Read the thoughts and musings of a cultured redneck here
It's always weird to write the conclusion to my journeys because I am happy to return home yet sad to leave my newfound friends and experiences and sometimes its almost like I have a double life going on here. I would like to say thank you to all the guys on the team and specially the guys in Tyreso who took care of me (and Mario) and made the experience worth while. Just as in Finland, I have many memories from Sweden that I don't think I'll soon be forgetting. I now have a better understanding of the undying love relationship between Finland and Sweden and I have seen it and heard about it from both sides of the fence. This year, just as last year, I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet many new people and to experience a different part of the world for a few months and for that I am grateful. One thing that is neat about going and playing football in a different country is that you are not there as a tourist the whole time, nor as a football player 100% of the time. You get to do a lot of both so I get to see things that someone on a tourist vacation doesn't (along with getting hit a few times every now and then). I get into the daily grind and see the lifestyles and culture of wherever I happen to be. This is very interesting to me. I get to see what makes the people tick. For a short period I get to be part of their life. This is a special opportunity that not many people get so though I act the fool a lot of the time I am constantly picking up on things about other cultures and layouts of McDonald's all across the world. Another thing that is also neat to be able to experience is the fact that no matter where I come from or what I stand for and believe in ... that for a brief moment the cultural views, indifferences, and disagreements can all be let down and a group of people can put it all aside, come together, and try to achieve a goal. For me football is the means to do this. I think this tells a lot about the sport and a lot about the people who play the sport. So far, no matter where I've been or on what level I've played on this has been possible. Even complete strangers from other sides of the world can meet and form a team and make bonds that run deeper than a normal friendship and this is done in order to play the game. It's about going through things together; a practice, a game, a season, a summer, ... a museum... that creates those bonds that are unbreakable. Many people who don't play the game often don't understand this. The bonds that you make during this time are the bonds that in 2 years will have someone calling me saying " hey guess who'll be in visiting from Stockholm or from Finland at your house next month ". Many times people went out of there way to make sure we had what we needed and that we were always taken care of when they really didn't have to. Sometimes I have even thought to myself " I don't even know if I would have done that for some foreigner if he was in America " and these kind of things make me appreciative of the heart and kindness that many of the guys in Finland and Sweden have shown to me. Thus, though we did not win the championship this season does not mean that the season was not a success both on the field and off the field. It just depends on how you define success. And I would never have thought that a little brown ball would have led to me writing all of this. Now the question is will I be writing any more of these....that's why the story is ... " To be continued ..." PS: Hasse & Mario...sorry I didn't get to say goodbye before we left, but I was running around like crazy the last few days, but don't let that make you think I love you any less. And somebody tell Oliver that his Rum Coke Roll Up hat is in the clubhouse in my room before Rauge steals it. Tack su micke Stockholm, Cp & Mario
This week was pretty much made up of Mario and I trying to visit and see as many people as we could before we left. This week also featured the wedding services for Mr. Paul Tucker and Miss Kristina Engelstrom. There were around 20 people from the US in attendance at Paul's wedding in a very old and pretty Church in Djuresholm Sweden. The mixed Swedish/American wedding was pretty neat, specially the reception. The reception had an MC if you will and he was called the ToastMaster. Paul's wife, Christina's brother was the toast master. He pretty much ran the whole reception and would ring a bell when it was time for someone else to make a toast. The food was good and everything was nice, as the reception was held at the Djureseholm castle. One highlight of the wedding was the band that played in rotations at the reception. They were called " The All Time Players " and they were all definitely players and all wore top hats and the average age had to be somewhere around 70. Needless to say...they rocked. While I participated in all the wedding activities Mario was still running and working out and doing other little things. Since Paul was getting married there were many people from Pageland in Stockholm and even my parents and brother came. Pat's girlfriend Fernanda even flew in from Portugal for the occasion. So I was semi downtown/airport taxi/club guide. It was neat to be able to show my friends and family places that I have been and things I have seen. Many times when I have been overseas I have wished that I could show my friends and family certain things or share certain experiences and so this time it finally came true. Now that mama and Big Frank came over and spent a few days in Stockholm they can have an understanding of how understandable it is that I come home broke. So everyone was leaving Sweden on the same day, but since I was flying KLM ( Royal Dutch Airlines ) I didn't have the same flights as anyone else. We had to leave the place at 4 am so Mario and I just stayed up all night. We went on a last minute mission with Chief Swole Ankles so that our stay would be complete. It was like the final piece to the Lord of the Rings puzzle or something. Then after that we were on the computer and packing until late. We stopped by the Hilton to get Pat and Fernanda at 4:30 and we also picked up some of the other people's luggage and headed to the airport. Mario flew out at 6:45 and I was scheduled to fly out at 10:35. Thus I was extremely early. Fernanda had to fly out at 4 in the afternoon so I just sat and talked with her for a while before I went to my gate. We both fell asleep on the chairs briefly. Then it came time for me to go so I left her with a 60 minute internet card to keep her busy and I headed to my gate. On the flight home from Amsterdam to Memphis it was funny because about 20 minutes before we landed a gay flight attendant came out with a female flight attendant and they made an announcement that someone in the area I was sitting in smelled like a controlled substance. They were giving out warnings to change clothes and saying that the drug dogs in Memphis were tough. They were saying that this is a common occurrence as people will sit in those coffee shops in Amsterdam and do drugs and then try to fly the next day. I sat beside some woman on the plane that was a vegetarian, so yes, you know I was eating double all the way home. Then when I finally got to Memphis you know the first thing I did was to go get me a good greasy cheeseburger. It made me happy to not have to pay 8 to 9 dollars to get a burger. Ahh...the US again. I caught a plane from Memphis to Charlotte and Mario picked me up from the airport then I headed to the house only to knock out.
