Beating Warriors Bologna

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

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Flag of Italy  , Emilia-Romagna,
Thursday, March 19, 2009

March 19th

I thought we were over the hump here in the frozen Bozen.  I had even started calling it the thawing Bozen as spring sun shined upon us the last 10 days.  But today was a cold day and a frigid night.  I rode my bike to practice, peddling into a strong headwind that made progress difficult and kicked up dust and debris into my face and eyes.

I got a short leg lift in before practice, and whatever warmth and pliability I had from the gym was gone ten minutes into our warm up.  The six members of the senior team that were at practice ran three 200 yard shuttles (50 and back twice) in the frigid air, I tried to hang with Reggie but he is just too fast.  In between we did 150 crunches, and then ran another shuttle.  I liked it, while your trying to recover and breath you are doing core work, it was difficult.

Before we ran Coach Tisma was talking to the six of us and singled out Edwin telling him he needs more conditioning because he is not fit enough.  Then with Reggie translating for Edwin and my benefit, Tisma said that watching Edwin fade in the Bologna game (were he did have to play both ways) and get more and more tired was like a father watching his son die out there.  The Italians and I were cracking up.  Tisma told Edwin that he can't let him die so young.  Tisma, cracking jokes I didn't see that coming.

I threw routes, trying to get my shoulder loose and regain feeling in my throwing hand.  It was a short easy practice.  Tisma sent us all in and stayed out with the Junior team, they had twenty guys there, and play on Sunday in Bolzano.  I dressed in the locker room then went back out and asked him if it would be all right if I missed the practice Tuesday after the Valencia game.  Ironically I'm trying to get to Spain and visit some friends I have staying out in Granada for a couple days.  My plan for now is to live frugally for a couple weeks and let the checks accumulate in my bank account, until I fly to Granada on April 6th.  Then Lauren comes out a two weeks later, and with all the traveling we will be doing together, I doubt living frugally will be an option.

Friday 20.3

Alex invited Edwin, Chiba, and I to his stand for lunch, so I woke up a bit before noon and peddled through a strong headwind to his stand.  Chiba was already there munching on a sandwich and Edwin arrived in the car a few minutes later.  I was comfortable on the ride over, but then outside the stand the biting wind kicked up and nearly froze in my two long sleeve shirts.

I had promised to cook for Chiba and Christine after the junior team game on Sunday so I hit the local grocery store on the way home.

My menu:

Breakfast Burritos with bacon (Speck), peppers, potatoes, salsa, and mozzarella (there are no yellow/ cheddar cheeses out here, so I think mozzarella while not ideal is my safest bet.

Crepes with strawberries and whip crème and also Nutello crepes.

When I told Chiba and Christine that I was going to cook breakfast for dinner it was definitely a foreign concept for them.  But I assured them breakfast was my forte, and they didn't want me cooking dinner for dinner.

Interspar, the nicer supermarkets takes Visa cards, this I knew.  I stopped shopping there in favor of the smaller chain of LD Discount stores.  Upon walking in a nice lady listened to me clumsily ask if they took cardo di credit/ bancomat cards.  She said yes.  I only had 13 euros cash to my name, so this was coming out of my checking account.  Next I had to figure out how to get a small shopping cart.  Outside they had large ones, but I just wanted the smaller one.   I almost asked a guy who just walked out if I could get his mini cart but thank goodness I didn't because when I walked up to the cart corral outside the store, I realized that all the carts are locked up and you have to pay to get them out.  I was upset.  I stared at the mechanism on the handle that said you could put in 50 cents, 1 euro or 2 euro.  I didn't have 50 cents so I stuck a euro in and the chain leash popped off.  The euro half stuck out of the mechanism and it was then I realized when you bring the cart back, you get your Euro back.  It's a good thing I didn't try and cop that guys cart, it would have been like stealing/ asking for money.  Upon gathering my groceries and getting to the register the same clerk asked me if it was an Italian bancomat card, which of course it is not.  She apologized but walked me outside and showed me the ATM next door so I could get cash.  She was very nice about it.  I was then in a predicament.  I had enough cash to pay for the essentials, then could just go to Interspar for the rest and use my debit card.  Or I could take out cash and get hit with a small fortune in fees from Bank of America, pay for everything in cash and not look as foolish.  I decided it would be best to sacrifice myself simultaneously on the alters of dignity and prosperity, instead walking back inside and shamelessly returning to the shelves half the items in my cart before returning to line to pay.

