Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Second Coming









THEY'RE HERE!

Brandon and Jason are finally in Catania. In the picture at the airport, besides Brandon and Jason are several of the Elefanti who came to see the two newest members of the team.

You will note a young man in white at the right of the picture. We don't know who he is, just a guy at the airport who was drawn in by the magic of the Elefanti machine!

Practice tonight at 8:00 at the University for the OL/DL/RB/LB group. Then it will be time to introduce the new Elefanti to the nightlife of Catania. Stay tuned for further developments...

Santa Claus and The Easter Bunny












It is finally here, the day that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny arrive in Catania! At least that's what you would think based on all the phone calls we keep getting..."Are they here yet? No? What time does their plane land?" The players are REALLY excited about Brandon and Jason to say the least. Truth be told, so am I!

Last night we had a GREAT defensive practice! We are moving in the right direction.

Random Thought of the Day: Italian juice, picture, is fabulous! I don't know why but it just tastes so much better than in the U.S. They have these blood oranges that look normal on the outside but are indeed blood red on the inside, they just taste great.

A new Pink Elephant, picture, Elisa was introduced to us last night. Giulio has been dating her for about five years now only she doesn't know it yet! He will outlast her in the end because as everybody knows, "Chicks Dig Fat Guys!

Calcio update: This is the first time in history that Calcio Forza Catania has made it to the Italian Cup Semi-Finals. We were there, coincidence? No, KARMA!!! Viva Curva Nord!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Forza Calcio Catania!














Today we went, picture, to the Forza Catania vs. Udinese calcio (soccer) game at Stadio A. Massimino here in Catania at 3:00 p.m. It was an Italian Cup Tournament quarterfinal playoff game and Gustavo scored us tickets in the Curva Nord section. This is where the crazies cheer for our team.

My first important move of the day was probably my greatest moment in parking to date. Traffic was very packed coming into the Stadio and parking was rarer than ever. As we were gridlocked I spied a car leaving on the other side of a small park, picture. I was in the cross walk when he moved so I only had one chance for his spot...illegally drive into the park, come out on the other side and seize the moment. DONE DEAL!

Italian calcio is a combination athletic event, passion play and hootenanny. Curva Nord is on their feet for the full game singing and chanting constantly. They have a chant for every occasion, even to the songs "Popeye the Sailor Man" and "Guantanamera".

They taught us the names of some of the people involved in the game. One of the referees, who I think has a brother on the Udinese team, goes by the last name Bastardo. The Curva Nord people are great fans and constantly praised them throughout the contest. Equally singled out for his apparent hard hitting play was a Udinese player whose name I think is Figlio di Puttana. I believe the referee on our sideline's name is Merda. It was a great time and Catania won 2-1 with a goal in the last two minutes of the game, even I got really excited. The video is of the last part of the game just after the winning goal was scored.

You will notice an area of the stands that has netting over it called "The Cage", picture. This is where the fans of the opposing team sit. There were only about a dozen Udinese fans present because there home base is in the northern part of the Italian boot. There were also about 25 uniformed Polizia in The Cage to keep the peace. Of course The Cage is strategically located right next to the Curva Nord section. I think Bastado's parents were in The Cage for the game.

Random Thought For Today: Italian house keys are really unique, picture. That's it, I just like the REALLY old school look and feel of them.

Last night's trip to Aci Reale for Carnevale was a bust. Although the Carnevale does last a week, last night was not one of the nights, it's an on-off type situation. We'll try again later this week.

Brandon and Jason arrive tomorrow, the whole team is excited to meet both of them! This also means that Matt is moving into town to his new digs after practice tonight. I'm a bachelor again for one night.

Major thanks to Davide who showed me how to download pictures from my Blackberry cell phone to my computer yesterday. Check the Opera House picture from two weeks ago especially.

NOI SIAMO IL CALCIO CATANIA!!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Big Breakthrough, The Castle, Caravaggio and Clothes























Practice last night was a big issue for Davide, few offensive linemen attended and our best one right now, Giulio, was in a murdercycle accident. He was at practice but is very scrapped up. Defensively, I thought we made good strides in our understanding of coverage techniques versus different route combinations, we're slowly but surely learning the coverage concepts. In the middle of practice, at the other end of the field from Saturday's outburst, another round of fireworks and festivity broke out in a nearby neighborhood. I have got to get a piece of the fireworks concession in this town! 