The first part of this week was dedicated to trying to regain feeling in my shoulder and collar bone. Then on Wednesday our tour guide actually did take us to the Vasa Museum. I liked this museum more so than the military museum of Sweden and I wish I would have taken the camera because I could have taken some good pictures. The Vasa Museum is a museum dedicated to the pride of the Swedish fleet. The ship was pretty big and they had it displayed well as the building was constructed so you could see every level of the ship. They had videos and tours frequently that you could watch in English so I was able to understand some stuff about it and obviously everything I didn't understand Mario explained it for me...lol. The museum was like in low light because they said it helps preserve the ship and there were also a lot of Chinese people in the museum speaking that stuff they speak. The tour guide said that it took 2 1/2 years to build the ship and then it sank in the first 20 minutes out at sea. He said that there were several reasons for it sinking such as; it was too tall and narrow, not enough weight in the bottom (ballast) and there was more ship out of the water than underwater. The carpentry on the boat was really good. They had all of these intricate carvings all over the boat. He also said that the king was wanting it to be the best ship and all so he kept adding things and making changes while they were building it so that threw them off a little bit. I think the ship had everything perfect except to the point about making sure it would float. I thought it was neat to see how they got the ship out of the water to get it into the museum. They had divers go down there and dig holes under the ship and run ropes under it then they positioned all these ships and barges and flotation devices around it and moved it underwater to a more shallow area and then they hoisted it out of the water very slowly. It seemed to be a very in depth process and was also a dirty job from seeing the video. Putting all the pieces back together on the ship took a while and so they said that the " Vasa " is known as the largest jigsaw puzzle in the world. This ship was suppose to take part in the war against Poland. If you want to know more about our tour and all that then you can email Mario at mariodonato[@]hotmail.com and he will give you a wealth of knowledge. Once again Mario did not let a sign go unread. It must have cost a lot to bring the ship out and have it on display as they charge you 4 dollars an hour just for parking. On a side note I did play a game in Finland in a town called Vaasa if that means anything. haha. On Wednesday night Håkan and his lady had us over to eat again and I got the honor of cooking the desert, which I might add was a once a year delicacy. I told him that he's lucky we are leaving or we could make this a once a week tradition. lol. We had lasagna and salad and again left on a full stomach so that was a relaxing evening. Then on Thursday I couldn't resist it any longer and the opportunity presented itself so we had the shot and we took it even though we proceeded below the hard deck level. On Thursday afternoon we set out on the Silja line to Finland with our offensive coordinator Coach Wikstrom. The Trojans played the Roosters in the championship game again so it was only right that we spend a few days in Turku and be present for this spectacle. This is a picture of the boat what we traveled on. Here are some specs from the boat in case you are a detail freak: Passengers 2,852, Cabins 985, stories 12, Conference rooms 25, Bars 7, Restaurants 6, Shops 6, Sauna and Relax, Solarium, Etc etc...Length 203 m, Width 31.5 m, Power 44,000 hp An interior design of the boat is below ...
So as you can tell we were roughing it on the way to Finland. This was my first time on any type of cruise ship. Most of the time it's me and Coach Mangum in the John boat, but this was a little different. We left Stockholm around 3 pm on Thursday and landed in Helstinky at 10 am the next morning. Note there was a time change. The atmosphere on the ship was pretty neat. When we first got onto the ship we went to our rooms, dropped the luggage off, and then proceeded downstairs to the promenade to make arrangements to eat. After we had reserved a time to eat then we went out on the back of the ship to the stern ( if you look on the layout we were looking from the deck at Joe's Bar ) for the takeoff and it was neat to feel the big engines start cranking. After that we went and ate this huge buffet that they have on board the boat. We ate regular food and some oddities that we ate were like octopus rings, herring every way you could possibly cook it, salmon, and reindeer stew. After we ate we walked around the boat and looked around it some and then talked on the deck until the sun went down. Coach was taking pictures during the whole evening so it was pretty cool because we have a lot of pics on the site today. After the sun went down we went and watched some karaoke up on the stardust lounge and you could definitely tell when a Finnish song was playing versus a Swedish song. Then after this at 12 we went and saw the nightly show that they have on board. After the show we went up and went to sleep and when we woke up we were at the port in Helsinki. Below I have posted pictures from the trip over and pictures from inside the ship so you can get a feel for what it looked like.
One hand for Sweden , One hand for Finland
This Russian lady sang some karaoke
A dance on the cruise ship
Now let me back up and tell you that when I found out that there was a possibility to go to Finland I sent out a blanket email to like 8 people in Turku. Within 10 minutes we already had a hotel room reserved for us in downtown Turku and by the next day we had like 6 offers to put Mario and me up for 2 days. So a big thanks to Mr. Patrick ( HomeAmerican ) Morton for taking extremely good care of us while we were there. I think that just goes to show how nice the guys in Turku are and now you can understand why I'm always pumping up Turku at home. So you may be asking yourself..." wasn't Clint banned from Finland "...well that is a good question that I was worried about as well. However there was no passport control on the ships in between Sweden and Finland so we were able to ride right on. I say ride right on because that's what we did. Our offensive coordinator is from Finland and so when he goes on the ship he takes his car and then drives it right out when he arrives in Finland. It was kind of weird to ride a car onto a huge cruise ship, but that's how we got on. They have these huge doors that open up and you can drive right in. I got a pic of the car docks as well. I think they also ship goods back and fourth as there were also tour busses and transport trucks parked in the bay.
