Saturday, May 31, 2008

Social Gatherings

Friday and Saturday nights have been very busy evenings on our social calendar!


Davide, one of our two team doctors, asked us to join him in a small welcome home get together for his wife, Giuliana, who had just returned from a two year residency program in Canada. I believe that her specialty is anesthesiology. 

"I want to study his brain someday!"

On the left is Dr. Davide himself, who would love to do some research someday on what makes Jason tick. Coach Matteo is giving out a big "HELL YES!"

Careful Jason

Santa Claus?

Of course this wooden cut out just happened to still be lurking in the walkway near the bar where we all met.


They clean up nicely too don't they!

 Aci Castello near the Norman Castle

This and the next two scenes are things that I saw in town today on my walk to get a haircut.

Indiana Jones and this old house are a good match.

We are NOT crazy about Rome here in Catania.

Christie Won The Part!!!

As you may know, Siracusa, about a 1 hour drive from here, has a very well preserved Greek Theater. Siracusa still hosts classic plays in it every other summer and they are active this year!

Christie auditioned for the part of the Medusa in an adaptation of The Odyssey and she won the part. Above she is pictured in the make-up room getting ready for today's matinee performance.

Congratulations Christie Chorley, break a leg!!!


A very strange, severe drought has hit Catania. It is only occurring wherever the Elephants practice. Is Palermo behind this somehow? 

Elephants' Team President/General Manager/Head Coach/Starting Offensive Left Tackle Davide Giuliano doing his impression of a Jumping Jack.

Small Trial BBQ at Malibu

We want to have a BBQ later this summer at Malibu to thank the many wonderful people here in Sicily who have been so very kind to us. We decided to do a small one in honor of the arrival of Matt's dad, Mark, to Catania as a test of our ability to host such an event. You can see that the BBQ's smoke in Aci Castello is attacking our guests just like back in the U.S.A.

We are going to need a MUCH BIGGER BBQ!

Note that I took this shot with no flash, I was correct in believing that Roberta's smile would provide more than enough lighting.

Matt and his Proud Papa Mark

Friday, May 30, 2008

Gole Alcantara

The Alcantara River Gorge is located about 25 minutes north of Aci Castello near Giardini Naxos, our favorite local beach. This ancient river has, over thousands of years, carved a 70 foot deep cut out of the black basalt rocks that now form it's shoreline.

The Alcantara River Gorge Natural Preserve is thataway!

Route C Information Sign


There are rapids...

and there are still waters that don't run all that deep.

There are several interesting rock formations.

I said "several" in many

It made for an interesting time in brisk water that was about waist high at the deepest where we waded in.

Bill Gardner

When we arrived at Giardini Naxos after our attempt at communing with nature in the Alcantara Gorge. First thing new I saw there today was a gigantic red blow up arch for some event this weekend that included this logo.

My father-in-law, Bill Gardner, is a life long Rotarian and this is definitely their logo but I do not know about inner wheel. May be akin to some Masonic ritualistic cult sect for all I know.

Mickey D's

After a hard day in both fresh and salt water we needed nourishment.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer is Here!

The very first night that I arrived in Catania back on January 5, 2008, Gustavo took me to meet about 5 other players for the first time at the Pizzeria Jonica in Aci Castello. It was a relatively brisk evening, we sat in the back room and I had my first taste of excellent Siclian pizza. It was at this meal that I saw french fries on a pizza, strange but something I would myself order later in my Sicilian travels.

What back room?

As you have probably surmised from all the beach pictures this week, it is heating up along the eastern seaboard of Sicily. The last two days have also given rise to the start of the joys of Italian humidity. The nights are warm, so now Pizzeria Jonica has moved all there tables to the park across the small street from their doors. It made for a delightful dining experience and I think the gorgonzola actually tasted better under the stars!

Is there anything better than an ice cold Fanta on a night like this?

Vatican City Book Review

If you are going to visit Rome, then you will, of course, visit St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museum. This book, When in Rome, A Journal of Life in Vatican City by Robert J. Hutchinson is a must for you to better understand what the Vatican City State is all about.

If you were brought up as a Roman Catholic as iI was, then it is even a more fascinating look at our faith's history and headquarters.

Hutchinson, himself a Roman Catholic, writes in a style that is light, funny and extremely informative. I highly recommend that you read this book before your next trip to the Eternal City.

As always, thanks to David P. Lassen for not just the idea to peruse this particular book but for actually giving it to me to read!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"One Small Step for a Man..."

Lunar Landscape?

No, NASA has not just received new images of the surface of the moon. This, my friends, is the surface of OUR NEW PRACTICE FIELD!

After 19 weeks of practice on a calcio (soccer) field near the airport we moved to our new facility even closer to runway #1 at the Catania International Airport!

