Back to reality…remembering better times…
Thursday March 28, 2013 Prague, Czech Republic
Sometimes dreams come true and sometimes they don’t. Our dream of a win in Vienna over the Vikings pretty much went up in first half turnovers and secondary coverage mistakes. We found ourselves down 0-24 at the half which didn’t make the snow showers and -2 degree temp feel any warmer.
The locker rooms in European stadiums are geared more for the other football (soccer) than the American version so our cramped but separate offense and defense closet space area’s didn’t allow for a good ‘team’ chat. What I tried to do was give both squads a positive thought to carry into the second half. We actually hadn’t played that poorly on defense. The turnovers made the Vikings road to the end zone a short field one. We did give up two one play long pass drives for touchdowns which we knew going in might happen. The corner position isn’t our strength. I told the offense to keep playing, “We’ve got too much talent to give up.” We never did.
Our best receiver had dropped a sure TD pass near the end of the second quarter and he wasn’t happy about it. He made up for that drop in the second half with five catches, one for a seventy yard touchdown as we fought back into the game. The third quarter ended 14-24 and we clearly had the momentum. But like champions do the Vikings settled down and put together a nice long clock eating drive. They scored with about three minutes left to make the final 31-14.
The good news is our team didn’t quit. They played hard and got better as the game wore on. We showed signs of eventually becoming a competitive team able to stay in games Vs the good Austrian teams in this league. Now it is our task to build on this effort, eliminate the obvious mistakes and continue to build the foundation that will allow us to play our best football in June and hopefully during the playoffs in July.
Let me share with you the ride down to Vienna and back, because it’s different than you’ll ever see in America. The drive is about three hours on mostly a nice freeway. We stopped at a small town on the border, Mikuluv, where Nancy and I had spent some time a few years ago. There are actually three villages in the area all of which offer a delight to tourists. When we first visited in 1994 it had been only five years since Russia had held its firm grasp on the area and there was still no color and everything had an unkempt look. All that has changed and now color dominates and has brightened the atmosphere by leaps and bounds. The lawns, grounds and buildings of the castle and surrounding tourist spots are all trimmed and kept in repair.
We stopped at a grocery store for our pre-game meal. The players strolled through the isles picking up snacks and drinks. It would be like the team bus stopping at Safeway on the way to Roseburg. Somehow I can’t envision that happening. But it’s pretty normal here except for the teams with a sponsorship agreement that affords them a budget including things like pre-game meals. Oh well munching on a bag of chips under the looming Mikuluv castle has a certain charm.
Many times the after game ritual actually begins right on the field. However with the snow and cold no one wanted to linger long outside. It took us about an hour to dress and shower, yes the players actually take showers here after a game, how novel, how hygienic. Before boarding the team bus all the players stood around the parking lot beer stube (hut) enjoying an after game libation. That would include the coaches. Again, I can’t visualize that back home in Oregon.
I surmised the boys must have been thinking ahead during our stop at Mikulov because as we boarded the bus cases of beer materialized and the bus driver just smiled and shook his head. We stopped three times on the way home, arriving around midnight, mostly for pee breaks. The sight of forty or so young men relieving themselves on the side of the freeway while singing what had to be the team fight song, not, might give the innocent a start, but it’s pretty normal here.
Next week we play the Innsbruck Raiders at home on Saturday. Kick off is at three o’clock, that would be 1500 here or 7:00 AM on the west coast. If you’re up that early on a Saturday and are so inclined you can find the game live on the Raider web site at www.raiders.at.
Our quarterback was our only injury last week and it certainly puts some doubt into our ability to compete with another championship contender. He has a severe shoulder bruise (on his throwing arm) won’t practice and we’ll make a game time decision. The chance of us beating the Raiders at this point in the season aren’t very good and it might be wise to rest Andrew. However, he’ll want to play and I love to win, so we’ll see how it looks and make a decision near kick off time. Stay tuned.
Before the game a large group of ex-Viking players were in attendance and we had a chance to visit briefly. It was great to see so many faces I hadn’t seen for awhile and of course it brought back many fabulous memories. My nine seasons in Vienna will always be remembered for the wonderful relationship with players that will forever endure. Thanks guys!