After practice, we stopped at Jonathan's when a HUGE breakthrough occurred. As we walked up to the counter the lady looked at us and said "Sausage and two chickens?". Believe it or not, Matt is the two chickens order not me! She knew our standard order on sight, WE'RE REGULARS!!! Later when they came off the grill the man who always serves us knew what to add without asking too!

Random thought #1: At every stop light the various Vespas and motor cycles form a pack near the limit line. As soon as the light turns green THEY'RE OFF! Kind of like NASCAR on two wheels, it is very entertaining.

Random thought #2: They serve patatine, French fries, on everything as stated in an earlier post. I am thinking about asking the priest on Sunday if they can give out a side order of patatine at Communion. I know it sounds sacrilegious but I think it could give attendance at church a real boost, just thinking out loud.

I went to the Norman Castle, pictures, in Aci Castello again, Matt for the first time. We brought the nice people who run it one creme cornetto and they let us both in free.

From there we drove into Catania to see the Caravaggio exhibit, pictures. There were several of his works in real size reproductions that are currently in museums all over the world including one that is in a Ft. Worth, Texas museum, it had Matt weeping. I liked his Medusa the best.

Our next stop was a clothing store called Sicily Outlet. The highlight was Matt, picture, trying on a very dapper coat that was on sale for mere 1,999 euros. What a steal, I can't believe he didn't buy it. We then stopped for lunch at Menza having the mandatory ricotta cannoli for desert.

Tonight we are meeting with the Elefanti to drive up to Aci Reale for one night at their week long Carnavale. Last Sunday when we went to the In-Line Hockey game in Aci Reale we saw over 50 recliner buses full with people coming to the Carnevale. Just another night of revelry in Sicily.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Pink Elephants











The Pink Elephants is a term of endearment for the wives and girlfriends of your 2008 Catania Elephants, an American football team. These lovely young ladies are great supporters of the team and our players.

You have met some of them already in previous posts and they include Roberta, Daniela, Ica, Elena, Valeria, Giordana, Erica, Martina, Federica, Francesca, Claudia, Allessandra, Denise, Laura, Chiara and Serena. All are great fun and make being here great.

When I first told many of you about my desire to come to Europe and coach football many of you said "GREAT!" When I later announced that I had accepted the job in Catania, most of you said "Where?" and "Why there?"

The "Where?" is the great seacoast town of Catania in eastern Sicily.

The "Why there?" just may be The Pink Elephants!!!

Cannoli...Definite Proof of the Existence of God























Where to begin? Friday night's 8:00 p.m. practice for the OL/DL/LB/RB group was both well attended and productive, probably our best practice to date!

After practice we went at the Chiave, the team bar at Piazza Bellini, at 11:30 but the place was deserted so we walked a block to Mustafa's for a Kebob, picture, after we got a gelato to start the evening. Finally at 12:30 a.m. people started arriving and we eventually went to a new spot Fundo Bianco. Met many new people there and had quite a good time. From there it was on to Jonathan's at 3:30 for the traditional Buona Notte panini.

Italians, it should be mentioned, drink very responsibly for the most part, not many sloppy drunks. In the five hours we were out and about I had only two beers and Matt, usually Mr. Coca-Cola, had maybe two drinks also. Good thing as it turns out because on the short drive to Jonathan's I got pulled over at a Random Check Point by the Police. I instantly realized that I had left my international Drivers License at home and we might be in trouble! It was then that ten weeks of Italian classes at Ventura College and Conejo Valley Adult School as well as countless hours listening to Italian Language CD's both in the car and on the computer paid off. In this crisis every word and nuance that I have ever heard or studied came magically together I SPOKE FLUID ITALIAN FOR ONE INCREDIBLE MINUTE!!! The cop, duly impressed, had no choice but to let us go with a smile on his face. The Italian sausage panini with sun dried tomatoes and eggplant at Jonathan's never tasted any better than that night! "The great ones are defined by how they handle pressure situations." We were home safely by 4:15 a.m.

Saturday was very busy, first we had to wake up, never easy for Matt and really hard for me today! Went early (1:00 p.m.) to the airport to turn in the Fiat for a new Nissan Micra, better rental rate for the team. Practice at 3:00 p.m. was average compared to Friday nights great one. As usaul good individual progress but I only had one defensive lineman and the offensive line was missing two starters. SEMPRE AVANTI ELEFANTI!!!  

