Friday, February 25, 2011


Last Wednesday, I met Mike D'Antuono for lunch at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The reason for our meeting was to take part in the "Town Hall Los Angeles" program.

This program was founded in 1937 with the express purpose of providing "a forum for ideas - a place for conversation and community." Wednesday's topic was "Achieving Student-Athlete Success" with the speaker being Dr. Mark A. Emmert, a University of Washington graduate, the former President of the U. of W. and currently the President of the NCAA.

The food, friendship and discussions all showed great promise and did not disappoint.

The regal, ancient, historic Biltmore Hotel

Built in 1923, it is the lower brown building in the foreground to L.A.'s shiny new skyscrapers.

I got there quite early so I decided to roam about the area to kill some time.

Statue Commemorating
World War I Soldiers

Pershing Square sits across from the Biltmore. In the mid 1960's when I was in high school, we would come down here at night to listen to men standing on their soap boxes, literally, and orate for hours if given the chance on the politics and evils of the day. . . good times indeed.

The Los Angeles Central Public Library

I'd driven by it numerous times but had never gone inside until Wednesday, it was quite nice from an artistic point of view.

One of many murals in the L.A. Library

I wonder if the Indian kneeling in the foreground realizes what is about to happen to his way of life?

O.K., let's be P.C., "the Native American kneeling. . ."

A new modern wing to the L.A. Library
means new modern art themes

It was now time to head across the street to the Biltmore and the Town Hall meeting. As always, it was great to see Mike who is just such a great, down to earth person.

Dr. Emmert did an excellent job with both his talk and in fielding questions.

It was good to see Mike "The Beast" Ryan for the first time in over 40 years at the luncheon. Mike was a Senior starting guard at the U. of W. when I was a sophomore scrub center and struggling in school. He sat me down at gave me some study tips which really turned me around, kept me in school and gave me a chance to graduate. THANKS BEAST!

I also got to meet and sit at the same table with Husky alumni Rob Weller who is now a TV personality but is also widely given the dubious credit for inventing "The Wave" when he was a cheerleader at Washington, nice fellow.

After the luncheon I stopped off at the University of Southern California to try and set up a day to meet with some of their former players to discuss their possible futures playing American football in Europe.

I met with USC's Scott Thompson, who is their Director of Player Personnel, to hopefully set something up in the next few weeks, we'll see.

If you visit USC you have to take a look at their history rich reception area in Heritage Hall which is their athletic office building, lots of great Trojan sports memorabilia.

What ever happened to this guy?

Seriously, what a great American tragedy O.J.'s life story became, so sad. . .

Just kickin' it in L.A.

Friday meant driving in the rain to the University of La Verne to talk to their Seniors about playing EuroBall.

One has to eat

This ristorante in La Verne, about 75 miles east of Camarillo, was highly recommended by our friend Debi Murphy who grew up in this suburban hamlet.

The servings were quite large and reasonably priced, I was now ready to get on my EuroBall soap box and orate up a storm!

The University of La Verne's
Football/Track Complex

Whittier at La Verne

An SCIAC baseball game was in progress despite the rain, La Verne would prevail 5-0. The Leopards were 5-6 overall and 2-2 in the SCIAC after this soggy victory.

Finally, it was showtime. . .

Seven of La Verne's finest players

A big thanks to Brent Baier, ULV's interim head coach, for setting up our meeting and giving me some great insights into his Seniors and the ULV football program. The players were very attentive and asked good questions.

Hopefully you will see some Leopards dotting the rosters of EuroBall teams in the near future.

I have now talked to Seniors at Occidental, California Lutheran and La Verne Univeristies this year while both Redlands and Pomona-Pitzer have declined my offer to speak this Spring because none of their Seniors are interested.

Up next is a EuroBall talk to the Ventura County Football Coaches Association this Wednesday night followed by one at Chapman University on Friday, March 11th.

If the Seniors at Redlands and Pomona-Pitzer only knew what a great opportunity they were missing. . .

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Catching Up On The Week That Was

Let's do some recapping of the events of the past week.

Last weekend was highlighted by our son Andy and daughter-in-law Jenn coming into town from Las Vegas for a short visit. The main purpose of the trip was to stop by their grandmothers' homes for the first time since announcing that they are expecting their first child next August.