We parked underneath the ship
And for all of you who are wondering....no I did not tell Frank or Frances Patterson of our adventure. It was better that they not worry. We got into Hestinky and Coach Wikstrom drove us around for a little bit and we even revisited the Veladrome, where we took the crown last year. We were the only people there so it was weird and talk about De-ja-vu. The whole weekend was this way as I was going and visiting places that I thought I would never ever see again in my life. Many of the places had stayed the same, but some things had changed. So after this we went and had lunch with the president of the Finnish American Football Federation, as he and Coach are friends. This guy's name is on the official league ball that they play with in Finland. So that was neat. None other than Mika Sevon was contacted and it just happened that he was in town doing business so we waited on him to get through then caught a ride back to Turku with the oldest living active player in Finnish football history. For me this was another de-ja-vu thing because last year when I first arrived in Finland it was Sevon who picked me up from the airport and on the way to Turku we stopped at his house and met his wife and she walked out on the porch and said hello and she had a baby in her arms. Well sure enough we pulled up and she walked out on the porch and said hello and had another baby in her arms. It was beginning to seem like a flashback at this point. The only difference was that instead of saying " Its good to meet you " ...she said " Its good to meet you again ". So Mario got to know the one and only Mika Sevon on his first day in Finland and now Mario is the 2nd member of the Mika Sevon international fan club ( as I am acting president and founder ). So Sevoni dropped us off at the hotel in downtown Turku. We checked into the hotel and then I began to show the city to Mario. I knew once it turned night that I would be able to find some of my friends from last year working at the doors of the clubs. I had planned on sending them text messages when I got there, but go figure that an Ericcson ( Swedish ) pre-paid phone wouldn't let me do that on a Finnish network. So I couldn't get in touch with my friends through my phone. We went and ate a pizza buffet at Rax which is a historical spot for Marlon and I because it was the only buffet in Turku. After we ate we went back to the hotel for a bit and watched the massacre that was going on in Russia. Those guys are really crazy over there. Then it was night time and we did indeed walk the streets and I bumped into like 5 people that I knew that were still working at the same places. None of the players were out that evening due to it being the night before the championship. We got up with my boy Enes at a club called Kåren. It was good to see Enes again as he was one of the guys who really took care of me and Marlon last year. He was working at some international university's welcome back party and of course we were up in there. Man they had all kind of nationalities in there and you could see which countries/people groups had rhythm and which ones didn't. After he got off from there we went to another place. I think they had dedicated a club to Marlon as the name of this club was called " The Giggling Marlin " ...lol. After this we were heading back to the hotel and I had to eat just one more He'sburger before I died. I also got Mario to eat one too. Below are pictures from that day in Turku and some will be pointless to many of you, but for Marlon it will be neat to see so just bare with us.
Me in front of Prima
The Street next to the Prima
Mario at the team bar
Mario by the main river in Turku
The square in downtown Turku
Now on Saturday morning we woke up and ate the breakfast buffet and then headed to meet the bus to the game. We rode with Patrick and his family, the president of the team, and the cheerleaders to the game. It was a neat ride and we even stopped at the restaurant that we always stopped at when we were going to play the Roosters so once again de-ja-vu. I talked with some of the cheerleaders that I remembered from last year so that was kind of neat. Every one was asking me about Sweden and this season and my experiences over here. I felt like I said the same things like a million times, but it was all in good intentions. So it was Saturday and we were on the way to the game. When we arrived they were in warm ups and upon entering the stadium I began to see fans, friends, players wives, and player's girlfriends that I remembered from last year so it was good to see them all again. I even signed 4 footballs and 1 t-shirt for some fans and every time that happens I can hardly take myself serious. I'm just cheesing from ear to ear trying to act like calm, cool and collective or whatever. They were even giving out these papers at the game with my picture on them. Watching the game was once again odd for me as I felt like I had just graduated and was back at Central High watching my former classmates play again. The game was a pretty good game, but you could tell that a lot of the guys that had retired were on defense and mainly the defensive line. The team had also lost a lot of people to injuries this season as well. The score was 28 - 21 going into the half and I think the final score was like 49 - 28. After the game I got to talk with Brett (the Qb the Trojans had this year) again for a minute. So we had seen each other in Stockholm and now in Helsinki. I felt that he played really well and did as good as one could possibly do given the cards he was dealt so that is what I told him. The injured players on offense and defense had a pretty big effect on the team I think. I know that they had a starting TE, WR, and LB that didn't play. So the Turku Trojans did not repeat despite a valiant effort, but nonetheless Mika Sevon was 4 - 4 on extra points and thus the legacy continues. After the game I got pictures with some of the guys and talked with them again. I surprised myself by remembering all of their names without even hesitating. Also I don't know if it was something in the water, but many of the players wives were pregnant. Maybe it was post championship happiness that led to it from last year, but either way we sat in the pregnant wives section during the game...lol. Below are some pictures from before and after the game.
Me and the Findland fellas (Enes, Suopa, & Sami)
Me and the Findland fellas II (Mika Sevon, Juka Satola, Mikka Riionhemo, & Kim Gronlund)
At the championship game they gave out newspapers and I was on the cover... it was like dejavu
Once we got back into Turku we went over to Patrick ( HomeAmerican ) Morton's house and ate pizza for a bit while we waited on the team to get back into town. All of the players said that they were going to the Olkku which is like the team gathering place in Turku. We then met the team at the Olkku and it was good to see the guys again all at the same time. I even took a few snaps with Kimi (my center from last year). After some time there we left and went to the Giggling Marlin again. From talking with a lot of the people at the game and on the team I believe that there are more people in Finland that read my web page over here than people in Sweden. After the Gigglin Marlin we went caught a " black " taxi and stayed the night at my ex-o-coordinator's house. Mario got to meet a lot of the guys during this time and he and Harry P. Haatsa Malkimaki bonded over 70's & 80's music. Here are some pictures from that.
Proof that we were indeed in Finland... this guy was struggling
We got like 3 hours of sleep and then chef Malkimaki made us a gourmet, sit down, table properly set meal. Mario and I even caught a quick Finnish Sauna ( Mario's first genuine Finnish sauna experience ) and then got a taxi into town so that we could catch the bus back to Helsinki again. We made the bus by 5 minutes and were on our way back to meet Coach Wikstrom so we could get on the boat in time. We got off the bus at the wrong stop of course so we decided to take some pictures in front of the parliament building while Coach had to come rescue us. Of course Mario made me take some random pictures of statues for historical purposes I guess. Here are those pictures.
Me at the Parliament building in Helsinki
Mario at the Parliament
So we got up with Coach and then were on our way to reboard the ship. We stopped and took a few pictures around a port in Helsinki and coach also took some pictures from the the boat on the way back. Coach Wikstrom's below pictures are also available in a high resolution format at this link. You can even have them printed and buy them from that site as well (in case you cared). As we were leaving Helsinki we could see the Islands called the archipelago on the way out. Some of these still had military remains on them and one of them even has the only submarine that belongs to Finland in the picture (Rumor has it that it doesn't work). Check them out.