One funny thing at practice was the breakout of yet another local festival with the usual parade, brass band and fireworks, I again thought we were being invaded by the Allies! on the drive home traffic slowed down because another group was having their festival parade on the main coastal road of Catania thereby completely shutting down the south bound lanes. Fortunately we were heading north and would have been fine except for the car stopped in the right lane with the driver out of the car taking pictures of the festival on the other side of the divider!
Speaking of parades, it is obvious that Sicily leads the known universe for parades per capita so Davide wants to cash in on the action. He has scheduled a parade, with fireworks and brass band, for February 5th in the Piazza Duomo to honor the three American players in general but really Jason specifically. He has given Jason's highlight DVD (see Jason's blog) to the local TV stations and has started a vigorous campaign in the local papers to drum up interest in the 2008 Elephant campaign. I don't know how many people will join in but I think the sound of fireworks and the brass band will trigger a sort of Pavlovian response in the people to join the parade and celebrate. If we get more than 100 people parading with the team it would be a success, we'll see how it goes two days after the Super Bowl is played at midnight our time.

After practice we did he smartest thing we've done to date. We went to bed at 7:00 p.m.! At 11:15 p.m. Gustavo woke us up and we headed downtown to meet the team at The Zo a club in town with our own Falcon, Renato as the D.J. Usual good times with the guys and their girlfriends. We met a new girl named Erica who has so much energy she would make an espresso nervous! She plays In-Line Hockey, picture, and we promised to see her play on Sunday. Went to the Etoile D'Or at 3:45 a.m. for a pizzetta and a cannoli, home by 4:10 a.m.

Matt talks a good physical fitness game, little alcohol, lots of exercise, watch the diet, all the things I believe in! It was going well for him until he was introduced to a cannoli. For him it was like crack cocaine! Sunday he had THREE deserts after dinner! He has also discovered gelato. Davide has him listed as the number three offensive guard on the depth chart. How are we going to get him back on the farm after he's seen a pasticceria?

Sunday it was 8:00 a.m. Mass for me in Aci Castello at San Mauro's Church, priest was very long winded, I'm not going there again. Went back and woke Matt up to drive him to the 11:00 a.m. service at Calvary Baptist Church with the Reverend Seth Jenkins, pictures, in the nearby town of Motta Sant'Anastasia, picture. The reason for this American oasis of faith is the U.S. Navy base at Sigonella. I dropped Matt off and then drove into the very quaint village while Matt attended his service. As I drove away it felt a little uneasy, kind of like the day you leave your first born at school on the first day of Kindergarten.

Giuseppe and Valeria got ahold of us in the afternoon for a delightful afternoon and evening. They are a great couple who I really enjoy seeing. First it was great food in Aci Trezza, then off to see Erica's In-Line hockey game in Aci Reale, gelato and cannolis in Catania and the a finish at the Catania vs. San Croce men's Volleyball game.

The Stadium where they played Volleyball is named PalaCatania. The event was equal parts athletic skill, teamwork, circus and Marx Brothers movie! The first two of these were the teams playing, the last two were the crowd. Everyone was given a noisemaker as they entered, fans were beating drums all over the place and the one end zone kind of reminded me of the guys in centerfield in the movie Major League. An older man in front of us was living and dyingwith every rally. Some of his hand gestures were unique, the one for the referees was universal. It was FANTASTIC!

Dropped Matt off at Gregorio's for some Texas Hold'Em with the boys. Doesn't appear to be fair to have Amarillo Slim role into town for this contest. I took the wise route and left him there with Gustavo. Gustavo and Elena gave him a ride home while I went to bed early for once, i.e., 11:45 p.m.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Drivers Training Sicilian Style























This morning I made the huge mistake of waking Matt up early, 10:00 a.m., to give him a refresher course in driving a stick shift, I kind of expected Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland. His biggest worry was going from a dead stop, uphill in rush hour (O.K., normal Catania) traffic. I got him on a quiet isolated road to start, he did fine for a novice so I had him drive us all the way into town!

When we got into downtown I got out of the car to check on plane tickets at the Air Malta offices and let him drive solo for a bit. From there he got us back to the office in one piece. It brought back memories of teaching Drivers Training at Westlake H.S. 20+ years ago when all my heart and ulcer problems started. Matt has this Jack Nicholson laugh when he gets in a tight spot driving like in movie "The Shining". It's a little bit scary when you're in the passengers seat and he does it!

