Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Guests From Lyon

It was a fun day today as we were witness to not only a French invasion of Camarillo, but a Lyonnaise one at that! 

 They Bore Gifts

Delicious French pralines and two cards signed by several of the Falcons were quite a surprise.

Who were these Frenchmen you ask?

Max and David

Max once played O-Line for the Falcons while David has been the Falcons' starting Right Guard for several seasons.

Max, one name only, and David (Fion) Melin are here for a few weeks as they try to figure out all of the ins and outs of perhaps opening a restaurant somewhere in Southern California.

Wait, did I just say In-N-Out? We had to have lunch at one of SoCal's iconic burger stops.

David and I opted for the traditional Double-Double. Max, ever the savvy restauranteur, went boldly to the Three-by-Three.

After lunch, we attacked the Camarillo Outlet Mall complex. Let us just say that the boys helped the tax base of our fine community greatly.

Loot to be Exported Soon!!!

Our next stop was a tour of a typical American high school but which one?

 Rio Mesa of course!

They were awed by the
R.M.'s Weight Room

That is R.M.H.S. Athletic Director Brian FitzGerald photo-bombing this shot.

They were impressed by the facilities, especially in comparison to a typical French high school campus.

Dinner at Camarillo's Bandits BBQ

Laurie joined us for dinner, Max and David loved the baby back ribs.

No matter what the French
language sign in our kitchen says,
they are Good Guys!!!

As I said, it was a fun day!

We are getting together again next week in Los Angeles closer to where they are staying. Can't wait!!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Portela-van den Raadt Wedding

I have coached American football for a very long time and I truly believe that the greatest honor that I can ever receive from a former player is to be invited to that very special event in their life, their wedding day.

Thus, in January, when Laurie and I received an invitation the wedding of Robin Portela to John van den Raadt, our QB in France last year, in Granite Bay, California, we dropped everything on our social calendar to be there.

The question was, where is Granite Bay, California? As it turns out, Granite Bay is a city located just East of Sacramento. It is only a seven hour drive each way from Camarillo.


But, we needed a plan . . .


We decided to break the drive up to the wedding into two easy parts. Part one would have us driving a leisurely four hours to beautiful Fresno on Thursday.

We opted to stop along the way in the quaint city of Exeter where and old Wing-T coaching buddy of mine and his wife, Bill and Pam Corliss, reside.

We had not seen or talked to them in years but at our lunch together none of the four of us had skipped a beat. It was so great to see them both!

Due to my advancing years and being way to far into the moment, I completely forgot to take the usually obligatory photo of them for this blogpost.

What was I thinking???

Near our outstanding lunch
spot in Exeter 

Exeter loves murals
as much as Lyon does

After some shopping in Exeter, we headed on our way North, but were detoured by the City of Kingsburg which bills itself as Central California's Swedish Village.

We coached and lived in the Skåne region, the South of Sweden, in the city of Hässleholm for about seven months in 2010. WE HAD TO STOP.

That's a Viking

I think I see a Swedish Connection

 Laurie, what time is it?

We indeed found a good coffee shop with delicious Swedish pastries known as fika.

Oh, the wonderful memories that this town brought back to us both.

 Rafer Johnson
1960 Rome Olympics
Gold Medal Decathlete

He grew up in Kingsburg.


We then had a good night's sleep in Fresno after a hearty Trip-Tip sandwich at Fresno's Dog House Grill which came highly recommended by our friend Koreen FitzGerald.

She was brilliant with this culinary call.

After breakfast on Friday, we made a quick stop at the Fresno State University's American football office to see if they were having a Spring Football Clinic this year.

They are not.

1992 Freedom Bowl Trophy

The game was played at Anaheim Stadium and our family was in attendance. This trophy reminds all of the Bulldog Nation of arguably the greatest moment in Fresno State American football history.

Fresno State 24 - Southern California 7

We finally arrived at our hotel in Roseville after an easy three hour trek. The hotel was located only about ten minutes from the wedding's church in Granite Bay.

That brings us to our next really fun event.

It turns out that the 2013 coach of Switzerland's Thun Tigers, Skip Albano, and his coaching pal who recently retired, Mike Lynch, both live in the greater Granite Bay/Roseville megalopolis.

Skip, a six year veteran of EuroBall having coached in Austria and Italy, as well as Switzerland, did a great job leading the Tigers last season. Mike wanted to pump the two of us for as much information as possible as he and his wife, Judy, try to decide if a season coaching American football in Europe is the right thing for them.