So we had arranged for the same buffet and we ate it up again and then after that we were all exhausted. Mario and I were running on empty and Coach Wikstrom said that he didn't get too much sleep in Helsinki either... something about a championship or something, but anyways we went back to our room and we all just knocked out. We slept for about 4 hours then woke up and went out on the deck again for some fresh air after which we returned back to the room and went to sleep again. We woke up in Stockholm the following morning and now we are back in Tyreso. This weekend was definitely a memorable one for me as well as Mario and the whole thing seemed surreal the way it all worked out. I think we stayed just long enough for Mario to not be able to make me go to another museum so that was good. Over the weekend I recognized that I can now pick out the different languages of Swedish and Finnish. Usually in the past I couldn't tell what they were speaking, but I just knew that it was foreign to me, but now I can definitely tell what language is being spoken when I hear it. I also got my brain scrambled with languages a few times too. I can only say and know a few words, phrases, and the numbers, but just going back to Finland threw me for a loop in the beginning. I was hearing Finnish and responding in Swedish subconsciously and vice versa. For a brief moment ( in McDonalds ) I couldn't draw the line on what words were from what country, but I got it straight after a little while. I was speaking a salad of languages and only got laughed at. I can still speak more Finnish than Swedish and this is probably due to 2 reasons; time spent in Finland was longer and more people in Sweden speak English. This weekend would not have been anywhere near possible if it wasn't for the generosity and kindness of many individuals. So its only correct that Mario and I say a huge thanks to Coack Wikstrom, Patrick Morton, Haatsa, Sevon, and all the guys in Turku and Helsinki that took extremely good care of us and made it all possible. It was definitely a trip to remember. We were there for 3 days and we went back and fourth from Turku to Helsinki once each day so it was all a whirlwind. As I have previously mentioned I was nominated for the " Import of the Year " award in our league in Sweden. Well needless to say I missed the banquet. I mean I normally wouldn't miss a function like that, but for a chance to do what all we did I would do it again without thinking twice. Turns out that it wasn't that bad anyways because I didn't win the award. I came in 2nd in votes and some people have informed me that going home in the middle of the season didn't help in winning so I can't complain. So thanks again to everyone. Off into the sunset.....Somebody say Denmark ?
This week was a pretty good one. On Monday we ran and lifted as usual. Since I had the camera I took some pictures of the buses & subways that we ride and just random pictures to give you a feel for what we are seeing on a daily basis.
We were riding a boat to get to the Vasa Museum and it was pretty neat because our bus passes also work on the boats as well. So I was able to get some good pics off the boat. You will see pictures from a Theme park called Gröna Lund. Now they have a drop zone which I also got pictures of, that makes the drop zone at Carowinds look like child's play.
So you see we were on our way to tour the Vasa museum. This is a museum of a sunken ship that was recently recovered off the coast of Sweden. We " almost " toured it as our ultimate guide was confused about the time that the museum was open (we are still planning on going back). However this is what the museum looks like from the outside and here's a picture of Mario and our unnamed ultimate tour guides (Oliver & Chief) pointing towards the sign. * Names have been altered for personal protection due to disgrace of being Swedish and not being able to read Swedish times
Since we were downtown and the museum was closed we figured we'd walk into town and mess around for a little bit. While we were walking I got more pics of the scenery.
So that was Monday and was the day that I went crazy with the camera, thus all the pictures. Monday night when I got back I noticed that some Spanish guy had added me to his buddy list on MSN. I began speaking Spanish, but no one responded as it was kind of late when I authorized access on the buddy list. That was kind of strange then on Tuesday morning before we went to run I received an email from the guy. It was a team in Barcelona Spain wanting me to come play with them this coming year. The guy thought I was still in the states when he was emailing me so he couldn't figure out what I was doing up at 4am checking email. Anyways we got on the messenger later that evening and I talked to him for about an hour and a half and he was filling me in on the details. Their season is earlier than Finland and Sweden's and so he said he would want me there in January. At the end of the conversation he said " from what I can see your Spanish is very good " so it was good to be able to converse with him in Spanish and hopefully that will give him extra incentive for wanting me to come. However I didn't sign or anything like that because I still don't know what exactly I will be doing, but its neat to know that I can visit another country if I would like to. Then again I think when am I going to get a real job. Who knows what will happen. Other than that nothing much happened exciting on Tuesday besides lifting and practice. On Wednesday we lifted again and then bummed around as it was raining a bit and then later that evening Mario Santos had us over to his place to eat. It was good to visit with them and eat at their place again. This is the same guy that had me and my cousin David over to eat. So we just hung out over there and he's all into cars so he and Mario were speaking some kind of language I'm not familiar with. Thursday was haircut day and just running and practice. Not too much else worthy of writing about for Thursday. Now on Friday I will to say that we were rolling in high cotton as I have told some of you. Working the connections we were able to be on the list to the annual Crayfish party at the US Embassy here in Stockholm. They said that this is a 30 year tradition. Mario, Coach K, Coach A, Larry, and I went up in there to represent Tyreso, Cali, Finland, Jersey and of course South Carolina. Let me start with the entrance. I was planning on taking my camera, but Larry had said that no cameras were allowed inside the embassy. The embassy is in downtown Stockholm and is fenced in with tall white bars and it had a guard building. The fences around it reminded me of the houses in Colombia and Venezuela and the guard shack reminded me of Liberty..lol. Anyways we had to take our passports just to get through the guard shack. They would only let 2 people in at a time and the setup was similar to airport security. Slide all metal items on the belt and walk through the door. If you didn't work there you had to have a sticker that said " function " on your shirt. Our group might has well have been malfunction, dysfunction, no function, and functionless but as you can imagine we gave the woman at the door grief over the stickers. It ended up being true that no cameras were allowed in as Coach K had a phone with a camera on it and they held it there until the party was over. So we walked in and yes it felt good to be on American soil, yet in another country. Kind of weird huh. We entered the building ( it is a pretty big building by the way ) and followed the signs and yes Mario spotted the South Carolina flag flying in there so that was cool. Obviously we stopped and had a moment of silence for it. This is when we started seeing all these people. I would say that there was about 130 people there. I think some of them worked at the Embassy, some diplomats, some marines and then just other friends of people who worked there. We all hung out in the inner square of the embassy then we went into this room and they had the table set and ready. The party was catered and they made us wear these crazy birthday style hats. The tables were filled with drinks and food and then a guy got on the mike and started making a welcome speech. That's when the crayfish started coming in and I had to get some instructions on how to eat them from a few different people, but I figured it out there shortly. We had a really good time in there and we got to meet to meet a lot of people. After the meal the Dj started playing music and wouldn't you know it I ran into some girl from Chile and we dance salsa. The whole evening was surreal because we were 4 Americans and one Finn sitting in the US Embassy eating crayfish with people we didn't even know. Nevertheless we represented and had a good time. After the party we headed downtown. Larry put on a Holyfield demonstration for us as we were exiting the Embassy and that was funny. We went into the city and all hung out for a bit then headed home. The only evidence that I have for you that we actually went ( cause I know some of you thinking I'm lying ) was to bring home the piece of paper that was on our table. So take a look at this. I guess its safe to say that they have a good time at the party.
