Thursday, August 5, 2010

Antibes, Jazz-a-Juan, and Shushing

After Plattling defeated their opponent by a final score of 49 to 7, Jake, Jimmy, Lab, and I loaded up my car and headed off on a 9 hour journey from the Munich area to the French Riviera. On the way we passed through 6 different countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, and France). The 9 hour drive really was not that bad because of the spectacular scenery throughout the different countries, including waterfalls, lakes, mountains, cities, coastline, seas, etc., etc. Pictured below is a beautiful lake in Switzerland that we chose to stop at and take pictures.

When we did arrive in Antibes, we were greeted to a beautiful resort/vacation town called Juan-Les-Pins situated East of Cannes (home of the famous Film Festival) and West of Nice and Monte Carlo. While less glitzy and glamorous than its neighbors, Juan-Les-Pins still holds its own as a French Riviera vacation spot. Our visit coincided with the 50th Anniversary of “Jazz-a-Juan”, a renowned jazz festival whose past performers include Miles Davis, B.B. King, and Ray Charles, among many others. None of us are jazz fans per-se, but since we were already there, we decided to purchase standing room tickets to see George Benson (most people know his hit song, “On Broadway”).

We spent most of our days relaxing and lounging on the beach, which was about a 5 min. walk from our hotel, and spent our nights perusing the local bar/café/club scene. There was always plenty to do at night, and most people we met were very friendly despite the language gap and despite them being French.

The night of the concert we ended up meeting a number of cool people, some vacationing from Ireland, and some others from the U.S. One was a guy from New York working in finance/real estate who was there with a group including his wife, who was a big George Benson and jazz music fan. About halfway through the concert he said to us, “This music sucks, but at least they serve beer”, and ended up buying us a few rounds at the concert.

The music was pretty good, but ended up becoming more background music than anything else. The Americans, the Irish, and the GFL-ers ended up conversing with one another, and the group was “shushed” by a few of the people who had actual seats. But in our opinion, that was more the fault of the concert organizer for putting the “standing-room-only” section directly next to the reserved seats section. But in all fairness, I doubt they assumed that things would get a little rowdy at a George Benson concert. All in all it was a great experience, more so because of the people we met, rather than the music (but the music really wasn’t that bad either). After the concert we all headed out for our final night on the town, which included one person in our group being wheeled back to the hotel in a shopping cart. Sorry folks, I will not disclose who that person was, but he had a back ache for a few days after that experience. Next stop: Milan, Italy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The next day Jake, Lab (one of Jake’s American teammates from Brooklyn), and I decided to do some sightseeing around Munich on foot. We decided to start at the Marienplatz, which is basically in the center of the city, and contains the information center. Within the Marienplatz you will find the Old Town Hall, New City Hall, a church or two, and numerous shops, cafes, and restaurants.

After deliberation, we decided to head to the Deutsches Museum. This museum was a little out of the way, but it turned out to be a good thing because we basically created our own little walking tour of Munich, and ended up seeing Maximilianstrasse (one of the best shopping streets in Europe), the Residenz (the official residence of Bavaria’s rulers from 1385-1918), and walking along the Isar River.

The Deutsches Museum is described in Frommer’s as, “On an island in the Isar River is the largest technological museum of its kind in the world. Its huge collection of priceless artifacts and historic originals includes the first electric dynamo (Siemens, 1866), the first automobile (Benz, 1886), the first diesel engine (1897), and the laboratory bench at which the atom was first split (Hahn, Strassmann, 1938).” They also had the single manned helicopter featured in James Bond’s You Only Live Twice, as well as a Wright Brother’s Airplane:

After perusing the museum for a few hours, we headed up to the Englischer Garten to find a beer garden to relax. The Englischer Garten is best described as Central Park with a European Twist. There are acres and acres of park to explore but just walking through a small portion we encountered the river running through with people swimming and surfing in it (yes I said surfing!), a few thousand people sunbathing, picnicking, and playing naked badminton (yes I said naked badminton, although the naked people were not the ones you would want to see naked), people playing soccer, basketball, and all other type of sport you could think of! It was definitely the coolest thing we encountered while in Munich and for anyone coming to visit Munich, I would highly suggest bringing a picnic lunch and hanging out, swimming, or even participating in naked badminton for at least a few hours on a nice day!

