Thursday, March 5, 2009

FWG: The First Practice: Hilarity Ensues

You know what. Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect from the first practice. I mean, technically I'm getting paid. So that makes me a professional. Never mind the language or cultural barriers, football is football. And getting paid makes it professional football.

That being said. This practice would best be described as the best high school football team in America meets The Longest Yard.

(I can hear the movie trailer now)
In a world where football is secondary, and soccer is king. A group of rag tag rogue athletes gather. Neither sleet, nor snow, nor age, nor mis-matched practice jersey can quench their insatiable thirst....FOR PAIN!!!

I kid, I kid. Sort of.
They (the Austrians) have a remedial knowledge of football, but a deep love for the game. The linemen are linemen, strong and athletic. They can play. (Well, if they knew how to play, they could play)

There are a few local defensive linemen, that (after 5 years of college football) I am sure could challenge for a spot on a Division I or Division IAA starting lineup.

This is the rainy season in Klagenfurt, Austria. So our first practice was met with a torrential downpour. As practice went on, I noticed that the rain wasn't even an issue. It was a non factor. I cant tell you how many times I've heard Division I players whine about playing (let alone practicing) in the rain. But not here. I loved the drive.

Cultural differences? They are a-plenty. As player/coach I called a water break. I ran over to the cooler. I saw them drinking a brownish liquid, thought to myself, "Well that is unlike any Gatorade I've ever seen." And then..was that? It is...steam. Steam from a water cup?
It was not Gatorade.
It was not Water.
It was...HOT TEA.
Hot tea at a water-break. I never thought I'd see that in any of my years playing football. Which lends legitimacy to the American's rallying cry, "T.I.A.!!!"....THIS. IS. AUSTRIA! In fact, I'm still chuckling. (What an experience this is.)

I guess through college, although fat, I carried myself with a "swag." I knew I played football, and in America, playing football is cool. Alright, I said it. Playing football is cool, you are the biggest and strongest guys around. You stand out. That's simply just not the case here. Soccer is king. Without question. Some might see that as an impediment to success, but I see it as working in our advantage. These local players grew up playing soccer, so they can all run. The other things is that the draw to the game (for the Austrians) is not to be cool They are out there because the LOVE the game. It is a cult following, and there is they are all going against everything popular culture tells them. Their sense of pride is extraordinary. The over paid, pampered athlete, is a myth. It doesn't exist on the (American) football field. They are living in a view of disdain almost everyday.

You know the worst part? When these guys are at the university, and they tell girls that they play "ze American Football" the chicks don't think its cool. In fact, Frauline is probably all like, "ya American football is for pansies..." followed by, of course "vere iz da Men's Tennis player I vas talking to earlier?"

Today's FWG moment?
Well, I took my shirt off and the Austrians all go “ahhhhh! Zat iz why you are ze fat white guy”
-Thanks. Guys.

Our first scrimmage is 5 days away. Check back soon.

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