With Andy's Aunt Katica del Cueto
and Grandmother Chuny Contreras

Grandma Chuny made some fabulous Ropa Vieja, a Cuban meat dish that is one of Jenn's favorites. Safe to say, she was not disappointed!

With Grandma Florene Gardner

A joyous time indeed!

A New Bat for the Hueneme H.S.

Andy mentioned that his tax accountant recommended that he make more charitable contributions in 2011. Mike, the coach of Hueneme High School's Freshman Baseball Team this season, had mentioned the lack of funds for new equipment at H.H.S.

Thus, Andy bought the team their first, and as of this writing, only legal bat under the new high school baseball rules in effect in 2011.

Mike the Soccer/Futbol/Calcio Nut

A scarf for any season and/or any team.

During the week, I spent a ton of time at the Oxnard and Ventura libraries continuing my research for a book I'm thinking about writing on the history of high school football in Ventura County. I have found out a lot of fascinating things already and I'm just scratching the surface. You'll have to buy a copy of the book . . .

Redlands, California
located 120 miles East of Camarillo

Yesterday, Laurie and I joined Mike for the early morning drive to Redlands as his Ventura County Police Hogs football team participated in the Fourth Annual Cops-N-Jocks Bowl against the Inland Empire Enforcers. We left at 8:30 a.m. not knowing what the traffic or weather, rain off and on again the last two days, might bring.

As it turned out, it was bright skies and light traffic so we arrived hours ahead of schedule.

Only one thing to do . . .


We just stumbled upon the aromas emanating from this fine dining establishment while visiting the ATM at the nearby Bank of America. Lucky us, their breakfast special was terrific!

Still lots of time before kickoff, so we decided to stroll through Redlands Historic Old Downtown.

"Two cafe lattes, please."

Very cool little coffe house where we topped off our eggs and hash browns.

I'm not so sure about using
Augie's fire escape

Old Town Redlands is
REALLY into Wall Signs

German Family Soap?

The University of Redlands
Home of the Bulldogs

We dropped Mike off at Redlands High School to suit up/warm up for his 2:00 p.m. game. We then drove about a mile to the University of Redlands' picturesque campus to check out this delightful NCAA Division III jewel.

I liked their unique Sun Dial. . .

. . . and one of their old student dorms

I'll be returning here soon to talk to their Seniors about extending their football carrers in Europe and take another shot at Burger Town USA.

Finally, it was time to go to the Redlands H.S. stadium for the game where we discovered the famous. . .

. . . where all the REALLY BIG
deals get brokered!

Field Turf yet again!
Redlands High School, Established 1891

It was cold and crisp as kickoff time approached and I prepared to work my way down to the field to take copious amounts of pictures. It was then that the Hogs coaches asked me to stay up in the stands and be their "Spy in the Sky" for the game.

The Enforcers featured a QB, Glenn Thompkins, who was the 1993 CIF Division I Player-of-the-Year and earned a scholarship to UCLA. He would prove to be a handful to say the least.

So much for pictures.

The First Half started under Beautiful Skies

But the Hogs started off slowly as the Enforcers' Thompkins showed us all why he was a player at UCLA. He was able to throw and run his eleven to a 31-0 lead before the Hogs got anything going.

The Second Half would see much more drastic weather

The second stanza featured colder weather, torrential downpours, hale and a revitalised Hogs effort. Ventura was able to scratch and claw their way back to respectability as Hogs' QB John Catellanos started to hit receivers, move the chains and put some pionts on the board.

Final Score: Enforcers 31 - Hogs 14

QB John Castellanos and
TE/FS Mike Contreras Post Game

After the game, we decided to start the long trek back to Camarillo through heavy rain but, fortunately, light traffic. It was now about 6:15 p.m. and we were all hungry again, what to do?

Bob's in Burbank!!!

The quintessential 1950's-60's drive-in chain in Southern California. We had to order the famed Big Boy Combo . . . the original double-deck burger, fries and a bleu cheese salad with an endless supply of Cherry Coke.

What a perfect way to take the edge off a cold, wet day!

