As “Big Jake” McCandles (as played by John Wayne) might say….
Wednesday February 20, 2013 Prague, Czech Republic
It’s been a long week here in Prague. Our quarterback arrived on Wednesday and with him in control at Thursday’s practice our team suddenly looked much more competitive. That’s a relief because my worst nightmare is we’ll be so bad we won’t be able to compete in the Austrian league. It would be a stretch to think we have a chance to make the four team playoff but being basically an optimistic guy in my dreams I see us undefeated. As Duke Wayne would say,“Not Hardly”.
I’m beginning to learn more of the city. I took a day to do the ‘Prague Castle’, which majestically sits on the hill overlooking the river and the entire Old and New city. It is the biggest tourist attraction in Prague and according to Mr. Guinness, of ‘book of world record’ fame and not dark beer, it is the largest ancient castle in the world. It’s said to cover an area bigger than seven football fields. Now that’s something I can relate to. It began during the ninth century and has undergone four distinct reconstructions. As the years passed by it grew haphazardly and came to include a mixture of many different architectural styles. The castle has always been the seat of Czech rulers and the official residence of the head of state. Photos taken from the Charles Bridge with the Castle in the background can be found in every souvenir shop in the city. It is surely one of Europe’s most photographed sites. However, my favorite is the picture taken I’m sure from somewhere above, showing the bridges over the Vltava River at sundown. Beautiful!
Almost too picturesque for its own good the baroque district of Mala Strana tumbles down the hillside from the Castle to the Charles Bridge. The cobblestone streets are lined with Palaces, gardens, government buildings and foreign embassies and filled with little bars and cafes where you can spend hours idling away the time. And for you coffee lovers Prague’s first starbucks is also located here. Ouch!
Over the weekend I ventured out and about walking away from Wenceslas Square to roam. The area is filled with market squares and pedestrian only arcades. Then on Monday I took the Yellow line, which I catch here to go into town, direction out of town and rode it to the end of the line. I was told there was a nice shopping mall located there and that was partly true. There is definitely a shopping mall but when I tried to get there I found the task insurmountable. I had walked across a freeway overpass to what looked like a group of buildings that could very well make up the ‘mall’. But I found out it was more like Costco or Home Depot. I didn’t need Costco size anything and wasn’t going to build anything either so I went to plan B.
Surveying the surrounding area I spotted Century City back on the other side of the freeway. I headed in that direction but to my frustration entering from the angel I was heading was impossible. All I saw were trucks and people with hard hats. The construction was total and try as I might I couldn’t find a way ‘IN’. So I followed the path along the freeway back towards the subway end and tried to enter from that angle. No luck there either. It turned out the entire mall was under construction, looked more like a re-construction to me as the huge structure was certainly in tack but a series of barricades prevented anyone but those with blue helmets from entering. I’d been circling the place for over an hour in a light rain only to come up empty. The good news is I got in my daily exercise walk.
Then in the evening about a half hour before I was to head to practice I suddenly felt nauseous and there was no way I was going to get very far from my toilet. I called coach Dan and explained my predicament and he agreed to take over ‘head whistle’ duties for the evening. I went to bed. Maybe the fumes from the construction sight had worked their way into my system. I certainly had had ample time to ingest whatever was in the air around Century City.
It snowed again on Tuesday, nearly all day long, and still feeling a bit queasy I chose to stay in the apartment and read. I get bored easily so I usually have two or three books going at the same time. My current three are: Robert Ludlums’s “Bourne Betrayal”, Scott Turrow’s “Ordinary Heroes” and Lee Child’s “Killing Floor” which was the first Jack Reacher novel. For those of you who don’t know, the character Jack is sort of a modern day John Wayne. Of course that in itself puts him and the author high on my have to read list.
The drama surrounding our team is figuring out how to replace our injured knee wide receiver. The rules in Europe governing players change every year, usually depending on what the president of the Vienna Vikings believes will benefit his team the most. He’s a bit intimidating and somehow the rest of the teams in Austria let him pretty much run the show. Of course I know him well because I worked for him for nine years and as a reward got fired twice. The second time after winning both the Austrian and European championships. I didn’t spend enough time in the office, as if that had anything to do with winning football games. But that’s what happens when the president never played a down, wore a jock or coached anything.
Currently in Europe you can have as many local players as you can attract, they are called “B” players, but only two foreign players designated as “A” players. All American’s are classified as “A” players. The determination of players from a country other than your own can be either “A” or “B” depending on someone’s judgment. Who that person is or person’s are is sort of an unknown. Apparently there is a committee in Austria that makes those determinations. Our first choice to replace our player was to find someone designated as a “B” player in Europe. We found two we liked and they are from Finland and Serbia. The Finn hasn’t played football in Europe for two seasons, concentrating on making the national team in basketball, so he’s sort of an unknown. The Serb is nineteen years old and since Serbia isn’t exactly a hot bed of American football we’re not too worried about his status in the “A” vs “B” world. However, I’m sure anyone we try to sign will be put under the microscope simply because the Viking leader will think I’m trying to hide their true ability. Something he’s been very successful in doing for his team. The last thing he want’s is a level playing field. In his mind the field should always be tipped in his direction. My simple answer to that is a Duke Wayne, “Not Hardly”.