Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eric Marty and the Small World of EuroBall

Wednesday night was the last of the Ventura County Football Association's annual Wednesday Night Football Clinics.

Our speaker last night was the Offensive Coordinator at Moorpark College, Eric Marty.

With Moorpark College
Coach Eric Marty

Eric being our clinic speaker was yet another example of the small world that is America football in Europe.

In 2009 when I was coaching Sicily's Catania Elephants in the Serie A Italian Football League, Eric was the QB of the Bolzano Giants.

Our teams met for a game in Catania on April 25th of that very difficult season for those of us wearing the Mt. Etna molten lava red and black uniforms. The Giants were 4-1 coming into that game while our beloved Elephants were struggling in every way possible as we kicked off with an 0-4 record.

Predictably, the Giants cruised to a 54-9 victory on that day, helped in no small part by their defense scoring and incredible four consecutive TDs off of Elephant miscues.

Flashing forward to the 2012 IFL season, Eric was now the QB of the Catania squad and them to a 10-2 record and a spot in the IFL's Super Bowl held in Varese that Laurie and I witnessed. Eric was asked to also play Free Safety and kick PATs that night. Unfortunately for our favorite Sicilan eleven, the Parma Panthers proved to be the better team that night in winning the National Championship in a typical Italian defensive struggle by a final count of 63-41.

Besides being a good guy, Eric is also a tremendous QB coach who gave a splendid talk that left all of us in attendance very happy with what he taught us.

Small world indeed . . .

Reading Is FUNdamental

Louis Zamperini
Now and Then

The incredible, real life story of former Torrance H.S., U.S.C. and American 1936 Olympic track star Louis Zamperini's amazing World War II survival after the crashing of his B-24 bomber in the Pacific Ocean, nearly 50 days adrift in a raft circled constantly by sharks and finally the hardships endured in a brutal prison camp. 

A truly excellent read.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Jacob's Second Birthday Party

Grandson Jacob turned two years old last Tuesday so we had to wait until Saturday to properly celebrate his big day.

Laurie and Vanessa decided to go with a theme based on one of Jacob's favorite movies, "Cars."

Bounce House . . . CHECK

Motor Vehicles . . . CHECK

Balls . . . CHECK 

Banner . . . CHECK

Lightening McQueen Balloon . . . CHECK

 "Oh So Good for You" Cupcakes . . . CHECK

 Birthday Cake . . . CHECK

Kid's Name Tags . . . CHECK

Weird Beverages . . . CHECK

Weirder Beverages . . . CHECK

We were ready . . . 

Mike and I during
the calm just before the storm
Like Father . . .

. . . Like Son

Jacob experiencing some
Bounce House Balance Issues

Cousins Nicholas, Jacob and Nathan

 The Chick-fil-A Cow was in the house!

Their chicken nuggets were INCREDIBLE and, yes David Lassen, they were indeed "OH SO GOOD FOR YOU!!!"

Everybody loves a cow photo-op!!!

Mike, Moo, Jacob and Vanessa

Families were EVERYWHERE!!!

John, our Mailman, stopped by
for sustenance

Lovely Liliana

Nathan, WAY overdressed 

 Maverick wanted more of a "Planes" motif

Cousin Max with my sister Marilyn,
his Grandmother

 Ben Todd and Michael discussing the
long range effects of the Spanish Civil War

Laurie and my sister Linda arguing
who was a better racer,
Doc Hudson or Lightening McQueen

All of these kids in the house made
for an exhausting afternoon

I need a Pit Stop!

Kids, kids, kids . . .

I hope Jacob picked up a few grooming
tips from these two handsome boys

 The McQueen Mother on her Throne

Grandpa Tito on
Playground Supervision Duty

My Mom, Aunt Katie and Max

 Jacob just blew out the candle

 Checking out a six-week old party crasher

 Lots of presents!!!

Jacob's new TV Chair!

 Jacob's Aunt Elizabeth and
Grandma Laurie bouncing

Sad Moment rolling up the
Bounce House after
nine hours of continual use

As I said earlier, exhausting but so much fun seeing lots of family and good friends. A BIG thanks to Laurie and Vanessa for going all out to make this day so special for Jacob!!!

Reading Is FUNdamental

Marco Polo, angelic script, plagues, cannibals, pirates, mysterious Angkor temples and mutant strains of bacteria . . .

Sigma, Sigma, Sigma, Sigma, SIGMA!!! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

VCFCA Wednesday Night Clinics

For about the last 20 years, the Ventura County Football Coaches Association was sponsored coaches clinics on each Wednesday night in the month of March for free. I have been honored over the years to speak twice to the assembled coaches.

The idea of the clinic is to offer all of our county coaches a chance to get together to learn more about the game in a comfortable setting and then have some time to socialize. This socialization has been, in my opinion, a great reason why the vast majority of our coaches get along and that translates into a lot of positive things during the course of the season.

 Ted Lawrence
Defensive Line Coach
Ventura College

Two weeks ago, Jason Sabolic, the Offensive Coordinator at Pierce College, spoke to us about the Brahmas' "Spread Triple Option Attack."

This week, Ventura College offered us two speakers. Their Defensive Coordinator, Tyson Butler, spoke on Building a Championship Defense -- In-Season and Off-Season."

At the same time, the Pirates' Defensive line coach, Ted Lawrence, gave a very passionate and thorough talk on  "Defensive Line Play vs. the Run."

At the start of his talk, he made comment that I was sitting in the audience and was coaching before he was even born.

Afterwards, I asked him his birthdate and Ted responded "October, 1971."