After leaving the office last night we went on a minor food binge. First stop Etoile D'or for a pastry stuffed with ham, cheese and onions. We followed that with a DELICIOUS pistachio and ricotta cheese canoli! Still not full we stopped at Jonathan's Panini Stand to get a pork, cheese, eggplant and tomato panini smothered in French fries (patatine).

A note about patatine, I've previously alluded to them on pizzas. I've also seen them in croissants and of course on paninis. Patatine are a main staple in Sicilian street side eateries. Who am I to fight it? When in Catania...

At Jonathan's we were joined by the lovely Elena, picture, Gustavo's girlfriend. She had just come from an English class she is taking so we spoke in English to give her some extra practice. Elena is very petite, outgoing and funny. She brightens up the room when she enters and her English is very endearing!

Matt and I, pictures, are both trying to find the panini at the bottom of the fries!

We also saw a purple cow, check our QB Jason Johnson's blog for an explanation of this term, last night. As noted previously people here park anywhere and anyway possible. Double parking is routine but make sure your 4 way flashers are on. Triple parking is not odd. There's a spot on the sidewalk...GO FOR IT! Crosswalks are usually a good place to park too. Space too small to parallel park? Just head straight in and leave the rear 1/3 of your car in the traffic lane. I must admit to having already done some of these things.

Now for the purple cow, last night while driving near the Roman Amphitheater we saw an illegally parked car being towed away! This was a first for me, so I asked the people when was the last time that happened? No one could clearly remember such a thing happening but they were all pretty sure that the Pope was still an Italian when it did.

No internet on the weekend, see you Monday with the weekend's updates, CIAO!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Italian Women!




Many of you have commented that while I have posted several pictures of the Elefanti, you wonder what Italian women are like.

This is Roberta, Claudio's girlfriend and me with our strong safety Renato in the black hat behind us in the picture on the left and with me, Claudio and Matt at the Cappella Bonaiuto in the picture on the right.

Her smile alone could light up Rome for a week!

Any questions? 

Cavallo?













Practice last night at the University for WR's and DB's. As always, the numbers were low but we got a lot accomplished as individuals.

After practice we met some of the Elefanti at Chiavi, the team hangout on Piazza Bellini, at about 10:45 p.m. It was very quiet and not many people were there when we arrived. Claudio took us to a local street vendor/sit down eating spot near the Piazza Duomo.

Fellow retired Rio Mesa teacher, Dick Bellman, once told me about taking a group of students to somewhere in Europe I think and how they only wanted to eat at McDonalds. He made them eat the local cuisine to force them to learn a little more about their culture. With that in mind, Claudio got me to eat, picture, an authentic Sicilian cavallo panini, i.e., a horse meat sandwich! I know many of you think that some sort of Michael Vick rule should apply to me in this case but it tasted like beef and the spicy tomatoes made it quite delicious. Yes, there was a stray dog giving me the evil eye about 20 feet away as I dined but I proceeded as usual when it comes to food.

On the way to the cavallo panini we passed the Cappella Bonaiuto, a chapel built in the 1300's that is now a ristorante. Claudio, as usual, talked them into giving us free pasta al pesto. We met with Claudio's stunning girl friend Roberta and went back for the pasta. The ristorante was very nice inside and the actual chapel down in the basement was very interesting.

By the time we left the ristorante it was 2:15 a.m. and the streets were now packed! And people in Los Angeles think Dodger crowds are late arriving! I LOVE THIS TOWN!!!

On the way back to the car we found this awning, had to have a picture to remind me of my roots.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Matt's Bucket List

I've finally been able to upload six pictures onto last two days of blogging and have revised the blog's text for these days also.

After a fairly calm day yesterday, Matt and I went on the hunt looking to eat lasagna for dinner in Aci Trezza. We stopped at about 5 or 6 different places, all had pastas but none had lasagna. We decided to eat at a ristorante with a second floor view of the harbor.

It was here that things got interesting for Matt, after I ordered the veal cutlet alla milanese, he picked spaghetti alla vongole not knowing exactly what it was past the word spaghetti. Alla vongole is a sauce made olive oil, butter, garlic and chopped parsley, so far so good for Matt. The final ingredient is clams, lots of them with their shells, which he had never eaten before. Matt, to his gastronomic delight, has now taken clams off of his bucket list! WELL DONE!