Mike and Laurie with the Big Boy

We finally got back to Camarillo about 12 hours after we left, none the worse for wear.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cal Lutheran EuroBall Talk and a Slice of Americana

I had another opportunity yesterday to speak to college players about the process of furthering their careers playing American football in Europe. Wednesday's tour stop was at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

CLU Kingsmen QB Jake Laudenslayer
and DE Jordan Barta

We had a group of about ten players who came for a visit but these two players were very interested.

Jake is only a Junior and will be graduating from CLU next December right after the end of the Kingsmen football season placing him in prime position to catch on with a team for the Spring seasons in several European countries. He is 6'3"/190.5 cm tall and weighs 225 lbs./102 kg. In 2010 he led the SCIAC Champion Kingsmen, completing 62% of his 236 passes for 1,964 yards and 18 TDs. He was named to the All-SCIAC First Team at QB. The CLU coaches are very high on his future. Are you listening Catania?

Jordan is a Senior and will be graduating later this Spring. He was named to the All-SCIAC First Team in both 2009 and 2010. He was also named to the NCAA Division III All-American Team as an Honorable Mention. In CLU's two SCIAC championship seasons in 2009 and 2010, he had 15.5 OB Sacks, 26.5 Tackles fo Loss and recovered five fumbles. Again, Ben McEnroe, CLU's Head Coach, was extremely positive about Jordan as a man of high character possessing a great football motor. Jordan can also play fullback or tight end if needed. A quick pass rushing DE would be a huge plus in the Italian Football League.

My Power Point presentation usually takes from 60 to 90 minutes depending on questions. At CLU it took two hours, mostly because of all of the in-depth questions that Jake and Jordan had for me.

Next up will be talks with Seniors at Claremont-Mudd, Chapman, Redlands and La Verne Universities. Their coaches are currently trying to determine a good day and time for their players to meet with me.

After getting back home to Camarillo, I felt so good about how it went at CLU that I took off on an 8.19 stroll through the farm lands of Camarillo. This has been a good week for me on my quest to once again fit into my four month old Levis. My three day walking total for the week is now 19.6 miles, so I'm well on my way to my 28 miles/week goal.

In the evening, it was time for a great slice of Americana -- a last regular season Boys' Basketball game, as well as a cross-town high school rivalry with the Pacific View League Championship on the line, with Rio Mesa at Camarillo. Both teams shared identical records, 18-7 on the season and 8-1 in PVL action. Rio Mesa was ranked #10 in the latest CIF Division 3A poll while the Scorpions were ranked #13 in the CIF Division 2A poll. The CIF playoff divisions are enrollment based ay Camarillo is a bit bigger than Rio Mesa.

Camarillo won the first game with the Spartans at Rio Mesa by a score of 78-66 three weeks ago. The Scorpions only PVL loss was at the hands of the Oxnard Yellowjackets 78-66.

The "Scorpion Dome" was PACKED!!!

Standing Room ONLY! It was hot, humid, exciting and lots of fun to watch.

The Spartns started fast, leading 17-5 in the first period but Camarillo had a run and closed the gap seeing RM leading 21-18 going into the second period.

The Scorpions owned the second quarter and led at halftime 38-31.

Whatever Spartan Coach Chris Ruffinelli said at halftime worked as the Spartans came out on fire in the third period outscoring the Scorpions 23-13 to make it 54-51 going into the final period of the PVL season.

In the fourth quarter, Rio Mesa continued to wear down the Scorpions with their quickness, ball handling skills and hot shooting. RM outscored Camarillo 22-14 in the fourth quarter and won bragging rights as well as the 2010 Pacific View League Championship by a final score of 78-65.

RMHS Four-year starter Joseph Soto
driving to the hoop

If Joseph Soto is not named the PVL's 2010 MVP it would be a crime -- a felony probably. He scored a game high 23 points and dished out oodles of assists.

As near as anyone can remember, this was only Rio Mesa's second Boys' Basketball League Championship in the school's 46 year history!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Tank Ranger's Ultrasound

Left profile please, Mr. DeMille!

This just in from Las Vegas, Tank Ranger's First Trimester ultra sound photos! We still don't know for sure if it is a boy or a girl, maybe next month.