He was right, I was half way through my second year of Coaching the J.V. team at Thousand Oaks H.S. when he arrived in the world. That Lancers squad went 9-0 in 1971 winning the Marmonte League Championship.

Reading Is FUNdamental

Jamaica, Austria, Cuba, the Magellan Billet, the Jewish Faith and the search for who Columbus really was.

Struck gold again!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"America's Finest City"

It was both a long and rewarding weekend, it all started Friday with the . . .

C.I.F. "AAA" Boys Basketball
Championship Game

My alma mater, St. Francis H.S. made it to the title contest for the first time in the school's 68 year history thanks to a surprising playoff run. The Golden Knights' opponents were the equally surprising Oak Park H.S. Eagles.

The game was played at Azusa Pacific University's very accommodating gymnasium before a late arriving crowd due to an accident that blocked the 210 Freeway for hours.

It was a good, see-saw battle until the home stretch when Oak Park took care of the ball and sunk their free throws to pull away to a 60-53 victory.

It was fun to see and talk with fellow S.F.H.S. Class of 1965 alums Terry Terrazone, Greg Boyer and Pete Glynn at APU.

On Sunday, I headed four hours down the 405 Freeway towards San Diego to deliver my EuroBall talk to the Seniors at the University of San Diego.

Mike Contreras

During this drive, I was fielding constant reports from Laurie about our son Mike who was running in the Los Angeles Marathon. It was his first marathon ever and, on this hot March day, his goal was to break the four minute mark for his 26.2 mile journey.


Once in San Diego, it was time to enjoy some of "America's Finest City."

First Stop

Although I had been to San Diego many times over the years and had thoroughly enjoyed each and every visit, I had never been to the Little Italy section of town.

How very Sicilian

Just like our two years living and coaching in Catania, finding a free parking spot in Little Italy took me about 20 minutes. I was not going to pay $12 to the local "parking nazis."

The Little Italy area is about four blocks long and chock full of tantalizing aromas, ristorantes, watering holes and fun.

 A SICILIAN Ristorante!!!

I had to check it out with the hope of finding a good plate of spaghetti al nero.

No such luck, so I kept searching as their menu looked quite Italian, not Sicilian.

Italian Heritage Oscar Winners 

Banners like this one hung throughout the district honoring various Oscar Award winners with Italian roots.

Sophia in her prime . . . breathtaking!!!

Filippi's Pizza Grotto
1747 India Street, San Diego

A good, hearty plate of spaghetti with Italian sausage can be found here, I recommend it highly.

After my early dinner, I headed over to scenic Balboa Park which was erected for the 1915 Pamama-California Exposition.

Today the park includes a world famous zoo, museums, theaters and all sorts of open space in which to recreate or laze.

What is a Spanish Flag doing here?

 That explains it

One small part of the park houses a set of international houses that are only open on Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The Spanish House was indeed interesting though small. All of these little houses, cottages actually, just want to give visitors a taste of their various homelands.

It was about 3:40 p.m., so I needed to hustle to see as many exhibits as possible

Hey, I know that flag

Yep, Gaul!

I need to get a collection of these!

Time was running out, the Italian, Swedish and Swiss Houses were closing, so I'll have to come back to see them some other Sunday when I have more time.

The Organ Pavilion

They hold an organ concert here every Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Not only did I miss this today, I have never seen this quaint sight other than like this, a peaceful place to sit and enjoy the weather.

That would change on Monday.

El Cid Campeador

Part of Balboa Park's Architecture

I do NOT know?

On Monday morning, before meeting with the USD Seniors, I had a few hours to kill so I headed back to a very deserted Balboa Park.

Balboa Park's
Museum of Man

Beer and Torture

Interesting exhibits to say the least.

Suddenly, I heard the organ playing in the nearby Pavilion. I just had to check it out.

It's alive, ALIVE!!!

Just Showing Off

This unusual playing of the Park's organ was completely off-the-cuff. Just a few pieces to show off the magnificence of the organ to some special visitors from the greater world of music I was told.

And some more fun

Finally it was time to get to work . . .

It was Pro Day

When I arrived, some of the Torero Seniors were going through a series of drills for NFL scouts from the Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders in hopes of getting drafted or at least getting a chance to sign on as a Free Agent some day soon.

My contact at USD was Juan Lozano, their Director of Football Operations.

It turns out that Juan grew up in Camarillo, attended Santa Clara H.S. for two years before moving to San Diego and was a friend of Scott Fujita's growing up. Scott, who is our Godson, was a Rio Mesa H.S. and University of California-Berkely student who just finished an 11 year NFL career as a linebacker with the Chiefs, Cowboys, Saints and Browns.

Small world indeed.

Coach San Anno and RB Kenn James

We were also joined by kicker/punter Ernie Collins for the EuroBall talk. I was a bit disappointed by the turnout but their enthusiasm more than made up for it.

Sam was really interesting to meet. He played LB at Santa Monica H.S., USC and seven years in the NFL with the Rams, Vikings, Buccaneers and Chargers and is about to start his sixth season coaching at USD.

Sam was really fired up about EuroBall as was USD's Head Coach Dale Lindsey who has ties to Europe as his wife is from Budapest.

If a team in Europe is looking for a good coach in the next few years, you should really contact these two men.

USD's American Football Stadium

San Diego is truly a fine city!!!

Reading Is FUNdamental

Genetically modified foods, the Papal predictions of St. Malachy, Druids, a Black Madonna, the Guild and Sigma Force . . .

Why not keep perusing?

Military K-9 dogs, Somalia, Dubai, neuro-robotics, organ trafficking, the science of immortality . . .

I hate the Guild!

America needs Sigma Force!!!