I walked out and prepared to mount my 1-speed mountain bike when a late 20's woman on a bike rode up and stopped in front of me and said ciao.  It took me a moment then I realized it was Luca's girlfriend Morika.  We talked for a few minutes, she was impressed that I was riding my bike and I told her it got more kilometers to the liter of benzina (gas - am I clever or what).  At the end of the conversation I confidently went in for the kiss kiss goodbye and executed it flawlessly.  Where was that when I needed it?

I dropped the groceries off at Giants casa and then headed to Interspar for the rest.  I also needed ice trays and had a heck of a time trying to convince the lady I stopped for help that I wasn't delusional but just in need of ice trays.  She directed me to a disposable system where you pour water into thin plastic sheets that form cubes then freeze it and peel the plastic away when you done.  Oh these tricky Italians.

I dropped off my latest batch of groceries, soaked my white football gear in bleach so it might get sort of white and then threw it in a plastic bag and then loaded that with all my other laundry to take to Reggie's at 7.  I peddled with a huge duffel bag on my back and stopped off at Alex's for a few games of Madden.  I dominated the first two then proclaimed myself the best Madden player in Bolzano (I think there may be 6 total), only to get beat in the last game.  His mom came home, and she may be the nicest lady in the world.  I think she is very impressed that I am an American quarterback, and that I went to school in California.  She came in and asked me if I wanted a sandwich with jam on it.  I said yes first to be polite though a jam sandwich struck me as less than ideal, but I figured if it wasn't good Italians wouldn't mess with it.  Alex called her back in, and after a moment, and a bit of clarification she meant ham not jam, a proscutto sandwich.  That sounded better.

I took off for Reggie's following Alex's directions.  I had to wait for 25 minutes for his wife Rama to get home, and while I was waiting outside a nice 50-60 year old lady let me in the building on her way back from taking the trash to the dumpster on the street.  I started to take the stairs and she motioned to the lift and said something to the effect that I can use that.  So we both climbed in, and she commented about my grande sackette and then compared it to her polco canvas bag she was carrying (I apologize to anyone with knowledge of Italian for spelling it phonetically).  All this I figured out after she stepped off the elevator in the meantime I just smiled very hard and said yes.  She looked at me like she was expecting a little bit more of a response.  She was extremely nice.

Rama came home and helped me program the washing machine.  When she asked for my detergent, I gave it to her.  Then she informed me that what I gave her was actually fabric softener and not detergent.  I started cracking up, I couldn't believe it.  She let me use their detergent, and I laughed about how I complained that my clothes weren't getting white and that for the last 6 weeks I hadn't been washing my clothes, just softening ans scenting them.

When we walked into Interspar there was a wall full of what looked liked liquid detergent and Edwin and I each just grabbed what we figured was detergent.

Reggie came home and we watched a season one Fresh Prince of Bel Air episode that he had on DVD.  He decided I was four when the show came out.  We ate dinner and I told him about the Doves Chris Manderino's blog.  In it he wrote how the officials bailed us out and made it sound like it was a much closer game than it was.  He also said he didn't know what his overall stats were but that he caught a TD and threw a TD, when in fact he threw a thirty yard pass but the receiver was tackled on the three yard line.  Just fudging that and some of his other comments get you wondering what people are thinking when they come out here.  Granted I do have blog but after initially announcing it to my friends and family, that's about all the audience I want.  Multiple times teammates have joked about Manderino's blogged or that I should start one, and I just laugh.  It's one thing to report back home, it's another to keep a commentary on the people all around you and the entire league, that they all read.  In another vein, the other running back on the Doves who wasn't a productive college player at Cal, and I don't think ever signed with an NFL team, made comments before the season that he was going to win the IFL rushing title, and that he didn't know who Reggie Green was, but he was going to show everyone real NFL talent.  Stupid things to say, especially before you even played an IFL game.  Then he didn't even crack the 100 yard mark against us while Reggie ran for 260 yards against the Doves.