Along the walk through the Garten, we encountered a few guys playing basketball and felt the urge to challenge them to a game. And just like the legendary Dream Team’s of the past Michael Jordan (a.k.a. Andrew Robinson) and Scottie Pippin (a.k.a. Jake Flaherty) were victorious in the international competition witnessed by millions across the globe (a.k.a. Lab). Score one for the good’ole U.S.A.

We did work up a sweat and finally found what we came for: The Beer Garden. We were parched and starved after a long day of exploring and needed some good hearty Bavarian cuisine and a Liter Beer, which is exactly what we got. After resting up for a bit, we took off for Deggendorf so the guys could get to practice, as they had a game to play on Sunday.

Germany vs. Spain

After my Sunday game, I rested up until Wednesday when I headed south to Deggendorf, Germany to meet up with Jake Flaherty, my very good friend and former teammate from Syracuse University. Jake plays Linebacker for the Plattling Black Hawks and has been in Germany since March (he graduated one year ahead of me).

The plan was for me to hang out with him until the following Tuesday when we, along with a few of his American teammates, would start out on or road trip to the French Riviera and Italy. Deggendorf is about 1.5 hrs from Munich and they have some teammates with apartments there, so we decided to head to the city to watch the World Cup Quarterfinal Game at Munich’s Olympic Stadium.

After we dropped the car off at their teammate’s apartment we walked to Olympic Park where the stadium was located. Most of the buildings had a kind of spider web look to them, and seeing all the places where the events were held as we walked to the main stadium was pretty cool.

The place was packed with people and definitely had a buzz of anticipation as Germany prepared to play for a spot in the World Cup Final. There were beer stands all over the place and after everybody settled into their seats, there had to be at least 40,000-50,000 people in attendance.

The game between Germany and Spain was well played on both sides, but Spain eventually put the game away late. A disappointed crowd headed home after a tough defeat. It would have been cool to have Germany in the final because of the party that would have ensued, but their run was satisfying enough for me because of the experiences which came from their advancing as far as they did.

We, along with the rest of Munich (as best we could tell) headed home to get some rest because we were planning to do some sightseeing the next day before we drove back to Deggendorf.

Game #3 Hanau Hornets vs. Holzgerlingen Twister

This game was a pretty good snapshot at some of the differences one encounters between D1 college football and the GFL2. This was my 3rd game with the Hornets and after this game we have about a month off, with only practices for 2 of the weeks. Some of the guys had vacations planned during the time off, including myself. Our team has also caught the injury bug over the past few weeks and the time off should help some of the guys heal up.

Because of the injuries and some other extenuating circumstances, we were only traveling with about 35 players, which left our depth situation interesting to say the least. Also, I was informed before we arrived at Holzgerlingen that their field is nicknamed “The Beach” mainly because of the sand that is packed into their “Astroturf”-like field. Anybody who is familiar with Astroturf knows that it is not fun to play on because of the turf burns and scrapes one experiences when tackling or being tackled onto the turf. Also, there is concrete laid beneath the very thin turf lining, which makes those falls extra hard. If that wasn’t enough, we only brought our blue jerseys and not our white ones, and because Holzgerlingen was the home team, they chose to wear their blue jerseys. This forced us to wear a bunch of old Twister jerseys and I got lucky number 13. And if that wasn’t enough, the field was not regulation size and has to be a good 10-15 yards short. And oh yeah, it was raining.