Game Weekend Since we were playing on Sunday this week we all headed down on Saturday and stayed in a Scandic hotel. It's a pretty long ride to Carlstad and I made a cd so we listened to it on the way and saw a lot of the Swedish country side. It was a pretty day and it is still getting cooler over here and feels like it does when it turns fall. We got to the hotel and rested for a bit then ate dinner and then went into the city for a bit. It was neat to see another city in Sweden and we didn't stay out too late. We did see some of their players out in the town as well. One of the guys on our team had bought a Street & Smith's College Football magazine and so Mario and I were reading that while at the hotel. It was weird to be in Sweden and to read about GWU and Liberty and see our friends/roommates/classmates names in the magazine. I guess the world is small. Before dinner we did attempt to sit in the sauna at the hotel, but it indeed turned out to be a Swedish sauna and there was no Loylu or steam to be seen or felt. Game Now this was us returning down to a team that had killed us 2 weeks prior and they were anticipating a walk through I believe. Before the game they had a mascot...( a crusader ) come on to the field and drive his sword into the middle of the field. The crowd got hyped on this. He was wearing real chain mail and steel so it was more lifelike than a costume. It was a really windy day and we got the ball first and were going into the wind.We drove it right down the field on them and scored on the first possession on a long sustained drive. This put them on their heels and gave us some momentum. The defense was holding them and the game was going well. We were able to move the ball on them and they even had to switch their defenses on us. They were in a 3-3 stack and had to go back to their 4-2 because we were ripping them on it. I had a bomb td pass dropped on their sideline and soon after there was another one dropped in the zone. I can't talk too much though because one time I had a guy open in the end zone and made a bad throw and missed him on it, but we did score though. I had to do about 5 Qb sneaks in the game and one time guy ripped my helmet off and the chinstrap going up my face left some scratches on my face and my eye started to swell a little. One of our defensive guys got an interception and took it to the house only to have it called back for offsides or something. Seemed like some home cooking to me, but that was about where the momentum stopped as this took the air out of us a little. We went in at halftime like 21-7 I believe. The second half was similar to the first, but without us having too much momentum. We were hanging with them and I hit our TE on a touchdown pass on a corner route. One time in the 3rd quarter I really got popped as I tried to scramble up the middle and someone got my feet then one of those defensive guys had me for lunch. My helmet again went up my face. I mean don't get it twisted now I didn't come out of the game or anything like that, but I can feel the soreness now and this is most sore my collar bone and jaw bone has ever been. The game ended up 39 - 12 and we lost and the season was over. So no championship this year, but its ok. I guess you can't win them all the time. I was proud of our guys this day and glad that they came to play and put up a fight. The easiest thing to do would have been to lay over and let them walk over us, but that wasn't the case. I think we surprised a lot of people in the stadium as well. You know how it is when you know you've given it your all and you can at least walk out with your head high...well that was how this was. After the game we had the team huddle and I thanked the guys for allowing me to come and play and thanked them for going out of their way to make me & Mario too feel welcome and taking care of us. I have some pictures from the game and post game here. After the game we all headed home and ended up all eating at the same McDonald's about an hour into the trip. It was reminiscent of after our High School football game when everyone would go to Bojangles. We headed home in the night and I believe the moon looks bigger from Sweden than it does in the states...lol. We saw a lot of farmers combining what looked like their wheat late into the night. Mario said that it reminded him of a scene from Indiana.
So now I will be staying here for Mr. Paul Tucker's wedding and that leaves me with a banquet to go to and 2 weeks to explore the cultural riches of Sweden. In other news the Turku Trojans will be playing this coming weekend in the championship. Did somebody say road trip? Mario and I are debating on going to Denmark and/or Norway, but being broke does come into play so who knows what will end up happening. I will post again next week to let you know if we do anything worth writing about and will end the web page with a Conclusion entry. Regards,
This week was another routine week with the exception that we went to a museum. Mario says I'm not educated enough in history so yes we went to the Military Museum of Sweden. The whole time Mario was explaining things to me as well as reading every single sign that could possibly be read in the museum and he even got the few that weren't in English translated. All I know is that there was an abundance of guns in there and we got to handle some of them so in other words Mr. J.E. would have been in heaven. After 2 hours of touring the museum Mario felt better educated and I felt like I paid money just to get my back tight and calves sore, but I guess that's why they say 2 people can look at the same thing and see it differently. The one thing that worries me is that Mario found out that there is a medieval museum as well as a museum where they recovered a sunken ship. I may get in on one more tour, but that will be my limit though. Spending money to be educated...come on.
This past week we still worked out and ran in the mornings and there seemed to be an abundance of attractive females out while we were running and biking on the trails. The first few days of the week were dedicated to recovering from the previous week's beating. Mario, Coach Wikstrom, one of our lineman ( we call him E-man ) and his girlfriend and I ate barbeque ribs and chicken at Coach Armstrong's house and we did go home on a full belly. Coach Armstrong is from Jersey and so his grilling skills aren't as good as we are used to in the south, but they were good enough to get by. We also received a package in the mail that gave us some mid-week momentum. We broke bad and went shopping a little bit too. We also watched Top Gun with Chief Swift Cankle Rauge so he would have some 80's American movie knowledge. We also went over to Coach Wikstrom's house to watch film. Mario and Pearl had an NCAA 2005 tournament and I think its tied as of right now.
