Monday, June 2, 2008

Palermo Corsari Game II...A VERY INTERESTING DAY!

Be forewarned, this is going to be a long blog today.

 The Sunday of our home game vs. the Palermo Sharks started off with a 6:00 a.m. wake-up call to drive down to the Catania harbor to meet the 7:00 a.m. TTT Lines ferry from Naples, you may recall their wonderful ad of the day from a few weeks ago. Of course the ferry didn't dock until 8:30 a.m.!

On board was retired Ventura County coaching legend Paul Petrich who is touring Europe again this summer.

Early morning view of Catania from the docks.

The ferry FINALLY arives.

Paul Petrich lands in Sicily.
Will the island ever be the same again?

The now traditional pre-game breakfast at Malibu.

We arrived at Stadio Santa Maria Goretti at 1:00 p.m. for our final preparations for the game. It would be a MUCH longer afternoon than anticipated...

Two CRAZY White Boys

The Corsari added a new player since our last game against them, Ryan Roberts, a.k.a. "White Boy", a LB and WR.

Ryan played football with our Matt Epperson in Finland last season, then played for the Barcelona team this season. Spain's season is now over, so he answered the Corsari's call last week for another import to help them finish out the season. He did catch a TD pass against us. It's a HARD life playing American football in Europe!

Davide Giuliano, Mark Shupe and Jason Johnson

The Mid-American Conference has agreed to a referee exchange with the IFL to help improve the quality of the game here in Italy. They have agreed to host, I think a total of 6 MAC refs in Italy throughout he season, WHAT A GREAT IDEA!!!

I often wonder how people in Italy ever get interested in American football with the tremendous lack of exposure. Then I wonder why would anyone try to ref this truly foreign sport. Let me say this up front, the Italian refs are good people to work with. They are trying their best and I am so thankful that they are willing to learn and improve under American referees' tutelage.

Mark Shupe was our American ref the last two games. He is here for about 10 days with his lovely bride Kathy. The two of them have had a chance to really savor a lot of Italy in a short time, having worked two Saturday games in the north of Italy and two Sunday games in Catania. I think these last two games were the best officiated games we've had this season and I am sure that the positive spirit of collaboration between the American and Italian referees is a big part of it.


O.K., this brings me to the main game day story which really started two weeks ago. The scene is Palermo where the winless Sharks are playing their stadium sharing rival Corsari in the second Palermo Derby of the season. The Sharks won the game and then after the game was over apparently all hell broke loose as some Corsari players physically attacked the officiating crew.

Now the Corsari had a BYE last week, so the league had two weeks to sort everything out and rule on appropriate punishments.

Before I go farther let me just add that in America this sort of behavior is JUST NOT ACCEPTABLE! Where I am from, California, the state's Penal Code in Section 243.8, specifically deals with physical assaults (battery to be accurate) on sports officials as a CRIMINAL offense with punishment being (a) up to a $2,000 fine or (b) up to one year in a county jail or (c) both a and b! I am sure that all 50 states have similar laws on their books. For any sport to have integrity this is a line that CAN NOT be crossed!

The IFL's ruling came down last Friday and included, amongst many punishments, a team fine of 3,000 euros and the suspension of four players for 2 games, 4 games, 8 games and 3 YEARS!

At all the IFL games last week the refs delayed the start of the game for 15 minutes as a protest and show of solidarity against the Corsari's actions.

Our game would be the first Corsari game since the altercation and suspensions. The Corsari coaches planned on playing two of the four suspended players in our game. Their rational was that the entire league had not voted to let this one judge be the arbiter of the decision and thus they would not honor his jurisdiction in the case!

Now if you want to argue that the suspensions were too severe, fine, do it with the league office during the next few days. My point is that in what, as of yet undiscovered, parallel universe can you batter a group of refs and not get AT LEAST a one game suspension? So why are we arguing this now before the start of this game?

...and argue they did, delaying the 3:00 p.m. kickoff 90 minutes! Now our players were all buzzing about what was going on and I tried to explain the true gravity of this bizarre situation from the officials viewpoint. If players attack the referees one week and then can just ignore their punishment the next week, then what is to stop these same players from potentially attacking the officials again? If you are going to do the crime, be ready to serve the time!

The Polizia Arrive

At about the 60 minute mark the local police showed up at the stadium to see what all the fuss was about. The two officers are partially visible behind Coach Matteo's "Bald Is Beautiful" duomo on the left, parlando with all the principals in the discussion. They would soon leave us alone to continue the argument in peace.

"Your Papers Please"

As I have mentioned before, all players and coaches must submit their documents and or passports to the officiating crew before each game for security reasons. The officials decided to do a documents line up of the two teams, this happened to us once before in Bergamo.

The drill is to line up each team on their sideline, call off a player's last name, check his face vs. the document photo and have him then respond by saying his first name, jersey number and then step forward about 15 feet on to the field of play and wait for the rest of the players to do the same when it was their turn.

The Elephants passed with flying colors but the Corsari, in the scene above, did indeed have two of the suspended players dressed out for the game. The referees had told the Corsari that if they were suited out they would declare a forfeit and we could all go home.