Skip, George and Mike

Mike and Judy invited us to their incredible hilltop home to dine with them and Skip and Jan Albano.

Skip, Jan, Judy and Mike

We sat down for a great three hours of good wine, great cuisine and interesting stories.

Mike and Judy passed the first test of living in Europe with flying colors . . . enjoying slow, conversation filled dining. 

 Skip, Jan, Laurie and George

As you may recall, I coached the Thun Tigers in 2012. Every time that I have moved on to a new EuroBall team, I feel as if I had left my children behind.

After Friday night's dinner, I knew that Skip and Jan had taken care of the kids last season.

Laurie and I had met four new wonderful people to be sure.


After putzing around for most of the morning, we headed over to Roseville's Barnes and Noble bookstore to have a coffee and a light repast.

I almost bought this tome

I almost bought this one too

From the small world realm, we ran into Mike Lynch at the bookstore who was pouring over maps and information on France for a possible trip later this year.

He recommended a spot in nearby Rocklin for breakfast on Sunday. More on that later.

On to the wedding!

First, if there are two people getting married who are more universally loved than these two I would be shocked.

The wedding itself was simply beautiful. The positive energy in the church for these two was great indeed.

Red Velvet Wedding Cake

I felt the positive energy here as well.

 John's Mother Beth

 Table 25 was ROCKING!!!

We were assigned to this table with fellow rabble rousers by Providence I'm sure.

Laurie, John, Robin and George

High Energy Robin and John's 
entrance into the reception

They entered to the song "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" so Robin did.

Beth watching John and Robin's
First Dance

Mr. and Mrs. John and Robin
van den Raadt

What a great event!

Next up for the newly-weds is another season of EuroBall as they soon depart for Innsbruck, Austria where John will lead one of the best American football teams in all of the continent, the mighty Swarco Raiders. 


We were going to drive straight through to Camarillo in one long, seven hour drive. It turned out to be a traffic free drive.

But first, we needed proper sustenance. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, is it not?

 Mike Lynch's highly recommended
Granite Rock Grill in Rocklin

One thing we learned on this trip, if Mike Lynch recommends an eating spot, GO THERE!!!

Reading Is FUNdamental

Sigma Force was at it again in a good thriller that revolved around yet another round of Vatican secrets.

Will they ever end?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Charlie Chan and More . . .

Reading is FUNdamental

The electricity was down at our home for most of the day so I opted to read a bit.

 The First Charlie Chan Novel

Written in 1925 by Earl Derr Biggers, it still holds up today.

Interestingly, I would have to say that Chan was more of a strong supporting character in this murder mystery set in Honolulu.

Loved the Chan movies growing up and I still watch them to this day. 

And Now For Something
Totally Different . . .

This small tome was written by a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Master, poet, scholar and peace activist.

It is all about being focused on one thing at a time and definitely is not about any perceived advantages of multitasking.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's Been a Few Weeks

It has been basically quiet in Ventura County but let's do a bit of catching up.

Koreen and Brian FitzGerald
at Casa Contreras

We got together with our long-time friends and Mike, Vanessa and Jacob for a Valentine's Dinner last Friday.

Spaghetti was the Main Course

 Jacob opted for other food groups

 After Dinner Catch

It's Super Terror

On Saturday, we were off to San Marino to visit with my Mother, Aunt and Sisters.

My sister Linda with Jacob

Great-Grandmother Chuny and Jacob

My sister Marilyn and I discussing the why
her USC Trojans are going down in 2014

 Vanessa and Jacob

No, he did not break anything.

Marilyn, Mike and Aunt Katie
watching the Sochi Winter Olympics

I think that I had a good weekend

Romania's Baia Mare Mariners 

About two months ago, I was contacted via by a representative of a fledgling American football team in the city of Baia Mare in beautiful Transylvania, a region of Romania.

I had no clue as to who he was and I had never heard of his team. He had a simple request, could I possibly secure some used but free American football team to get his newly founded team started?

I looked his team up and found this informational video about their plight on YouTube: 

OK, I smiled too, but in my heart I knew that I had to at least try to help them with the aid of some fellow high school coaches at Alemany, Carpinteria, Channel Islands, Fillmore and Rio Mesa High Schools.

So, how did we do for the Miners?

A Total of Nine Boxes of Gear
Ready to Ship to Romania

It took a lot of driving around Southern California but we came up with a lot of good, used gear to help the Miners get started.

