Friday, September 30, 2016

Up, Up and AWAY!

Wednesday & Thursday, 28-29 September, 2016:

EuroBall adventure VIII officially started on Wednesday, with some GREAT news.

When I checked my e-mails that morning I was excited to find out that my new club, Madrid's Osos Rivas, had finally signed a Head Coach for the 2017 season.

Not just any Head Coach mind you but highly regarded Jesús Sanchez who had done a magnificent job coaching the Gijón Mariners the past few years.

Laurie and I had met with Jesús over dinner when we visited Gijón back in May, 2015 and found him to definitely be one of the good guys.

With Jesús in Gijón in 2015

I am very excited to be coaching with Jesús the next two months

 Camarillo Cronies for lunch

As tradition has it, I always have my last meal on USA soil before embarking to another EuroBall experience with a stop at this fine dining spot.

The Walberry Salad and the unlimited Diet Cokes were perfect!

Paparazzi at LAX

As I said goodbye to Laurie and headed towards the Security Checkpoint, I was swarmed under by glaring lights and a horde of cameramen yelling out questions. You can see a camera held high just to the left of my head.

At first I wondered how they knew about my imminent departure.

Then I realized that they were not there for me.

See that young, long striding woman with the high heeled boots to my right? Turns out that her last name is Kardashian.

Apparently she is world famous too.

The first leg of my trip was an 11 hour and 25 minute flight on Lufthansa from Los Angeles to Munich, Germany.

A baby about four rows in front of me cried and screamed off and on for about seven hours of our journey.

I scored an aisle seat in a two seat row next to a 20 something year old woman who packed about 100 lbs. on her 5'2" frame.

YAHOO! I had the space that I needed.

There seemed to be a lot of German speakers on board for some untold reason.

Because this airplane had a wider aisle than normal, I did not suffer any of my usual bumps and bruises from out of control fellow passengers sashaying to and from the restroom.

Lufthansa's selection of movies, TV shows and music actually made for a trip that seemed to go by much faster than usual.

Oktoberfest 2016 about to kickoff

Once in Munich/München, things went with typical German efficiency. I was the only person in line at customs and sailed through in about 30 seconds.

Unlike LAX, the Munich Airport is so traveler friendly with a smooth metro system to get you quickly from one terminal to the next.

 Of course Camel sponsors the
Munich Airport Smoking Lounge

I had an hour and 15 minute layover, then I was off to my final destination . . .

 . . . MADRID!

Lufthansa Flight 1804 was scheduled as a two hour and 45 minute affair.

I scored another aisle seat this time next to relatively round fellow like myself. The aisle on this flight was narrower than the one on the trans-Atlantic flight leading to several bumps and one really hard ramming of the beverage cart by an out of control flight attendant right into my kneecap. Later she would spill part of a coffee cup onto my eating tray.

Fortunately for me, she did not spill any of the java on me.

Lots of Spanish speakers on this flight.

No crying babies made for a good flight.

Temptation in the Madrid Airport

100 Montaditos is a fast food tapas chain in España. I wanted to but Enrique Martín Alonso, the Osos President, was waiting to whisk me away to the magical sights of the Spanish capital.

Go Osos GO!

First up was a rush hour drive to the southeast Madrid suburb of Rivas to check out . . .

The Osos A Team's
Game/Practice Field

I had been there once before in February of 2010 to watch the Osos beat the Sueca Ricers in a Serie A game. I was spending a few days in Madrid then on my way to coaching the Thun Tigers in Switzerland.

Osos B team Home Field
in the northern Madrid suburb
of Alcobendas

This is also the home field of the Royal Oaks Knights, one of the Osos' feeder programs run by Marco Chomón who we would meet up with for a typically European late, two hour dinner.

Lots of track and rugby activity
at the Alcobendas facility tonight

I sense a possible Brian FitzGerald track clinic in Spain soon.

 Time to eat with some key
Osos club members

Nothing like regional food from my Spanish grandparents' home province of Asturias to start the adventure.

THE adult beverage of Asturias

We went through more than a few bottles on this warm night.

 Our table inside a HUGE
sidra barrel

L. to R., Enrique Martín Alonso,
Ricardo Martín and Marco Chomón

On my the left Daniel Vilches

The croquetas stuffed with queso cabrales were AMAZING!