Matt's clam eating I'm sure was part of the reason he woke up at 10:30 a.m. today, maybe it was my knocking on his door. All of Sicily mourned his now failed attempt at setting the last two significant island sleeping records he had not broken. I should have let him sleep.

Matt says he is not comfortable driving a stick shift in town, especially going uphill after being stopped. As you may know I used to teach Drivers Training in my young and carefree days. I have volunteered to take him on some back roads for a refresher course. I told Davide I would only charge the Elephants about 40 euros an hour for this service, I don't think he's going for it.

Practice at 8:00 p.m. tonight at the University's small Astroturf field with QB's DB's and WR's only. Cold, rainy and VERY windy today, tonight could be interesting if the weather stays like this.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bad News, Good News

Bad news, I forgot to mention, I had my first bad gelato (strawberry) in Sicily.

Good news, I've had so much gelato that I can tell the difference!

Italian Style


I walked to Aci Castello to Gustavo's barber today. The owner of the Parrucchiere Per Uomo is Luigi but his sidekick Giorgio (yea!) styled my dome. I'm looking more Italian all the time!

Afterward I toured the Norman Castle, picture, it's really a rook not a castle, free entry since I'm 60! Not much to see really but great views of both Aci Castello and Aci Trezza. The three people who run the Castle are Davide, Antonella and Alessandra. Nice people, we took pictures of each other and they gave me a bunch of freebies on the way out.

In the news today, the Carabinieri in Aci Reale, where Matt (please note Matt's eyes in yesterday's blog picture at the Festival in Aci Reale) and I went to the Festival of San Sebatiano, found the body of a dead woman in her 20's Monday morning just a few blocks from where we were Sunday night. She had two puncture wounds in her neck and her body was completely drained of blood! Just a coincidence right? By the way, "Il Conte" slept in until 1:15 p.m. today! The Sicilian sleeping records are tumbling!

Practice last night was really good on an individual basis but still missing a lot of key players. The one's who come to practice are starting to see the big picture of what we are trying to do.

Jonathan's Pannini Camion on the way home for an Italian Sausage sandwich. It was a great way to finish the evening.

Many of you have e-mailed me about the lack of pictures on the blog of the Italian women. This Friday at the traditional team get-together at Piazza Bellini I'll bring my camera and take pictures of some of the Elefanti girlfriends and wives (maybe both in some cases). 

Monday, January 21, 2008

Opera, Matt, Practice and Friends














Buon giorno, another great weekend in Catania!

Opera, pictures, like ice hockey and all Gaul, is divided into three parts each lasting about one hour. Giacomo Puccini's "Madama Butterfly", as it is called in Italian, was a great evening. As I wrote earlier, one of our starting falcons, "Tony call me Pony", has a brother-in-law who runs the Teatro Massimo Bellini opera house. He comped us an entire six seat box on the second level, over the orchestra pit and close enough to shake hands with the actors! Besides myself, only Daniella (Davide's wife who loves the opera) and her father, Mauro, were in the box. It was worth it to see Daniella's eyes light up when they pulled back the curtain and she saw the location of the box seats.

The opera itself was very good, although Mauro thought the male lead was only average. The real star of the night was the Teatro itself. Over 200 years old, it has perfect acoustics. The singers and the orchestra do not use any amplification of any type and this beautiful, ornate old Teatro has five stories of box seating above the ground floor seats. Still you could hear every note and word clearly wherever you sat.

After the opera I met Matt, the guys and their girlfriends at the team hangout right around the corner from the Teatro. I saw Pony there and thanked him for the tickets. I then met his wife Ika. She is very nice, the mother of four and as it turns out was a foreign exchange student her senior year of high school in Amarillo, Texas at Caprock H.S. home of the Longhorns. Our receiver Matt played for the Rebels of Tascosa H.S. also in Amarillo. A small world moment indeed! We left at about 2:00 a.m. about 15 minutes after Davide and the very pregnant Daniella showed up to start the night!

New record on the way to the opera, 56 euros for a tank of gas.

A few words about Matt , picture of us at the Festival in Aci Reale, I now call him "Il Conte"..."The Count"...as in Dracula...as in he only comes out at night. After three days, he is making a serious assault on every significant Sicilian sleeping record and has yet to see the morning sun! Still, he's a good guy! I liked that he was first in all the sprints before practice and made two GREAT catches during the practice. He fits in well with the other players and has warmed to the role of mentor to the other players.