Fortunately, the Miners found a Romanian export company that is based in Chicago that will send the nine boxes to Baia Mare for a mere $.90/pound. The cost of mailing the boxes from Camarillo to Chicago is actually just a bit more than the trans-Atlantic shipping costs.

Thanks to all of the coaches who found the time to go through their inventory and donate their excess used equipment to a very worthy cause . . . "Feeding the EuroBall Passion for American Football One Team at a Time" 

Speaking of EuroBall, the French Division II season started today. As you may recall, by virtue of winning the 47 team 2013 French Division III National Championship, your  Bron-Villeurbanne Falcons were promoted to the 18 team Division II French season in 2014.

Today in Aix-en-Provence, the Falcons (0-1) fell 41-38, in a hard fought battle, to the Southern Conference favorite Argonautes (1-0). Up next is a home game next Sunday against the Toulouse Ours (1-0).

As for the other EuroBall teams I have coached, here is a list of their opening games:

March 2nd in Italy
Palermo Sharks at Catania Elephants

March 30th in Switzerland
Thun Tigers at Geneva Seahawks

May 25 in Sweden
Hässleholm Hurricanes at Ystad Rockets

I am really starting to miss not living and coaching in Europe this Spring/Summer.

Reading Is FUNdamental

The Nazi occupy the French region of Aquitaine in 1943 when a beautiful, young French woman is found brutally murdered near the Bergerac Prefecture.

The Chief of Vichy Police in the town suspects that the city's German SD Police Major is the killer.

Thus begins a soul searching transformation from an unwilling collaborator to an avenging Frenchman for our Police Chief hero.

It was a good read about survival in one of France's most difficult times.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Quiet Super Bowl XLVIII Gathering

Super Bowl XLVIII
Seattle Seahawks (15-3)
Denver Broncos (15-3)

On paper, it sounded like a great match-up, Seattle's #1 rated defense against Denver's #1 rated offense.

Two thoughts,
A. You don't play games on paper and

I know that my coaching friends who love the Spread/Zone Read offenses will balk at that last statement. Don't get me wrong, I really like the direction that offenses are heading but sooner or later it seems it usually come down to who plays better defense and has good Special Teams play.

On this Sunday, Seattle DOMINATED in every phase of the game, no contest.

Final score: Seattle 43 - Denver 8

Meanwhile, at Casa Contreras we just gathered with our nearby family to enjoy a quiet afternoon of football.

Vanessa, Jacob and Mike were
properly dressed for the occasion

Jacob wasted no time in letting his
curiosity get the best of him quickly

 Laurie LOVES to host gatherings

Wondering where Jacob
got his hair gene

 Pre-Game Fumble Drill


It drives me crazy to hear people rag on Peyton even after this miserable day in Broncos history.

His playoff record is now listed at 11-12 with "only" one Super Bowl Championship. That means that he has helped teams into the post-season THIRTEEN times, how many QBs in NFL history have equaled or surpassed that statistic?

Dan Marino is rightfully considered one of the NFL's all-time great QBs but he "only" led the Miami to one Super Bowl game and the Dolphins lost it. He gets nowhere near the heat that Peyton gets, in part I suspect, because he never got the opportunity to fail on the big stage like Peyton.

The bottom line is simply that the Broncos team lost to a far superior Seahawks squad. 

Jacob and Peyton sharing a
National Anthem moment

Laurie's Desserts Were Delicious

And they were oh so good for me too . . .

Jacob Dreaming About His
Football Future

Playing in the Backyard
at Halftime

Surviving the Second Half

Finally, the carnage was over

Of course, from the third quarter on, Facebook was buzzing with all sorts of Broncos/Manning bashing.

The most interesting comment that I read was from a self-avowed devote Christian friend who was happy that Seattle won because in his post-game interview Seattle QB Russell Wilson gave praise to God. He further stated that he was glad that Denver lost because Peyton Manning never gives praise to God.

No, he may not, but Peyton does live his life without controversy and handles himself at all times over the many, many years with class and dignity. Crazy, but that speaks volumes to me as well.

Final thought on the Peyton Manning bashing. His father, Archie, played 13 seasons with the Saints, Oilers and Vikings. He is one of the game's most revered people. Yet, in 139 career starts, his teams were a dismal 35-101-3 having thrown 125 TD passes and 173 interceptions. He never played on a team with a winning record and thus has no post-season wins or losses. Still, he is revered while Peyton has to endure such harsh criticism.

Although I have never been a Colt or Bronco fan and only have passing interest in the NFL, Peyton deserves better. He is still a class act in my view.

Perception is reality I guess.