I believe the reason they checked our documents first was to give the Corsari a little more time to get rid of the offending players which, of course, they did not!


Not so fast... as the referees were just about to walk out the gate some 70 yards away from the Corsari bench area, one of their coaches raced up to them and said that they were sending the two players in question to the locker room to change back into their street clothes. At 4:30 p.m. we were FINALLY able to start the process of beating the hell out of the Corsari.

Oh, did I fail to mention that the Corsari's uniforms are Oakland Raiders clones... imagine that! 

This whole experience made me finally decide to re-register as a card carrying Communist!

None of this would have happened if we just had a good old fashioned Commie-bastardo dictatorship in place.


You may recall that last week Atilio, the owner of the WORLD FAMOUS Fondo Bianco Bar in beautiful downtown Catania, made a great Catania Elephants banner that we now proudly display at our games. This week he put on a great fireworks display before the delayed kickoff, an omen of the fireworks at the Fondo Bianco later that night at our post game de-briefing!

First Quarter:
With the aid of a flawlessly executed fake punt, the Elephants drove down the field on the opening drive of the game and with "The Sheriff" Claudio Mangano catching the first of  Jason's 5 TD passes on the day, Catania 6-0.

The Corsari respond with a TD pass of their own to tie it at 6-6.

We punt (a fine one at that by Salvo Persano) and we then have a defensive 3 and out to end the quarter still tied at 6-6.

Second Quarter:
Jason hits Giuseppe "Copino" Strano for TD pass #2 and Andrea Mannino kicks the PAT, 13-6 Catania.

Defense 3 and out!

Enrico Lombardo runs it in from about 40 yards out, Elefanti 20-6.


TD pass to Claudio, Catania 27-6.

The Corsari QB does one of his crazy scrambles into pay dirt, Catania 27-14.

TD pass to Claudio, Elephants now lead 34-14.

Marco Raino recovers a Palermo fumble after a GREAT gang tackle led by our newest LB Massimo "Moro" Bonomo (nice pick up by our General Manger, Davide Giuliano).

Enrico scoots for another rushing TD, Mt. Etna's favorite sons now up 41-14.

Defense keeps them out of the end zone to end the half with a commanding 41-14 lead.

Third Quarter:
Palermo comes out and puts a drive together that ends with a 4th down, 6 yards TD pass to cut our lead to 41-20.

TD pass to Claudio (his 4th on the day, THIS IS KILLING ME!), Catania 47-20.

Corsari answer back for the last time on a 28 yard pass to "White Boy", Elefanti 47-26.

Enrico is still feeling underworked so he challenges Team Owner Davide Giuliano to a 55 yard dash and beats him barely, Catania 54-26.

Fourth Quarter:
Palermo turns the ball over on downs...WAY TO GO DEFENSE!

Enrico, still clearly not tired and in need of a little exercise, sprints 55 yards into the end zone, Catania 60-26.

Mario Ravida recovers a Corsari fumble at our 2 yard line.

Jason runs the clock out and we win by a final score of 60-26!

GREAT job by our defense and special teams today!

Offensively, you may have noticed that Matt Epperson's name was for once absent from the game report. He did get hurt at the end of last week's Parma game and is listed as "Day-to-Day", but what the heck, at my age, I too am listed as "Day-to-Day".

I was proud as to how our players pulled together in Matt's absence and found an extra gear that we hadn't shown up to now.

We had a total of only 38 offensive plays in the game for 537 yards and 9 TD's, averaging an incredible 14.1 yards per snap!

Enrico had 17 carries for 307 yards, averaged 18.1 yards per carry, and 4 TD's

Jason was 10 for 20 for 227 yards and 5 TD's

Claudio officially broke my heart 4 times!


After the game, Paul Petrich and I met Mark and Kathy Shupe at Dietro le Mura in Aci Castello for dinner. We shared some wine, had a good meal and had a smashing evening talking about Italian football, culture, food and travel.

The Shupe's are GOOD people and so is Paul!

After dinner, I drove Paul up to his hotel in Taormina at about 12:15 a.m. just in time to return to the Fondo Bianco in Catania for some Elefanti revelry!

It is safe to say that Brandon is a local at the Fondo Bianco!

Is Gustavo now in league with the Devil himself?

Or maybe Gustavo is the long lost great-great grandson of Benito Mussolini

"Yeah, I caught 4 TD passes today, what's it to you?"

Winning is FUN!

Or, then again, maybe he is just a Walt Disney character?

Atilio preparing an Elefanti toast

He promised the team 100 free shots if we won, maybe that's why we played so much better today!

No Mathieu, you do NOT have to down those all by yourself!

What better way to usher in the month of June than with a sweet kiss from your bride under the Caucasian Passion banner at the Teatro Bellini!

1 comment:

Brandon said...

Wow, what a mess. Glad you beat the snot out of them in the end.

As a Mid-American Conference grad and fan, I'm glad to see that the MAC referees are getting some practice. Some of them need it. Now if only the Pac-10 would jetison their entire officiating crew to the Afghani Football League, we'd be in business.