

Sunday was an early get up day to drive into Catania to go to 8:00 a.m. Mass at the city's Sant'Agata Cathedral. It is a Baroque style church, old and beautiful. After Mass the church was sponsoring a blood drive with 10-15 bloodmobiles in waiting in the piazza. I felt it was my duty to my new country to donate as I have on several occasions back in California. Unfortunately I was turned down as a foreigner, they need to monitor you for at least three months. I was later told that in Italy you can only donate until you are 55 so my age could have been an issue also.

From there I wandered into the Piazza Carlo Alberto where thousands of people joined to take part in a fish/meat/farmers/flea market. I saw everything there including two kitchen sinks! Great prices on some necessities, as in every such market in the world, don't ask where they got things, just be happy you got a deal. A very interesting seller is pictured for you, I didn't buy from him.

Walked into a Levi Strauss store to find Levi's selling for about $150 a pair! Of course there is a 30% after Christmas sale going on but I still passed.

Next I stumbled upon a dueling brass band concert, interesting and fun.

I returned home to do my first load of laundry, whites. It was a great success. No dryers in Italy so I had to hang things up to dry on the back balcony, my underwear looks even bigger on a clothesline!

I went over to Davide's home to watch the Chargers-Colts playoff game. They have a beautiful hilltop home about 1,500 feet above the Ionian Sea and were great hosts. On the drive up to their place Garmin took me through some really narrow streets at night, exciting. I got to see more Italian TV commercials, apparently lots of partially clad ladies really helps sell things here.

To get another view of the Italian football experience go to our QB Jason Johnson's blog at 

To finish today, I was having a late snack in the afternoon yesterday while I was writing in my journal. As I sat on the patio with the usual grand view of the Ionian Sea it hit me. If Mr. Coulson had not completely screwed up my schedule last year, thus making me teach two U.S. History classes that I was not credentialed to and had no desire to teach (a sarcastic thanks for the overnight emergency credential) I would probably not have retired last June and kept on going for two more years. If I didn't retire I would not be here having this adventure...THANK YOU MR. COULSON!

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