Super Bowl Monday

Before we discuss the Packers' victory in Super Bowl XLV, I need to sneak in one last photo from Saturday's Hogs game.

Post-Game Pizza and Adult Refreshments
at Santino's

After Saturday's game both teams met at Santino's Pizzeria to select Players-of-the-Games and enjoy the exhiliration of the season opener. Vanessa took the picture of Laurie and me with Mike.

Super Bowl XLV
Green Bay 31 - Pittsburgh 25

Packers' Nick Collins 37 yard TD Interception Return

This was a HUGE first quarter play! I thought that it was a good game as Green Bay won its fourth Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy and its 13th NFL Championship overall.

I thought that Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin's post-game comments were just pure class, I really like his demeanor.

Mike and his new mustache
BBQing at halftime

We joined Mike and Vanessa at their apartment to watch the game and consume our share of America's Super Bowl Sunday gluttony.


About ten or so years ago, our good friend Mark Johnson went on a diet and, as desired, he lost a substantial amount of weight. No surprise there, the amazing thing is that he has never regained any of that weight!

I asked him once how he had been able to keep the weight off all these years and his answer was simple. Once he hit his target weight, he threw away all of his old "fat clothes." This way there would be no easy out if he added a pound or two, his new clothes snugness would warn him that it was time to get back on course.

I mention this because after returning from Sweden in October, I was sorely in need of some new Levis. Simple, just drive over to the Camarillo Outlet Mall's Levi store and buy a pair. I was excited to say the least when I realised that the waist size of my new Levis was four inches smaller than my old ones!

Now I mention all of this because other than our five mile hike with Paul Petrich on Santa Cruz Island two weeks ago I have not kept up my very successful walking program since Christmas. At first it was the battery of rain storms that hit SoCal and once the weather cleared up it was pure lethargy that took over.

Yesterday, before going to Mike and Vanessa's to watch the Super Bowl, I tried on my new Levis. . . NO DICE! A lot of the weight was back, so it was time to get serious again.

Lake Casitas

My road back to recovery started today with a 30 minute drive up to Ojai. After parking my Chrysler outside the entrance to the lake's campgrounds, I embarked on a pleasant six mile walk around a very small part of the lake's shoreline.

Lake Casitas was a 1984
L.A. Olympics Venue

We did not attend any of the rowing events that summer but we did go to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a day of Track and Field action, the Rose Bowl for a soccer match and Dodger Stadium for a baseball game (exhibition sport in '84). We had a good time as I recall at all three of our Olympic experiences that summer.

Can you see me rowing one of these shells?

Lake Casitas

Trail markers are always a good thing

Just like on the Camino

There were even vineyards along the route

It felt good to get back at it after my six week hiatus, I've got to get those Levis back on soon.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Getting Ready for the Super Bowl

Pittsburgh Steelers (14-4)
Green Bay Packers (13-6)

Today is indeed, SUPER BOWL SUNDAY! The game will be telecast to 232 countries and amongst the estimated one billion viewers worldwide will be Elephants from Catania, Sicily and Hurricanes from Hässleholm, Sweden.

A thirty second advertising spot on today's telecast is going for a reported $3,000,000!!!

The average ticket price for the first Super Bowl in 1967 (Green Bay 35 - Kansas City 10) was $6. The cheapest ticket this year has a face value of $600 and "scalped" tickets are going for as much as $15,000 for one on the 50 yard line.

It is estimted that today, Americans will consume 325.5 million gallons of beer, 1 billion chicken wings, 30 million pounds of potato chips, 8 million pounds of guacamole and 8 million pounds of popcorn.

On the typical Monday after Super Bowl Sunday, 6% of American workers call in sick to work and antacid sales increase by 20%.

With all of this in mind, I needed to get into the proper Super Bowl mood, but how to do it?

Santa Paula's California Oil Museum

This building is where the Union Oil Company (Union 76) was founded in the 1880's. I first drove past this museum in 1971 but have never stopped in to see any of their exhibits on the state's "black gold" business. On Friday I finally drove up to Santa Pauls for the express purpose of seeing this museum.