We rode our bikes to practice.  At practice, it took an hour, but I finally got warm and warmed up.  During warm-ups, Marco the QB asked me if I wanted to go to Germany with him to visit his girlfriend who is studying there for 6 weeks after the Milan game next week.  I said sure.  Why not go to Germany, right?  So much for frugal living until Granada.  When something like that happens, it just makes me laugh and marvel at what a crazy and fortunate situation I have found myself in.

I went to bed at 4am on Saturday morning after sending out emails, planning trips, and getting my gear ready.  I was a little upset at myself for keeping such late hours.  I got up around 11, picked up my laundry at Reggie's, purchased a few more groceries for Sunday and then finished packing for Bologna.

On the bus ride I slept for two hours before waking up and drinking my frizante  mineral water that I had bought.  I meant to get normal water but accidentally ended up getting the bubbly stuff.  I was looking at the label when I noticed it had a couple lines printed in English.  The first said mineral water, the second said caution, may have diuretic effects.  I was two thirds of the way through the 1.5 liter bottle, great.

When we first arrived in Bologna the weather was fair, but as we warmed up the temperature was rapidly dropping.  We arrived earlier so I was able to get out and get a longer warm up and test out the field, which was rock hard.  Sand in the middle grass on the outside.  After three road games, I have realized that the field turf back at Giants Stadium gives us the finest field in the IFL.  I got taped for the first time in Italy and our trainer tapes a bit differently than back at Chapman.  I didn't say anything, just rolled with it, and while I felt like I had tape castes on my feet by the end, they did the trick.  After the game though I would have killed for some sharks (a tape cutting knife/ scissor for taking of ankle tape) and he didn't put any pads over my Achilles, so I have a couple mean tape cuts there.

We won the toss and took the football.  The Warriors ran this goofy defensive scheme that had a corner deep over Marco and Mario then linebackers buzzing hard to the flat but no safety's in the middle of the field.  Basically an inverted cover two.  The second pass play of the game, I diagnose the coverage, and put Mario on a post.  He ran a great route, albeit slow developing one, weaving his American defender before breaking to the post.  I have to get used to having as much time as I do behind this offensive line.  I also need to stop giving defenders so much credit, including American's, and just trust my instincts.  Instead of waiting the extra instant, I felt pressure that wasn't there, mostly the clock in my head screaming that I need to get the ball out and let it go before Marco had made his break and set the line.  Consequently I led him to much to the middle and he dove after it but it was terrible throw and incomplete.  I was furious at myself for missing that throw, shoot, I still am.  On the drive I connected on a couple 3rd and ten completions to Joeseppi, who does a good job of getting open in the slot, especially in zone coverage.  The drive ended on the Warriors 30 after I fumbled a snap.  I wanted to kill someone, mostly myself.  I missed Mario on a wide open 50 yard touchdown pass, then fumbled away the football.  I watched the warriors hit a touchdown on 2 and 20 from mid field.  We trotted back out and promptly drove the field, converting a comeback to Marco on 4th and 10 and then scoring on a 20 yard touchdown pass to Marco on a post corner.

We got the ball back and I hit Mario on a deep post for 50 yards.  He capped off the drive with a touchdown pass on a slant-out, going up making on nice catch on a ball that I threw high then coming down with his feet in bounds.  The first PAT was blocked, so Tisma had us go for two, calling the fake extra point, which is just tossing the ball to me and playing school yard football.  I told Marco, who lines up on the right to drag to the left corner of the end zone.  I took the pitch and it was clear the Warriors had paid attention to the Dove game because a defender came flying off the edge at me.  I ran right as if trying to get the corner, before stopping abruptly and running back left.  Marco had a few steps on his defender and I lobbed the ball to the left corner for him and two points.

Back on the sideline, I received numerous congratulations.  Marco told me that when I had originally told him to drag left he was a bit leery (my word not his) but then when the play started and all the defenders ran right and left him open, he thought, "Oh, bravo Eric."  It was pretty funny the way he phrased it to me.  I told him in flag football back at my university that was our go to play on the goaline, I'd roll right then throw a drag back left.

