Prague in Spring….
Thursday April 18, 2013 Prague, Czech Republic
The good news is my lovely wife Nancy arrived last Thursday. The bad news is we lost again, this time to the Graz Giants. They are very familiar to me and our team in Vienna had many a hard fought battle with them during my time with the Vikings. They had been the perennial champions in Austria for a long time and didn’t surrender that unofficial title easily. With the emergency of the Raiders in Innsbruck and the steady improvement of the Danube Dragons the Austria American football league has four excellent programs. The Graz Giants showed today they are still in the mix.
Once again we got off to a poor beginning and found ourselves quickly down 0-14. It became 0-21 in the second quarter when we made a big mistake. They were punting to us when one of our players picked up a holding penalty allowing the Giants to keep a drive alive. Ouch. We did the same thing, with a different penalty, last week. But we showed we could overcome our own mistakes and keep playing. We scored on a long play action pass and then again with a nice sustained drive and cut the margin to 14-21 at the half. They scored again early in the third quarter but missed the point after kick. I had the distinct feeling at the time that would come back to haunt them. After another nice drive we closed the gap to 21-27 and clearly had the momentum. Unfortunately after driving deep into their territory we dropped two consecutive passes to turn the ball back to the Giants.
We fell short in our effort to win the game but certainly showed signs of improvement and the ability to continue to play when facing adversity. This is a team essentially starting from scratch and it is going to take some time for everyone to be on the same page. Trust in your teammate is the foundation that winning teams build on and because we are merging two teams into one this trust will take awhile to rise to the surface. Our challenge is to continue to see the bigger picture and not concentrate on win/loss but rather on improvement every week. It’s certainly discouraging to lose and beginning the season 0-3 can raise doubt. But, the system has been successful over a very long period of time and I keep encouraging our guys to fight the good fight and never forget the feeling of doing a hard job well. The game of football is a hard job.
The good news is the weather finally warmed up and we can walk the streets without having to bundle up. This is a beautiful city and once spring actually arrives and the trees blossom it will be the perfect city to spend many hours exploring another European gem.
The game of American football as played here in Europe is played mostly on 100 yard fields, with eleven players on each side. There is blocking and tackling and running and passing and kicking and punting just like in the USA. After that the similarities begin to get a bit blurry. No sport teams in Europe are connected to schools like back home in America. Everything is “Club Sport”. Join a club and play the game. Pay your own way and enjoy the game.
The better teams have excellent sponsorship but unfortunately the financial situation in too many programs is fragile to say the least. It looks like that might very well be the case here in Prague. There are some signs that tell me we might be sailing on a ship with some holes in the bottom. I knew for a fact when the main sponsor pulled out near the start of the season this could happen.
I know that management is trying hard to find new sponsorship but I also know how difficult that can be especially when its a foreign game they are trying to promote. We are certainly on a ‘shoestring’ budget and I think the next few days might just determine whether or not we put in a full season. I hope so because these guys deserve to have an opportunity to grow and stay the course.