We also did something that we don't normally do at home. We have been saving up our cans and so we recycled "Cans for Crowns" and made a pretty good tradeoff if you ask me. I also talked to Neil this week on IM and they had installed web cams in the labs so it was good to be able to see him. I designed a web page for Ken Belk with new software so that ate up my time a lot this week. I had to learn it and do it so you know that goes. Feel free to check it out at www.pineneedleexpress.com
In the previous game I won MVP and they give out like small prizes ( just as they did in Finland ) and I won a double Cd titled "Power Summer Party Hits 2004 ". It has a bunch of Euro songs on there mixed in with American songs and if any of you download music you should download any songs by a group named " Gunther & The Sunshine Girls" because it will be absolutely hilarious. The one song on this Cd is " Teeny Weeny String Bikini " and the song doesn't do the video justice at all. I may have to try to record it.
It has also been unique to watch the Olympics from another country. The coverage we see has featured Swedish athletes instead of the US (obviously) and everyone over here is very aware of the fact that Sweden has won 3 gold medals and those guys (and girl) are all in the news and newspapers. Another tid bit is that Shawn Crawford was running in the Olympics. Shawn Crawford played football with Mario and attended Indian Land high school and for all you IPTAY people he did graduate from Clemson. Yes South Carolina was representing. So we watched Olympic coverage of one of Mario's high school classmates in Swedish. It was micke bra.
This Saturday, at what would be 9 am eastern standard time, we played the Solna Chiefs again on the worst field in Europe. This game was the first round of the playoffs. Since we last played Solna they had signed 2 more imports and these guys were from Canada and they still had the same Qb from Cali. So our team wore as many wristbands and underarmour as possible and anything to cover body parts and went to play. My lower back had been tight and I couldn't move like I wanted to, but I managed through the game. We had more guys this week and so it was a better game for us. The defense finally came out to play and we won 64 - 39. I threw 6 tds and ran 1 on a sneak. It seems that over here these guys don't take the season too serious or just serious enough to make it to the playoffs and then when they start then everyone wants to jump on board. By winning this game we advanced to the semi-finals where we will play Carlstad again. I'm curious to see how many people will actually show up to take the long ride and go back and play again. Carlstad seems to be a smaller town where football has some pride in the community...much like that of Turku and of Pageland and they have an American coach as well.
Also, I have also been nominated for " Import Player of The Year " which basically means " American Player of The Year ". They will give the award out on Sept 4th at the league banquet so I'll let you guys know if I get it.
Since we won like half of the team wanted to go out downtown. I was able to talk one of the guys here into letting me use his digital camera since my web page has been lacking of pictures this year. Since I had the camera we took as many pictures as possible and I can not post them all because some were very blurry due to motion, nights, and lights and so fourth. One neat place we went to had an " Ice Bar " . We got good pics of it, but we did not go in as we had a crowd and the place has a limit on how many people can get in. We would have had to wait forever but I may go back to see what its like. I think it would have been Big Franks kind of place since you would always be " cool ".
These girls went crazy at the sound of Mario's name
Mario and the Liberty Point
This week was not as eventful as last week with respect to things to write about on the web page. The weather is getting cooler here and the nights are getting longer which just pretty much means that its finally getting dark outside. You know the feeling that you get at home around September and October when it starts to cool off, the leaves begin to turn colors, hunting season is coming in, and you can smell football....well that's how it feels over here right now.
We did the normal run every day and lift every other day this week again. I'm starting to fear that I may be getting in shape. I also cut Mario's hair this week with some Euroclippers. They were a little different than the ones at home, but we still got it done. We made it into town, during the day, a few times this week and I showed Mario the tourist street, the changing of the guards, and the castle. Below is a picture of the changing of the guard scene and one of water fountain in the city.
While we were at the castle of course we went in for the historical tour of the museum inside. The halls that we did go on were showing the armor that they use to wear back in the day. They showed how it evolved from one generation to another. It was pretty neat to see and of course Mario was reading each sign posted below every item.
We also went over to eat at Hakan's house this week as well as eating with the offensive coordinator one day. It was nice to go over and eat and we just solved the worlds problems all night. We ate chicken and ribs then had some Swedish pudding dessert. It was similar to a dessert dish that I had eaten in Costa Rica one time.
Our game this week was on Sunday rather than Saturday hence my page being updated later. On Saturday we went and watched Stockholm play against Arlanda. I have 2 pictures of us from that game.
Notice Jessica Simpson sitting just in front of us...she was hot!
This week we played on Sunday against the #1 team in the league and it showed. There are really no details worth writing other than the fact that we got manhandled and took a severe beating. The game was in Carlstad which is like a 3 hour ride from Stockholm and is near a big lake. That was the last game of the regular season and now this week starts the playoffs. We have to play against Solna again which should be an interesting game seeing as how the last time we played them we beat them 67 - 62.
So Mario had me running again everyday this week except for Friday and the one day that I don't go running he sees a deer in the woods. I have noticed that when we run we see these slugs crossing the trails and the slugs are huge. I've never seen any that big so its weird. Early on last week (Sunday) Will Smith was in Stockholm for the debut of his movie IRobot or whatever it was. Not only was he in Stockholm, but he did come to Tyresö and play a round of golf. Everyone was talking about that around here. They rescheduled some tournament they had for that day just so he could play 9 holes.
All the guys have been saying that while I was at home that it was raining a lot, but now the sun is out all the time so in their words " summer is here ". That is good because people are out everywhere just hanging out. I guess I would be too if I sat in the cold that long during the winter. We hung out with Ilija and his cousin a few times early in the week. One night we were out at "East" and this girl walked by and I called her " Paris " and yes we did end up dancing for a song or two. One evening we played putt putt at the local course in Tyresö and Mario and I both agreed that it may be the toughest mini-golf course in the world. If you think you are good at Myrtle Beach then you are nothing here.
On Wednesday we went to the Tyresö Castle and also to the beach. We had a guided tour by none other than Mr. Johan Rauge, who is a Swedish history buff, along with myself and Mario also added his knowledge on Swedish history during the tour. So with all of these scholars together the tour was pretty well rounded and I am surprised that we didn't receive job offers while touring. I have some pictures from the castle and the beach here. The beach is also different than from at home. I would say the differences are less clothes and no waves or sea shells, but other than that the principle is the same.