Practice attendance continues to be a problem. Individually we keep improving, but we have about 10 to 15 players missing each practice making team improvement difficult. Davide continues to impress me with his knowledge of the game. He is a very good offensive line coach and has great passion for the Elefanti! This, of course, leads to frustration on his part when players miss practice. Players at practice, picture, included from left to right, LB Fabio, DL Matteo, WR/DB Mario, LB/Falcon Gustavo, DE Matthieu, WR Gregorio, WR Claudio, and LB Gianmarco.

On the way home we stopped at the Cityper Market and Gustavo introduced me to a box of Chicchere, a traditional "biscotti di Sicilia" desert cookie, picture with wine and cheese, covered in powdered sugar. This was a huge dietary mistake!

My strategy was to limit myself to one church and one museum per week. My plan was to go to a different church each Sunday and then visit a museum right after Mass. Yesterday I took the 10 minute walk into Aci Trezza to go to the 8:00 a.m. Mass at San Giovanni Battista Church built in 1696. The Mass only took 34 minutes, so much for my plan to visit a different church each Sunday! After Mass I did visit the, picture, Museum of the 1943 Sicilian Invasion by the Allies. Very nice exhibits, videos and memorabilia. The Sicilian campaign lasted 38 days and Catania it turns out was the most heavily bombed city in Sicily during the fighting with 87 Allied bombing raids. Palermo was a distant second in this terrible statistic with 69 air raids. Hard to believe that my wonderful new city suffered so much back then.

In the afternoon, Matt and I went into Catania to introduce him to the city. I made a major purchase. All the men here were a scarf to look even more dashing so I bought a black and white one on Via Etnea, the main shopping street of Catania. Another step avanti in my becoming more Italian like.

In the evening Matt and I drove 10 minutes up to Aci Realle for the Festival of San Sebastiano, their patron saint. We stayed about an hour and then drove back into Catania to the beautiful home of Matteo, a new friend and great host who was a longtime Elefanti player and coach. Our TE Giuseppe and two of our WR's, Claudio and Salvo were also there. The purpose of the visit was to watch the two NFL Conference Championship Games. The first one started at 9:00 p.m. our time. We left at 2:00 a.m. during halftime of the second game. In the picture, left to right seated is Claudio and Matt. Standing left to right, are Matteo, Salvo and Giuseppe.

A few words about Claudio, he speaks great English, is very outgoing and helpful. He has good speed and will really help our team. I sometimes think he is a twin or triplet because he shows up everywhere we go, lots of energy!

I'm again having trouble uploading pictures to the blog, I'll try again Tuesday, ciao!


Friday, January 18, 2008

Madame Butterfly












The first picture today was taken from the patio at the apartment during breakfast, nice sunrise.

Tonight I scratch another item off my to do list, go to an opera in Italy. One of our falcons, Tony call me "Pony", has a brother-in-law who works at Teatro Massimo Bellini, picture, and scored free tickets for myself and Daniella, Davide's wife, to see Madame Butterfly tonight at 8:30. Davide is not the big opera fan that I am apparently after all this will be my first ever time at an opera. Should be an interesting evening. Davide says that they really dress up for the opera so I have a problem, shirt and tie yes, sports coat no. I'll wear a black sweater and hope they don't throw things at me.

As you may know, over the centuries Sicily has been occupied (but never conquered) by several civilizations including the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, French, Arabs and Spanish. These various cultures have each left their mark in Sicilian art, architecture, language, culture, and cuisine.  Now comes Matt Epperson from Amarillo, on the right with Davide at the airport in the picture, leading the first wave of the Texas invasion. God help this great island!

Practice last night in damp but not rainy weather, decent turnout. Roberto, the linebacker who was going to miss practice for a month due to business in Israel, was at practice last night. I asked about the Israel trip, he said it was postponed for a few weeks because they bombed the city in Israel where he was to work, imagine that!

Three hour practice on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. with the whole team. I'm looking forward to it as always, especially now that Matt is here to help with coaching as well as playing.

No internet again on the weekend so I won't be back on until Monday.

Ciao!


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Educational Materials Needed

During yet another delicious lunch today, I realized that for some strange reason copies of the 2004 United States Surgeon General's Report on Smoking have never reached Catania.

This, I am sure, was just another bureaucratic oversite by the Bush regime.

If any of you are finished reading your personal copy of the Report, please send it to me so that I can get them into the hands of the people here in Catania.