Former Elephants' Game Field

Catania Elephant veterans, Matteo Belfiore and Marco Raino, recounted how this used to be the home field of the Elephants. They told us that the playing surface is MUCH better now than it was back then!

I laughed at their joke...then I realized that they were dead serious!

Another Colorful Elephants' Warm-Up

We adapt, we improvise...WE ARE ELEFANTI!!!

Note the spacious seating to the right and the glass of the airport's departure area.

Heather Linderman Ad of the Day Contest

Today we do need you to vote on which of these two tasteful ads is the best.


At Malibu it's ALL about prestige!

How dare Sonia Grasso deface this fine art form with her sordid political petitions!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another Beach Day

Tuesday morning was spent going over the DVD of last Sunday's heartbreaking loss to Parma and trying to start our game plan for this week's crucial home game against the Palermo Corsari who gave us all we could handle the first time we played them in Palermo. After we felt we got our work done, it was time for relaxation...AGAIN!

Lido Le Capannine

Same beach as yesterday, great sun, sand, water and scenery again!

Claudio Mangano

Is this guy sexy or what!

No wonder Roberta, the girl with the best smile in Sicily if not the northern hemisphere, goes out with him.

Matt Epperson surveying the waves.

World's Biggest Zucchini

These zucchini are about 3 to 4 feet long, I've never seen anything like these in U.S. markets, have you?

After the beach and shopping at Cityper, Christie made another one of her unbelievably good dinners featuring chicken and sausages. The girl CAN cook!

We had our usual Tuesday night video session at Elephants' headquarters. I was greatly disappointed that 7 of last Sunday's 11 defensive starters plus 4 key backups were no shows. Coaching in Sicily does have it's dark, "what the heck are we doing" moments.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Heather Linderman Ad of the Day Contest

No voting today as our ONLY nomination was found on the back of this Catania city bus on the way home from the beach.

Health Spas Are BIG in Sicily

You know, I think I sat next to this girl at the beach today, she looks vaguely familiar!

Memorial Day Monday

In the United States today is a National Holiday called Memorial Day. It is the day America honors all the men and women who have died fighting in the many wars that the U.S.A. has been involved in in the past 232 years. It is a day with parades, picnics, BBQ's and, of course, the Indy 500 Motor Car Race.

Here in Catania the crew from Malibu decided to go to the beach to relax and try to put yesterday's disappointing loss a little farther behind us.

Lido Capannine at Playa Beach

At the suggestion of Claudio Mangano, our expert on all things Sicilian, we tried this new location for our beach day. Only 1 euro to park and the beach lounges are free. Good sand and warm water made for  great day.


After a long day in the sun one must find sustenance! What could be better than a pannini stand with Wimpy on the side wall?

Interesting Menu

I like a place that gives names to their food items. I went with the Burlusconi, he is the very controversial leader of the Italian government as I write this. It was MUCH tastier than the Bush pannini I ate here last week. 


All in all it was great to get some sun, lay at the beach and read a good book about the inner workings of the Vatican City State that was given to me by David P. Lassen.

Thanks David, the book really helped get my mind off the Parma game. 

Hope you had a GREAT Memorial Day too!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Parma Game

Enrico Lombardo running the pigskin

Jason Johnson on the bootleg

Another day in the Italian Arena Football League...

All the IFL game were delayed for about 15 minutes at the start of the games as the referees protested the physical attack by some of the Palermo Corsari players after last Sunday's loss to the crosstown Palermo Sharks.

Once play finally started, the first play of the game was about a 50 yard pass play by Jason Johnson that ended with a lost fumble. Our defense had a solid 4 play series and forced a punt and then the fireworks began!

Jason ran a QB sneak for our first score but we got our PAT blocked, Elephants 6-0. Parma countered with a running TD to take a 7-6 lead. Jason brought us right back with a TD pass to Matt Epperson and Andrea Mannino drilled the PAT to give Catania a 13-7 advantage. On the Panthers next drive Matt made a great interception and on the ensuing drive Enrico Lombardo ran the ball into the end zone, we missed the PAT but still led 19-7. Parma;s new QB Tom Zettzs from Youngstown State in Ohio scrambled his way to paydirt to end the first quarter with Catania leading 19-14.

On our next possession we turned the ball over on downs and Parma ran the ball to take the lead 21-19. Parma's squib kick took a fortuitous bounce and they recovered the kickoff, eventually scoring on another running play to increase their lead to 28-19. After another Catania fumble our defense was able to hold the Panthers out of the end zone to end the half with Parma still leading 28-19.

The Parma passing game then got rolling and their TD upped the margin to 35-19 in their favor. Jason responded with another TD pas to Matt and Enrico ran in the 2 point PAT to cut it to 35-27. The Panthers kept running the ball and scored on the ground to go up 42-27. Enrico then scored his third rushing TD, we missed our 2 point PAT attempt and now trailed 42-33 to end the third period.