So was the Fabada Asturiana
con Compango!

A good meal with good new friends is a great way to end a long two days of traveling.

with Vanessa and Daniel Vilches

They are hosting me in their home, the Villa Mapache, for a few days until my apartment becomes available.

They are good people.

12:20 a.m. Friday morning was a good time to finally go to bed.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Last Two Weeks Before Blast-Off

It's been awhile since my last post so let's do some catching up as we have been busy before our next trip overseas . . .

First Stop,
The Home of The Flashes

Why you ask? 

To be the Color Commentator for the Ventura County Star's Game-of-the-Week streaming broadcast of the 106th American football game between the Santa Paula Cardinals and the Fillmore Flashes.

I would be working with Play-by-Play broadcaster Danny Page and Sideline Reporter Will Cowan for the second straight Friday night.

We had a lot of fun again on this warm evening.

 Santa Paula led the series
that dates back to 1923

Future Flashes packed the aisles

At Halftime,both bands shared the field

Since Fillmore only has stands on one side of their field, the two fan bases shared the stadium's seating 50-50 too.

This was not a problem as this is an intense but friendly rivalry in the final analysis.

It was a good game with lots of ebbs and flows. I thought that the smaller, underdog Fillmore squad played way over their heads for most of the contest but in the end Santa Paula's size advantage just wore the Flashes down.

Final Score: Santa Paula (2-2) 34 - Fillmore (0-4) 19.

The Cardinals increased their series lead to 60-39-7.

Saturday night at Pierce College

Laurie and I journeyed down the 101 Freeway on Saturday evening to Woodland Hills to catch a Junior College game, the Southwestern College Jaguars (2-0) at the Pierce College Brahmas (1-1).

Pierce's problems continued as they lost 42-13.

Sunday could only mean one thing, NFL football was officially back in Los Angeles!

 After 22 years in St. Louis,
the Rams were back at the Coliseum

The first Ram game that I ever attended at the Coliseum was back in 1958, a 24-24 tie with the "Monsters of the Midway," the Chicago Bears.

On Friday before the game Mike talked me into going arguing that we simply had to be in attendance at the Rams first home game of the regular season if we were truly to be born-again Ram fans.

Seattle Seahawks (1-0)
Los Angeles Rams (0-1)

We found affordable tickets on-line, so off we went.

#75 David "Deacon" Jones
The Secretary of Defense

Mike's favorite Ram growing up
Erik Dickerson

Lots of tailgating on this Sunday!

Having food and a cold beverage
before entering the Coliseum

Our view from the cheap seats

We were in the Coliseum's Bob Uecker seats and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing live at the far end of the field to get the crowd's juices flowing.

 Our seats directly faced
the blazing Sun

Mid-way through the 1st quarter we walked around to that ?Jumbotron in the distance which would cast a cooling shadow on us the rest of the afternoon.

What a crowd of 91,046 looks like

It was a defensive battle
from the start

Todd Gurley trying to run over
Seahawks DB Richard Sherman

 Robert Quinn forcing a
Russell Wilson fumble

Defense INDEED!
Final Score: Rams 9 - Seahawks 3

We opted to take a mid-week get-away to the Avila Beach-San Luis Obispo area.

Our destination was a new spot for us, the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort.

I highly recommend it the next time you vacation on California's Central Coast.

Laurie on our hike from the Resort
to Avila Beach

Summer is over but Avila Beach
still looked good to us

 The Sycamore's relaxing mineral
hot tubs allowed us ample
time to reflect on life

 Eventually we reflected all the way
to SLO's Apple Farm for . . .

. . . DESSERT!

Apple cobbler for me and the apple dumpling for Laurie.

Damn that was good!

We eventually made our way slowly back down the coast via stops in Los Olives and Solvang fully relaxed and ready for action.

 Last Friday Night Lights
for some time

I was up in the booth for the Venice HS at Newbury Park HS game trying to help Jason Klein with the defense. It was a good night to be a Panther!

Final Score: Newbury Park (4-1) 28 - Venice (2-2) 0.

So what is next you ask?