Grazie!

Huge Breakthrough in Driving


Today, in the rain, I drove solo from the apartment in Aci Castello to the Elephants' office, i.e.,
NO GARMIN GPS ASSISTANCE, without a mistake!

Davide and Gustavo were shedding tears of joy for my incredible accomplishment. We had an expresso to celebrate, but enough about me already.

Practice last night was really a good one. We accomplished a lot of technique work in 90 minutes. I only had the DB's and Falcons to work with so we were able to tailor the teaching to their needs. Again, good listening skills, not afraid to hit, solid technique base to work with and a passion for the game. Saturdays and Mondays, by myself with all the defense is really hard in terms of individual teaching so these Wednesday and Thursday practices are crucial to player development.

I have to admit that on a practice field, anywhere in the world as it turns out, is a special place for me. It is just the very different and hard to explain part of my day where I feel the most relaxed and at peace. It is on these fields where for as little as 90 minutes or as long as three hours I can put away all the drama of the day and take a deep breath. I really enjoy the teaching of the game of football and the comradeship of people who have a love for the game. The Catania Elephants are making my day every time we practice!

Davide dropped the hammer last night and cut a few players. They were all younger players with little experience, some could not defend themselves well enough. Fortunately, the Elephants have a Junior team that plays during our off-season so these players do have a place to go and continue learning. None the less, I stayed far away from Davide's car after practice just in case of a possible car bomb, this is Sicily after all.

Another 90 minutes, 8:00 p.m. practice tonight at the University of Catania Astroturf site. Tonight's practice will stress individual techniques for the RB/OL/DL/LB groups. Since it has been raining all day and is supposed to continue tonight, we will find out who the real players are when they show up to practice under these conditions.

Tomorrow, Friday, Matt Epperson, today's picture, arrives in Catania and will live at the apartment with me for a few days until they finish furnishing his place. Matt and Brandon Bennett, our lineman from Willamette University, will eventually share a place in Catania close to the action. The married folk, Jason Johnson and I, will live out of the center of town in the sleepy hamlet of Aci Castello. O.K. it's only a ten minutes drive to Piazza Bellini and the night life one finds there but it usually does take 30 minutes to find a place to park.

Matt played his college football at Hardin Simmons University in Texas. He is a wide receiver by trade who will help in the secondary and return punts and kickoffs as well. This will be Matt's second season of European football, having played for the Kouvola Indians in Finland last season. From what I've gathered so far he will be a lot of fun to have on the team and in the town. I'm looking forward to finally meeting him.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Elefanti Players



Thought you might want to see two of our Elefanti linemen . Fabio Scuto, on the left, is a defensive end/linebacker while Giulio Romano is an offensive guard. Good guys, both work hard and are starters and leaders. They make practice fun.

On the far left by himself is none other than our starting free safety, Christian DiMauro just showed up, very football smart, good speed. He is going skiing in the Italian Alps and will miss practice on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday next week. La vita nel Italian Football League!

Good news ladies, they are all single!

I Love the French!


Today I booked my round trip, non-stop flight from Catania to Roma in February to meet Laurie when she arrives from America. I booked a flight on a local company, Wind Jet, that charged me $71 total for the this round trip that takes approximately two hours each way.

Before checking with Wind Jet, I first went to expedia.com to check out their prices and found that Air France could have flown me coach via stops in Milan, then Nice and finally on to Roma. The total time of the their trip each way would have been 8 hours and 50 minutes.

Cost? A paltry $3,152!

Driving Update

Although I do see local polizia and state carabiniere all over the place I have yet to see them giving anyone a ticket much less waving the yellow caution flag to the drivers in the daily Grand Prix of Catania. This added danger just adds to the excitement.

New Pictures

As I have commented before, I've had trouble uploading pictures to the blog the last few days.

Today I've added the missing photos going back to the post about my trip to Taormina last Friday.

Enjoy!

Festival of San Mauro Abate












On the way home from the office last night I stumbled upon a very fun evening. Every town in Italy has a patron saint and our town, Aci Castello's is San Mauro Abate. Last night was his festival celebration.

Lots of VERY LOUD fireworks, street vendors, a parade carrying the life size statue of San Mauro himself all around the town, brass bands, the works! Another great excuse to be up late.

The parade ended at the church with the priest reading e-mails from as far away as New Jersey and Florida wishing the town well on this special occasion.