On Thursday one of the guys at practice told us to come by Berns which is a hotel that has a bar/dance room open at night time. So The Chief, Andre, Mario and I went to check it out. Since our guy was working the door we didn't mean to break in front of some people, but it just happened. Well, while we were going in we noticed a lot of Chinese looking people being around there mix with the Swedes. We went in and were hanging out for around and hour when we went to the restroom we noticed that it was " Tokyo weekend in Stockholm " because they had a sign on the door advertising it. This is explained why all of the Chinese looking people were there. I guess you would say Japanese rather, but anyways same difference. Mario saw 2 men in a business suit with a woman wearing a full kimono dress, but I didn't see her. Later on I told the guys that we should go out and check out this other room in Berns because this place is big and there was still a room that we had not yet been in. So we went into another room and this is where it got a little weird. Its going to be hard for me to explain this tactfully on here.
When we walked in (entering from the back of the room) I noticed that there were a bunch of people grouped at the front of the room. Then I recognized that they were watching a video on the movie screen, but I thought why was everyone so crowded at the front. Then we walked around to the side and could see what was happening. Let me try to explain here so bare with me. Ok this Japanese woman was laying on the stage with a gas mask and a rain coat on with 2 guns which had flowers on the ends of them and she was crawling like in Vietnam or something. There was music going on and a video screen behind her that was previously recorded and had a woman doing the same things that she was doing on stage. Like a routine. Well she got up and started doing a military march. At this point I turned and looked at the guys and they too were like " what is going on here " . Then she took the rain coat and the gas mask off as the music changed. Under the rain coat she had on this costume. Well the costume had a large upper end and it seemed to be cold in there as well and she wore another piece on the other end of the costume was some male anatomy, which had protection on it. Then these 2 guys walked out with kkk masks on their head and were also wearing white T-shirts with Japanese writing on them. They were holding a plastic chain from one of them to the other. So the girl, with the male anatomy suit ( it was red by the way ) hangs like 8 pictures on the chain. The pictures were of Osama, Sadam, Bush, France's pres, Japan's pres, The older Bush, Tony Blair, North Korea's president and the president of France. Then she was taking them off one by one and how can I say " reproducing " with the photos, but before she did this she had removed her protection and threw it in the crowd. Well she left President Bush up there to the end. She was singing the words to the song " Beautiful People " and they were randomly playing American music from back in the 60's in the mix as well. Finally she grabbed Bush's picture and looked at it real hard for a few minutes while she mustered up a huge loogie and then spit on it. Then she grabbed all the pictures and put them together and spit on them all together. On the backs of all the pictures it had the words "don't shoot". It was very weird to watch and it took me a while to figure out what she was trying to get across because at first it looked like another potential America Hate-a-thon. I guess it was a Tokyo performing arts thing and she was trying to say anti-violence because she equated everyone as being evil, but to me it was just like saying that she hated everyone, including her own president. This was only one of their routines, but we only watched 2 of their skits. Lord only knows how long these routines had been going on for. The other one that we watched for a few minutes was a parody to the song " The Age of Aquarius " which featured a Japanese guy with a globe on his head who wore a thong and a white bed sheet with random ornaments tied on it. To make it short I don't think I'll be going to Tokyo anytime soon. I would have given anything to have taken my camera with me so that I could have documented this spectacle, but I didn't so you'll just have to imagine the best you can.
So that night was extremely odd and I don't think I will forget it too soon. Throughout the week we practiced and boy these mosquitoes over here in Sweden are nothing to play with. I don't think they are as bad as Mississippi, but I think they are worse than South Carolina. Maybe its because they don't have as many people to bite, but for whatever reason they sure are out and about. On Friday night we stayed in since we had a game the next day. We went over to the O-coordinator's house and watched film on Stockholm and ate some food. He lives in the city and on the way driving through you could see all the people that were out.
We played against the Stockholm Mean Machines who are the #2 team in the league. I don't really know how to put it lightly here, but I guess I can just list the facts and you can draw from them what you may. The facts are that due to injury, vacation, wedding, birthday, funeral or whatever we took the field with 24 and the other team took the field with 44. They scored on the opening kickoff as they ran a reverse and had our whole team lost in the mix. We got the ball the next time and ran a counter and fumbled on the first offensive play. They then scored on a long pass about 5 plays later. I did however scramble one time and score. I did make some good throws in the first half, but either the pass would bounce off the guys shoulder pads or they would catch it and then we would get a penalty. I made some crazy throws falling backwards as well, but we don't really have anything to show for it. As I stated earlier it is just starting to be summer time here as far as heat wise and so the heat was wearing our guys down. Its not as humid as at home, but these guys aren't from SC so some of them were hurting out there and you can imagine with 24 that some of them were going both ways. We didn't get completely embarrassed in the first half as we were moving the ball and hanging in there what we could, but in the second half our guys gave completely out of gas and then they started running the score up. To top that off they starting blitzing in the 4th quarter which didn't help me out any. I also threw Europick #3 as I threw one up for the TE to make a play and I had gambled the wrong way on this one. One thing that is hard to adjust to is that if I let it fly like I have to at home then these guys won't catch up to it so I have to take some off sometimes and trust on my receivers making plays. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
If you would like to get positives from the game you could say that our guys never gave up and this game was more of a test of character than anything, as Coach Wikstrom stated. Also, my heel did not bother me which is good news for me. The o-line did give me more time in the first half which was pleasant and because of this I was able to make some good throws so I think Mario is helping the guys out a little. The final score was 62 - 7 and I was glad to see the clock hit 0:00. I also met the American from their team. He played at Buffalo State and informed me that he had played in Italy and Germany so it was neat to share stories of our experiences with each other after the game. Also a side bit of info is that this week in practice our head coach informed us that he would not be returning for next season. This coming week we have to play the #1 team in the league who blitzes every play so it should be another fun game.
Then of course after the game we came back and ate and then all went out downtown. We went out to a Latina club for a bit and then to 2 others and yes I did cramp up in 2 of the 3. It was fun trying to explain to a Swedish person what a cramp is and why I just kicked them in the leg....hahaha.
Below are some pics that David sent me after he figured out how to resize and email. Check out the bottom pics of the turf field at Solna that should be banned from anything taking place on it.
now this chick was really feeling me
I thought I saw Paris Hilton
The above picture was taken at 4am.