Our defensive coordinator asked me if I was tired.  Not that I was, but I will never be too tired to turn down a chance to play safety.  We played a soft cover four with only 30 seconds left in the half.  On second down they tried to throw a slant to my side.  The receiver dropped it, and while I diagnosed the play, I was slow to break up but when I finally did I came up and gave the exposed receiver a pop as he bobbled the ball.  I wish it would have stung him a bit more, he didn't even go down - bringing the wood isn't my specialty, but it was fun and funny to get a clean shot on a receiver.  Two plays later they tossed a Hail Mary right at me.  I thought for a second I was going to get an interception but the ball hung up too long and a wave of people, mostly Giants, went up with me and I just ended up batting it down to end the half.

At halftime I was feeling good, but we were only up a touchdown and the Warriors were playing much better than anticipated.  We discussed adjustments in the locker room, and then Tisma told me if they are playing way off our receivers I need to audible and just throw a quick "automatic" pass.  Basically just signal the receiver, stand up and throw him the ball asap without telling anyone else.  I chuckled on the inside, because information here is presented on a need to know basis.  Squale said I told you so.  He had told me two weeks ago to just check whatever I want when I see a mismatch outside.  I just laughed, after 10 quarters of football with no audibles, suddenly I had them.  

To start the third quarter, the Warriors tied it up with another long third down conversion that resulted in a touchdown.  I was a bit perturbed at the Warriors converting a 3rd and 20 and getting a deep touchdown pass out of it.  But from then on it was all Giants.

On consecutive drives I threw touchdown passes to Reggie on a screen (after missing a wide open Mario on a slant the play before), Chiba on a roll out, Reggie on a swing pass, and finally Mario on a deep post that he caught then hit the pad on the soccer goal that also doubled as the base for the uprights.  He caught the ball hit the pad and bounced off, and the three Warriors that were chasing him did the same a moment later.  I hope they got it on film, it was hilarious.  I finished the game with six touchdown passes.  I couldn't believe it. SIX!  I've never thrown for more than three maybe four in a game.  I have a great offense around me, and the best part is the offensive line.

I had my first notable Italian run, maybe 20-25 yards or so.  I tucked the ball after being unable to find a receiver and ran left.  There was a defensive end or linebacker sitting outside off me, and though he was in decent position I knew if I wanted yards I had to try and out run him to the sideline.  I gave him a hesitation move then took of for the left sideline.  I turned the corner, but he got a hand on my jersey and jerked me away from the sideline and back toward the middle of the field.  Three other defenders had converged but this sudden change of direction threw them off and I put my head down and slipped through a couple arm tackles then all of the sudden was in the clear.  Mario was running back to pick one of the guys chasing me, but he was running directly at me, and I didn't know which way to go.  I ended up breaking outside of him and running for 15 more yards before getting spun down.  The whole thing was fairly comical.

After our last touchdown to Mario, Tisma told us to fake the PAT again and go for two.  I told everyone, but somehow Chiba the holder didn't get the memo.  He caught snap and instead of flipping it to me just put it on the ground.  I stared at it for a few seconds then tried to kick it but by then he had pulled it up and tried to go himself and got licked by two defenders for his trouble.  Everyone was laughing.  Tisma told Chiba everyone on the field including the Warriors knew it was a fake, except him.  We gave up a late touchdown but managed to stop the two-point conversion to make the final 40-20.

After the game everyone was in a great mood, but no one more than me.  I swapped beers with Marco the receiver, A Forst for a Becks, then I gave another beer to Luca.  Marco and I discussed the wealth of passing attempts this year, and how much different it is than last year.  I sat in the back with Luca, his girlfriend Morika, Andrea the young receiver, Alex the defensive back, and Marco the QB shooting the breeze and sharing food before we all fell asleep.  Luca said that I was doing a good job spreading the ball around to all are receivers, Marco, Mario, Joeseppi, Chiba, and even Mauro the tight end has caught two passes.  That made me feel good, because I like to involve everyone that is out in the route.  Luca and Morika dropped me off at home once we were back in Bolzano.

I feel so happy and content right now, but most of all blessed, very very blessed and fortunate.
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