Parma kept running and scored another rushing TD to lead 49-33. Jason refused to give up and hit Matt with yet another TD pass, Enrico punched it in for two points and now it was Parma 49-41. We recovered our onside kick, Matt catches his third TD pass from Jason and Matt catches a 2 point PAT, the score is now tied 49-49. Parma responds with a big kickoff return and then runs the ball for a TD that makes it 56-49 Panthers. Jason throws the ball to Claudio Mangano for 6, and then hits him again for 2 to make it 57-56 Elephants with less than a minute remaining in the game. The Panthers convert a huge 4th down play and throw a passes for both a TD and a 2 point PAT to take a 64-57 lead with 22 seconds left in the game. We got the ball one last time but ran out of time.

FINAL SCORE: Parma 64 - Catania 57

Parma is now 4-2 for the year and we are 5-2 on the season with a home game vs. the Palermo Corsari next week.   

Mt. Etna puts on it's usual pre-game show

Atilio, the owner of the Fundo Bianco, a favorite Elephant watering hole, surprised the team with this great banner before the game.

Corey Mazza
The Pride of Thousand Oaks H.S.

My first teaching and coaching job was at Thousand Oaks H.S. in California from 1970 to 1978. I coached against Corey his last two seasons of high school football when he played for Thousand Oaks H.S. while I was coaching at Ventura's Buena H.S.

Corey was an excellent player in high school, a great player at Harvard University and the difference maker today scoring the winning TD with 22 seconds left in the game.

Italian Football League Week #9 Results

Jason Johnson hitting one of his 4 TD passes vs, Parma


Bolzano 52 – Bergamo 27

Ancona 39 – Palermo Sharks 6

Parma 64 – Catania 57

Milan 35 – Bologna 28

BYE: Palermo Corsari


6-0 Bolzano Giants

5-2 Bergamo Lions

5-2 Catania Elephants

4-2 Parma Panthers

4-2 Bologna Doves

2-4 Palermo Corsari

1-5 Ancona Dolphins

1-6 Milan Rhinos

1-6 Palermo Sharks

NOTE: The teams owning the four best records at the end of the regular season make the playoffs.


Saturday May 31st:

Ancona (1-5) at Milan (1-6)

Sunday, June 1st:

Palermo Corsari (2-4) at Catania (5-2)

Palermo Sharks (1-6) at Bolzano (6-0)

BYES: Bergamo (5-2), Bologna (4-2) and Parma (4-2)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Elephants Turn 40!

The Saturday before the big game vs. the Parma Panthers on Sunday started off with news about how bad the weather is in Southern California right now with overcast skies, rain and even a tornado in Riverside! Here at Malibu the weather is a bit nicer today.

New record today, 62 euros (that equals $97.73) to fill up the Nissan Micra! Given today's rate of exchange between the U.S. dollar and the Euro, that means that I paid $8.88 per gallon!! By the way, I was lucky, gas in downtown Catania was 3 cents a liter (3.785 liters = a gallon) more than in Aci Castello.

Stop your bitching and moaning back home about your "outrageous" gas prices!!!

Clear and Sunny on the Ionian Coast

Pre-Game Walk-Through

RB Enrico and WR Jacopo warm up for our typical low key walk-through. Parma has a very good squad with a 3-2 record coming into our game with their losses coming to Bolzano and Bergamo, two of the best teams in the IFL.

Their WR Corey Mazza is from Thousand Oaks H.S./Harvard University and is having a GREAT season! We will have to slow him down somehow to be able to compete with them.

They also have a very good running game, probably the best we've seen since playing Bergamo in our second game.

WR Gregorio Looking SHARP!

If nothing else, our walk-throughs are indeed colorful! 

After the walk-through, Enrico practices dog auto safety techniques with his Pit Bull.

40th Birthdays Party

After practice, the team celebrated the 40th birthdays of Strong safety "Tony Call Me Pony", on the left and WR Salvo. Two GREAT guys who are the life blood of the Elephant family.

That's Tony's daughter Alicia on the far left.

The party was held at Tony's brother-in-laws house where we had the #1 ranked Sicilian BBQ this past Easter Monday. Their home is even more beautiful at night!

Brandon and My Pre-Game Good Luck Hug, Roberta

Claudio explaining to Christie what makes him such a great receiver.

Matt and Lucky, The Heart and Soul of the Elephants WR Corps!

Daniella protecting Alessandro from the Crazy Man 

Georgia and her father Marco Raino, our veteran Defensive Lineman/Warrior

Gustavo and Roberta

Is it possible to take too many pictures of this bella ragazza?

Dinner was WONDERFUL!

Claudio, on the left wondering why Roberta never takes pictures with him anymore.

Ika and her birthday boy husband Tony Call Me Pony

Ika and a MUCH older man

Antonio and his lovely bride Franchesca who is Ika's sister

Who let these hooligans into the party?