Check out Haggar's pants
Me & Tofe (and his snake suit)
David & Rauge
The worst football field on earth
Well as some of you may or may not know, on the comeback tour to Sweden Mario Donato accompanied me to vacation and to share his O-line knowledge with some of our guys on the team. We scheduled our flights to leave on the same day, but weren't able to fly on the same planes. So Mario flew out earlier than I did and went through Newark and I flew out 7 hours later and went through Memphis. We both went through Amsterdam and Mario got to Sweden 3 hours before I did because he had a long layover and I didn't. Mario met Conny, the team man manager, and they got some lunch and waited on me to land. While in Amsterdam I saw a serious Euromullet and I mean serious. On the flight from Amsterdam to Stockholm some girl was getting sick towards the end of the flight so that was nice, but all in all I made it and all of my luggage made it too so that was a relief. Upon entering Stockholm they didn't even stamp my passport so I hope this won't pose a problem when I try to exit or else they may ban me from Scandinavia. I think there is a new rule that states that you only have to get your passport stamped when you enter into the EU which I did in Amsterdam.
When we first got to the clubhouse Rauge came over and we went directly to lift weights and this is when Mario got his first Scandinavian sauna experience. After that we went to the Centrum and got some food, which I did order in Swedish. You thought I had forgotten huh...don't trip. Then we just came back and hung out for a bit and went to sleep as we were and still are jet lagging a bit. It does get dark here now, but doesn't stay dark for long as the sun comes up very early and sets at like 11.
On the next day we went early and ran on the trails here in the forests. Mario is making me run like 3 miles everyday and trying to kill me with it. The cooler air over here made it tough to adjust to at first. By the way it's not half as humid over here for all you people sweating while you read this. They have really nice paved trails that go on for ever so we run everyday. We went back and lifted again and need I write that, yes, we threw loylu in the sauna. Around mid-day we went to the lake that has a beach over here. The sun was out and so were the people. Rauge said that had been raining here a lot so that everyone would be out and excited about the sun. Yes, we did throw football out there and did a few " accidental " overthrows that always seem to occur when you throw football on the beach. I did happen to notice a few different things while at the beach. I saw a man wearing a thong, which was an unpleasant site as well as some females laying out topless. They just let all the little kids run around naked on the beach as well.
After that we went downtown and met with Kimi, my center from last year in Turku. He was visiting Stockholm and he also brought the 2 Americans that are playing with the Trojans this year. I guess if they would have brought Marlon and I last year then we wouldn't have been banned from the country now. Go figure, but the guys said that there was no passport control on the boats so maybe I'll dip back over to Finland to roam the streets of Turku again. The guys said that they are undefeated and looking to go back to back again this year so hopefully they will. The guys seemed nice and I believe they were from Ohio and Indiana. The Qb over there this year has a web page that's pretty similar to mine from last year, at least format wise. His page is www.qbdietz.com if you care to compare it with my old one. I stole a picture off his site of him, myself, and Kimi. You can see Kimi checking out a female passing by just look at his eyes.
Yes you see the arms have gotten a little bigger. That picture is taken in downtown Stockholm right outside of a Burger King that is kind of underground. There is usually a Michael Jackson impersonator back there dancing near the windows that you see behind us. One day this guy dance for like 3 straight hours. So after going downtown we headed back to Tyreso.
When we got back to Tyreso we got in touch with Hasse, my center here, and he invited us to go barbeque by this lake. Well we made one stop at the grocery store and then that was it. We headed out to the lake and we ended up grilling out on these huge rocks right by this beautiful lake. I mean it looked like one of those post cards. The lake was surrounded by these really green trees which made for a good reflection and a pretty scenery. We stayed out there forever and it was cool and pleasant. Mario was getting to know Hasse and they did the lineman bonding thing.
On Friday we did the running and lifting and then just chilled out because the first two days were so packed. Up until Saturday I didn't have my phone so it was tough contacting people other than the guys on the internet. We were on the list to get in VIP at this one place, but we didn't go because it was too much of a hassle and because we are too tight with our dinero.
Now Saturday was a totally different story. We woke up and ran...(again) and then came back and hung out some more. We went big time grocery shopping and Mario was getting all hype about all the different spices and all that they have here that you can't find at home. We messed around until it was time to go out and Ilija came and picked us up and we headed downtown. We went by his dad's restaurant and got hook ups while 2 drunk guys were doing some USA hating in my ear, but it was funny because I was just speaking slang English so they would have to keep asking me what I was saying. They got so drunk that the bar tender wouldn't serve them anymore. We picked up Ilija's cousin and then headed down to Cafe Opera which is the most hype, high roller, spot in Stockholm. I don't know if there are words to describe how much fun we had out that night so I won't even try to elaborate. Of course I acted the fool and Mario and Ilija got a good laugh out of it, but it was Mario's first time in Stockholm and we rolled up big timing so we had to represent right. It's a good thing I didn't have my camera with me in there because if I did I would have pictures of hotties on this page until it filled up my server. Digits.
So on Sunday we had 2 practices. The guys have been off for around 3 to 4 weeks so it was good to get back in the swing of things. It started raining so that sucked. We had the first practice then we all went to the Centrum to eat lunch. When we got to the Centrum and the guy saw my face I didn't even have to speak because he knew what I always order......thats right...en baconburagare inge lök och pomfrites med cola light....can you guess it. Then we all came back to the clubhouse for a bit and watched some film on teams and stuff. We then went back for the second practice and it was a bit longer, but I feel that we got a lot done. Mario was helping the lineman out. I think they like that he's here because he can show them a thing or two. After practice we came up showered, ate, and are now currently chillin.
This whole weekend there has been something strange going on in Stockholm. They have been having a gay pride festival. They had a parade and all. I didn't see this spectacle, but I heard it was crazy and that even the cops at the event were gay. So yes I am getting cultured if you want to call it that...haha. So for now things are ok. Mario is making me run a lot and he is also cooking a pretty good bit too so its good to have him around. We play Stockholm next week in an away game. Stockholm is like the #2 team in the league so it will be a tough game and will be played in downtown Stockholm.
I have included some random pictures for you to look at. I would have more pics, but my cousin Daivd ( App State grad ) can't figure out how to resize photos so that they can be emailed and until he does we won't have pictures of the terrible field at Bergshamra that we played on.
My bus stop where I live
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