The Doves

Trip Start Feb 05, 2009
Trip End Jul 10, 2009

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Flag of Italy  , Emilia-Romagna,
Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday night - I got in the gym for a light lift, I was tired and felt week after 6 days of not working out.  Practice was a good refresher, throwing and running through plays, even if we didn't have the Bologna guys.

In the locker room, I had to open my gear back with my 5 day old gear that had just been sitting since Bergamo.  Luca my locker mate, was appalled at the stench and dubbed me, "gypsy."  Which is a very derogatory term in Italian.  I went to Kampilla so I could pay Christine back, and didn't get home until almost one.  We didn't play until 8:30pm in Bologna, so I could sleep in a bit.

Saturday 2-14

I woke up with my phone blowing up, I hit a button to silence the alarm and then realized I was connected on a call (my phone only has one ringer so in the morning I never know when I'm getting called and when it's the alarm.  It was Lauren and my parents.  Of course I was glad to get the call, but when they asked what time it was in Italy (add 9 hours) it was 6:30am.  At the instant I was slightly less happy to get the call.  I talked to my parents and then tried to figure when Lauren should come visit.  After a half hour we hung up, and I tried to get back to bed.  What followed was the most frustrating, stressful dream sequence in recent memory.  My alarm went off at 11, and I had a stiff neck and a light sweat going.

It's hard to believe I the perks of Division III football, but I do miss the team laundry, even if I had to be in charge and take loads of flak about it.  I got up, cleaned the Bergamo mud off my white cleats, then went to the Laundromat and tried to wash my game pants and other apparel I wore in the game.  It didn't get very clean.  I came back home, packed my damp gear and Edwin and I took off for the stadium to catch the 2:30 bus.

I made the decision to wear my house slippers on the bus, which would not have been a controversial move in California but drew many a look and laugh by my teammates.  And it only gave momentum to Luca's nickname for me, gypsy.

I was a little worried about the Doves because they had two American running backs and an offensive lineman.  We had just lost three linebackers and our strong safety to injury against Bergamo.  It seemed like a bad situation.

We rolled into the stadium and there was a large Doves Bologna banner hanging above it.  The field was much firmer than Bergamo, a bit sandy in the middle, but firm on the outsides.  We got dressed, again Tisma told me I needed to get ready faster (In don't think that's ever going to happen).

We took the ball and went three and out, getting stopped on third and three after I scrambled for 7 yards on second down.  I hit a good punt and our defense got a stop.  At midfield we ran a pay action pass and I rolled right, looking for Marco and then Joeseppei, both were covered and before I went to run I peeked to the backside.  Mario was running wide open on the backside post.  I launched the ball to the back of the end zone and the Giants were up 7-0.  On the first play of our next possession from our own 10, I hit Chiba, who was uncovered in the slot, he ran for 10 yards before fumbling.  Miraculously our defense held and didn't even give up points.

On the next possession, we moved the ball to midfield before being forced in fourth and 15.  I lined up to punt and saw the defender over Paulo our gunner on the far right was creeping in for a punt block.  I wasn't sure if he was bluffing, but I nodded at Paulo who nodded back, it felt like the most obvious thing in the world.  The ball was snapped, the defender came, and I threw wide open Paulo a pass.  He caught it right at the first down and took a step before the safety could get over and tackle him.  We had a new set of downs after the impromptu fake punt.  Everyone on the Giants sideline went crazy, I was still in mild disbelief.  I shook my head and thought, this is Italian football.

A few plays later rolling right, I again hit Mario on a deep backside post for a touchdown.  14-0 Giants.  We tried a surprise onside kick and nearly got it, but instead just gave the Doves great field position.

They burned the majority of the second quarter clock with a 50-yard touchdown drive that had 10 penalties and took ten minutes.  It was crazy, after nearly every play the Doves drew a penalty, then would get in third and long and convert.  Finally on the 3rd and 25, from the 30-yard line they threw a double pass to get the first down and set up their first touchdown.

I drove us with 1:40 and one timeout to the Doves 35 before we ran out of time.  We went into half time up 14-6 (the extra point was blocked).  The mood in the locker room was very somber, no one felt very good.