It is tough to overcome all the normal mental distractions one faces when preparing for a football game, but these put our team over the edge. We came out very flat, both offense and defense, and the Twister jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. We regained our poise in the second quarter and roared back to take a 21-14 halftime lead.

After halftime though, our 3rd quarter woes continued, and Holzgerlingen tied the ballgame up 21-21. Our offense was just plain flat in the 2nd half and the Twister’s defensive line was able to get a bunch of pressure on myself. It was tough to get things going in the passing game. We did manage to get one more score, but at that point the game was out of reach. It was a long, tough, and sometimes strange battle, but in the end, the Twister prevailed 31-27. This drops my record with the Hornets to 1-2, but during the time off we should be able to work out some of the kinks, get healthy, and gear up for a late season push.

As for me, I’m headed off to Deggendorf, Germany to see my good friend and college teammate, Jake Flaherty of the Plattling Black Hawks for a little vacation to the South of France and Italy……

By the way: The great action shots are from Dagmar and Ilja Tripp. Their website can be found at I will also post the link in the top right portion of the blog.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Game #2: Hanau Hornets vs. Darmstadt Diamonds

Before I get into the action, here is some background leading up to the game: In the week prior to the battle with the Diamonds, the Hornets had our usual two practices (Tuesday and Thursday) and both went pretty well despite a low turnout. All of the players have jobs and most have families, which lead to obvious time conflicts with Hornet’s practices, but we made do with those who were present. The wide receivers and I worked on our timing, and they seem like they are starting to get used to playing with a QB who throws a bit harder than they are accustomed.

Unfortunately our best defensive player, a LB nicknamed “Fussi”, will not be able to make the Sunday game, and Darmstadt is known for their rushing attack. Our game will be my first home game at the Hornet’s stadium, but unfortunately, Germany will be playing England on the same day, at the same time. And for the Yanks reading this blog, Germany vs. England in anything, let alone the World Cup, is a pretty big deal around these parts. So needless to say, I was not expecting a capacity crowd for my home opener, despite a few back page newspaper articles featuring the Hornet’s new QB the week leading up to the game (and I do mean back-page).

The game was scheduled for a 3:30pm kickoff, but I arrived at the stadium around 11:30am to get warmed up, mentally prepare, etc, etc. As I’m wandering around the stadium, getting acclimated to my surroundings, I notice that at the concessions stand, in addition to the German beer, there is hard liquor being offered, including Jack Daniels. I can’t even imagine the sorry state of student sections at the Carrier Dome, and elsewhere around the country, if college stadiums started serving Jack Daniels at football games! The thought made me laugh out loud (lol for you text-aholics).

The game began with the Diamonds opting to receive the ball, and our defense promptly forcing a punt. Our offense then marched the ball downfield with numerous “pitch and catches” between myself and Torrance on the sidelines. The drive ended with a 12 yard scramble into the endzone for a TD from yours truly, but unfortunately, our kicking woes continued and we missed the extra point. Next, there were punts exchanged by both teams, but the Hornets would soon start to use their stinger. Our young WR, Rene, who was just “called up” from the youth team a few weeks before, started finding the open spaces between the safeties in Darmstadt’s Cover 2 defensive scheme. Translation: Rene started getting wide open. Between Rene’s big catch and runs, Torrance’s short routes, and the QB draws, the Hornets offense could not be slowed down. Halftime Score: Hornets 24, Darmstadt 6.

Everybody was extremely pumped up and excited as we could taste the 1st victory of the year! But Darmstadt was not a team who would go away very easily. Coming out of halftime, we decided to run a formation/play that we did not run all game, thinking it would catch Darmstadt off guard, but it instead caught me off guard more than anyone else, and I threw my first interception of the season. Darmstadt’s coaches must have noticed a weak spot in our defense because they continually ran off-tackle straight into the endzone without batting an eyelid a few plays later. Our offense responded well to the interception and quick score by Darmstadt, and took the ball straight downfield into the endzone. After that score, we had 32 points, and Darmstadt had about 21. But Darmstadt’s run game could not be stopped, and they rattled off 2 unanswered touchdowns, en route to racking up a whopping 362 rushing yards over the course of the game! And we certainly did not help ourselves, as we were penalized about 190 yards through the course of the game!

