Band of Brothers
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE
Monday June 10, 2013 Zagreb, Croatia
Last Thursday at practice one of the players said to me “Coach, we’re just a Band of Brothers.” Well, yesterday the B of B, twenty one strong traveled to Moribor, Slovenia for our league game Vs the Generals. They are by far the best team in our league and in fact will more than likely win both our league title as well as the second league they play in, which is a combination of Slovenia, Serbia and Austria teams.
Without the border crossing the trip would take about an hour as it’s only seventy five miles. However, we need to cross the Croatia border, no mans land, and the Slovenia border. It takes about an hour. Throw in a stop for ‘snack’ and the short mileage trip took us about two and one half hours.
One of the first things we did was pay for the bus and driver. Each player handed over cash to our captain who in turn gave it to the driver. Such is football life in Croatia. But, the tour bus seats forty five so each player had plenty of room.
Our quarterback was in charge of filling out the ‘border crossing’ form. But we still had to line up at the ‘Passport’ window at both border crossings. In another two weeks the border will sease to exhist as the offical Croatia entrance into the European Union takes place. For most of thise guys this will be the last time they’ll need to remember to bring their passport for what should be a short trip into their northern neighbors country. Of course for nearly a hundred years Croatia and Slovenia were a part of Yougoslavia.
The day was the first in a long time with bright sun and the temperature climed up over thirty degrees centegrade, mid eighties ferenheit. Fortunatly there was a strong wind which made it feel cooler.
Our starting tight end and outside linebacker and team leader was absent due to family issues so we needed time to walk through our offensive game plan for our new tight end, who had never played the position or caught a pass. That’s him in the bright blue shirt resting in the shade with his teammates.
His nickname is “Solly” and he is typical of players here in europe who somehow manage to combine their love for American football with family, job and life obligations that face young people. On the return bus, as he shared a beer with me, he said, “I’m a bit tired but can’t worry about that because I need to be at work tomorrow at 7:00 am.”
As our team went through the ‘Face Check’ with the referees before the game you can see in the background, over the top of the Army military building, the ski run that hosts one of Europes winter events and next to it the bycycle run that will host the world championship “Bike Downhill” race early in July. The players told me the racers reach up to one hundred miles per hour during their decent! Excuse me, racing down a ‘Black Diamond’ ski run on a bycycle sounds crazy to me and makes football seem sort of mundane.
We played better than we did in our first two games and never quit as the Generals piled up score after score. Players jumped into the action to replace an injured teammate without question, even though many times they had never played the position. It was indeed a Band of Brothers.
Sharing a beer and smoking a cigerette is a pretty normal occurance after the game here in europe. Something that of course would never happen back home in america.
It’s a different experience here starting with laughter and fun on the ride to the game. The pregame “Lords Prayer” recital by the team on the sideline before the kickoff. The after game libation and the team song fest on the bus ride home. These young men just enjoy the opportunity to play football, the reward of sharing a common goal with friends and a break from routine. How novel!