We came out and got the ball back after another surprise onside kick.  The second half was back and fourth for a quarter before our offense was just too much for them.  Reggie scored on a crazy play where the Doves' American safety chopped him down in the open field, but he landed on the defender, popped up and raced for a 70-yard touchdown.

Reggie would score three more touchdowns.  Our drives usually consisted of a balanced attack, I would pick up 5-10 yards through the air and then Reggie would break off a big run.  He's the first back I have played with where if he sees an inkling of daylight he's fast enough to go all the way, not just 20 or 30 yards.  No one on the field can catch him, and everyone knows it.  When he gets in the open field, the body language of Italian defenders indicates they know how very overmatched they are.

I about died on Reggie's last touchdown he scored from about 20 yards out.  But he had to lower his head at about the four and bang off a couple guys, and just got across the goaline.  He bounced up and shouted, "that's Green power baby!"  As I walked away from the Doves, I heard one Italian muttering something about Green power.  Reggie and I chuckled about the whole thing in the locker room after the game.  I guess when you're the best football player that has ever set foot in Italy, you can say whatever you want.

In the second half I played three plays at safety.  The first, I thought we rolled our coverage but we didn't and consequently I didn't give the corner help and was responsible for a 35-yard pass down to the ten.  On the bright side I made my first tackle since high school.  A few series later, again playing cover two safety, I took the post and they hit the fade past the corner for a touchdown.  However on the ensuing two-point conversion, the Doves tried to fake a run then hit the full back Manderino in the right flat.  They scored on it a couple series before and so I was weary, and didn't bite on the play fake instead jumped the full back going to the end zone, Hartigan would have been so proud.  The quarterback tried to run for the corner of the end zone, and I peeled off my man to meet him at the 5, chopping his legs out from under him and stopping the two-point conversion.  It was a very good play, and my second recorded tackle since high school.

Kicking was an adventure; I made the first two PAT's then missed the next.  We went for two on a fake PAT, which basically is a toss right to me, the kicker.  There were three Dove defenders who sank to cover my pass options.  I turned on that 5.0 speed and got the corner, switched the ball to my left hand and dove reaching the ball just inside the pylon.

Later when we were up 15 with 5 minutes to play, the drive stalled and I had a 30 yard field goal.  I hit it good but missed it just right.  I was very upset with myself, but mostly because I thought we were only up 8.  Not having a scoreboard makes it tough to keep track of high scoring games and the clock
When the game finished I was exhausted and sore.  We ended up winning 41-20.  It was much more physical for me than the first game.  I played well, but not as consistently as I would have liked, missing two or three throws.

I feel bad because most players on our team play both ways and sometimes special teams.  So I am always trying to get in on extra plays to give other guys a rest.  It is fun because I get to play a total football game.

At halftime Joeseppi told me that "I play hard" and that "I like you [as a football player]."  I was very proud of that compliment.

After the game I talked to the Doves American's briefly before heading to the locker room.  I just sat there hurting.  Marco broke out a large Beck's beer and handed me one.  I was so grateful.  It was probably the most needed beer I have ever had in my life.

  I slowly undressed and showered; laughing as 5 large, older, naked, Italian males sang songs I didn't understand in the shower.

I talked to Reggie for a while as he dressed.  There was a lot of hype about the Doves American players going to Cal and one getting a shot in the league.  And Reggie was still the best player on the field.  He was kind of disgusted, saying if those guys got a shot in the league, he wondered what it was coming too.  We talked about a number of things regarding the IFL, it was good to get his insights.

On the bus Luca gave me a Budweiser.  We stopped at a rest stop for food and I was hungry but everything is too expensive.  Luca told me what I had figured out, you really need to pack your own food and drink for after the game, because at rest stops, it's 4 euros for rinky dinky sandwiches and 3 for a beer.  Coach Tisma called my old coach at Chapman Mike Wood who had once coached in Bolzano.  We talked to him for a minute.  The four-hour bus ride was very uncomfortable, and finally we got back a little before 5 am.

I am very tired, and sore, but very happy.
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