How was this journey going to get me into the Super Bowl mood you ask?


The History of Santa Paula H.S. Football

I read in Friday's Ventura County Star that the museum was displaying an exhibit on the local high school's football team. Since I am considering writing a history of Ventura County high school football, I thought this would be a good place to continue my research.

The Cardinals played their first game in 1924 against their arch-rival, the Fillmore Flashes. Santa Paula prevailed that day just as it did this past season in the 100th renewal of the rivalry.

Santa Paula now leads the series with Fillmore 56-37-7.


This is about one half of the exhibit that shared a room with an exhibit about American Civil War President Abraham Lincoln.

Cool Letterman's Club Patch

The Cardinals were Frontier League Champions in 1971 and 1972. How can that be history when I was coaching in the county in those same years at Thousand Oaks H.S.?

How old am I really?

Gas Pumps from the "Good Old Days"

After spending about 30 minutes checking out the football exhibit, I had to take a look at some of the oil industry exhibits.

I really didn't like the Shell Oil gas pump.

Now this one I like!


I was compelled to go down the street to the Valero Station and fill up my car's gas tank after leaving the museum.

Mupu Citrus Association

Santa Paula has always been a big player in the County's orange and lemon industies. The Mupus were a part of the local Native American Chumash Indian Tribe.

After a fun afternoon in Santa Paula, I was getting into the Packer-Steeler spirit, but I wasn't quite there yet, I needed something more. . .

The Ventura County Police Hogs

Saturday, at Buena H.S. in Ventura, the Hogs were going to open their 2011 season at home against another police enforcement based team, the Fontana Eagles.

The Hogs have a five schedule this Spring, their other four games are also against law enforcement teams from Redlands, Long Beach, Orange County and Baldwin Park.

These teams are generally made up of equal parts police officers and civilians. Their common bond? They all still love to play American football for fun.

Besides increasing my Super Bowl adrenalin, we did have another reason to go to our first ever Hogs game. Our son Michael is a rookie with the Hogs.


Mike is #32 in the black jersey just getting back into line of the Hogs' pre-game tackling drill.

Hogs' ageless QB John Castellanos

Actually, John does have an age, he is 49! Besides a career with the Ventura P.D., John was also our oldest son Andrew's Pop Warner coach many years ago.

He played remarkably well yesterday and had a key pooch punt that Mike downed at the 1 yard line late in the fourth quarter that sealed the Hogs' victory.

Power Play

As Vince Lombardi always said, "The team that controls the off-tackle area controls the game."

A kick out block on #55 would have been nice.

Contain Man on the Hogs Kickoff Team

Mike would play at Tight End, Free Safety and on Special Teams. It was fun to see him back in uniform after a hiatus of, what, ten plus years.

Mike at TE

This was the first game in his life that Mike ever played in a three point stance. He was a QB, WR and DB all of his career until yesterday.

Half Time with Mike's Fan Club

My sister Linda, Laurie, Mike's Grandmother Florene and wife Vanessa all turned out to support Mike and the Hogs.

Mike Running a Pass Route


Fontana Eagle QB on the loose!

The Hogs built up a commanding 16-0 lead by the end of the third quarter, they were dominating!

Then the fourth quarter started and so did Fontana's team. Their QB made some very key plays including converting on first and 40!

The Eagles scored twice and cut the Ventura lead to 16-13 late in the game. I mentioned John Castellano's great pooch punt to the one yard line earlier. On the ensuing Fontana play, the Eagles fumbled in the end zone and the Hogs recovered for a TD.

The last Hogs Kickoff

Mike is now sporting both a Catania helmet sticker on his back plate as well as a hard to see Hässleholm "Thor's Hammer" decal.

Mike at Free Safety

23-16 Hogs was the Final Score!


Mike was touched that some of his Hueneme H.S. JV players came to watch him play.

Mike with his Fan Club

He was proud of his scrapes and bruises from the game just like every other man or boy who has played a game of American football.

Sunset over Buena H.S.

O.K., I'm mentally ready, BRING ON THE SUPER BOWL XLV!

I'm taking the Steelers to bring home their seventh Lombardi Trophy.

Good luck to both teams and now. . .