This reminded me

 I'm off to Madrid for our
Eighth EuroBall Experience

To review, here are our previous seven stops:
2008, Defensive Coordinator, Catania Elephants, Italy
2009Head Coach, Catania Elephants, Italy
2010, Head Coach, Hässleholm Hurricanes, Sweden
2012, Head Coach, Thun Tigers, Switzerland
2012-13, Head Coach, Bron-Villeurbanne Falcons, France
2015, Head Coach, Murcia Cobras, Spain
2016, Consultant, Wäsby Warriors, Sweden

 2016, Consultant Osos Rivas

As I was asked to do in Sweden last Spring, this will be another short stint during the Osos' off-season in the Madrid suburb of Rivas.

I am being asked to coach the coaches and teach fundamentals to the Osos and one of their feeder programs in nearby Guadalajara.

It should be a lot of fun in a GREAT city!

Reading Is FUNdamental!

 Nordic Noir with a happy ending

My favorite Inspector
in all of Sicily

The next time I reach out to you, I will be on the Iberian Peninsula.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Colin Kaepernick, Paul Sabolic and Ventura County's Oldest High School American Football Rivalry

Much has been written and said in recent weeks about respect for the flag and America during the playing/singing of the National Anthem at sporting events due to . . .

. . . Colin Kaepernick's kneeling
during the National Anthem at
recent San Francisco 49ers games

During the subsequent weeks I have been thinking in depth about this issue of guaranteed First Amendment Free Speech vs. respect for the flag.

Two things brought this issue into focus for me in the past few days.

The first was at the Newbury Park-Westlake game last Friday during the usual playing of the National Anthem just before kickoff. Most people stood at attention, men with their hats off, and were respectful. I saw nobody protesting but, as has become far too usual during the anthem, about 10-15% of the crowd just kept talking and walking around paying no attention at all.

Though not a protest, I find this constant disrespect much more bothersome than Kaepernick's protest. I can only remember two times when I felt everybody at a stadium completely bought into the National Anthem, once at the Rose Bowl for the Army-Navy football game and another time in San Diego while scouting a Valhalla H.S. football game. San Diego is a Navy town and people there that night were 100% behind our country and the men and women who serve it.

The other incident that got me to thinking happened when I met with some old friends and the topic quickly got around to Kaepernick. My friends were decidedly against Kaepernick's actions. No problem, I understood their position.

About 20 minutes after their anti-Kaepernick statements the topic of conversation somehow got around to the Vietnam War and the draft.

I was not drafted into the military during those troubled years because of my status as a teacher.

My two friends, who were incensed about Kaepernick's anti-American protest, then began to detail how they had both sought counsel as to how to best avoid the draft and both independently opted to gain massive amounts of weight in order to get an obesity deferment. It turns out that they were both successful in their weight gaining efforts and did not serve.

So all of this got me to thinking, who do I know that I could turn to for their take on Kaepernick?

Paul Sabolic in 1967
Los Angeles Valley College
Offensive Lineman

I have known Paul since our days as students at the University of Washington in the late 1960s.

I once read that every time that you meet a person, subconsciously you answer two questions about your new acquaintance. First, can I trust this person and second, can I respect this person.

For me when I first met Paul, the answers were decidedly YES and YES!

After graduating from the U.of W., Paul joined the Navy via Officer Candidate School and served a tour of duty in Vietnam.

I will see Paul this Saturday night at the Pierce College game and as a veteran I want to hear how he feels about all the brouhaha.

Paul Sabolic today
Thank you for your service!

Meanwhile, back in Ventura County . . .

Santa Paula H.S.

Home of the Cardinals indeed!

Cardinals working on tackling

I visited with Santa Paula Head Coach Mike Montoya on Tuesday to gain some inside knowledge about his club before Friday night's game against their rivals . . .

. . . the Fillmore Flashes

Flash QB going DEEP

Fillmore 7-on-7 Drill

On Wednesday, I spoke with Fillmore H.S. coaches Matt Dollar and Curtis Garner about their takes on the big game which will be broadcast live on an on-line stream by the Ventura County Star at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Fillmore. I will again provide color analysis with broadcast announcer Danny Page and sideline reporter Will Cowan.

This will be the 106th meeting in American football between the Cardinals and Flashes. The first game was in 1923 and Santa Paula leads the series by a tally of 59-39-7.

Reading Is FUNdamental

A low body count for
a Jack Reacher novel

But still a good read!