I am not usually one to complain about the referees publicly or privately, but they certainly cost us a lot in this game and after watching the film a few days later, my feelings were validated. So just to put things in perspective as to why I am writing about this subject: In the 2nd half alone they neglected to call a defensive holding which cost us a TD, they called a ghost offensive pass interference which cost us a TD, and they neglected to call a defensive pass interference which caused me to throw an interception as opposed to a 20 yard completion. Now that I got that off of my chest....the bottom line is that you should never leave a game in the hands of the referees, and we could have soundly won the game if we came out stronger and more focused in the 2nd half.

But back to the game: With about 3 minutes to go, Darmstadt is leading 37-32, and has the ball. They are on their 25 yard line and for some strange reason, decide to pass the ball. Darmstadt has been killing us on the ground and Darmstadt’s QB is about 2-10 with 1 INT to that point in the game, and luckily for us, he decides to throw his second INT. This leaves our offense with about 60 yards to the endzone with about 3 minutes on the clock. We decide to try to get the ball to Torrance on the outside, and begin running 15 yard comeback routes to get him close to the sideline, so that he can stop the clock after he makes a catch. This works to perfection as Darmstadt’s corners are scared to get beat deep and play 10 yards off of Torrance which allows us to gain 15 yards at a time and stop the clock. We march the ball down to our 5 yard line and run an out route to Torrance in the endzone, and he makes a great catch and extends the ball over the pylon for the go-ahead TD with 45 seconds to go! We then go for two and convert a QB run to put the score at Hornets 40, Diamonds 37.

At this point our offense can only watch as Darmstadt marches into their own territory. It is at this point that I am informed that there is no overtime in the GFL and if they elect to kick a field goal (their kicker had been on point all game), the game would end in a tie. A tie?!?! I think a tie might be worse than losing!! A tie is like being stuck in Purgatory, not really knowing where you stand or where you’re going next!! I MIGHT (emphasize “might”) rather lose than TIE a football game!! But Darmstadt elects to do the right thing and go for the endzone from the 15 yard line with 5 seconds left. They try a fade route to the corner of the endzone, and our corner defends it perfectly and the pass floats innocently to the ground. THE HORNETS WON THE PENNANT! THE HORNETS WON THE PENNANT! Well…not quite, but it was the first win of the year after a dismal and miserable 0 and 6 start. Players and coaches alike were overcome with joy and a few even shed some tears. There were hugs all around after a very hard fought game, and to make things even better, Germany pounded England 4-1 in the World Cup Game (they had been giving the fans and players updates throughout our game over the loudspeaker). It was not a pretty game with all of the penalties and letting Darmstadt back into the game, but we did prove that we can score on even tough defenses, and we can even band together to comeback and WIN a game! After the game, most of the players headed for the concession stand to get some grub and pound some German beer to celebrate the win. Everybody was pretty much dead after such a long and hard fought game, and it being a Sunday with work in the a.m., people started filing home after an hour or two. I can not remember being that tired after a game, and after I saw the official stats, I under stood why: We ran 86 plays on offense! For those not familiar with football play counts, 86 is a ton! A game with a very good offense would probably have about 65-70 plays run in a given game. Also, it was pushing 90 deg, which certainly added to the exhaustion. So off to bed I was after a long, hard fought, great day with the Hanau Hornets!

Notable Stats (give or take a few yards; this is from memory after the game):
-Torrance Brown: 220 receiving yards 5 TD Catches
-Hanau Hornets: 190 penalty yards
-Hanau Hornets: 86 plays run on offense
-Darmstadt Diamonds: 362 Rushing Yards
-Andrew Robinson: 15 rushes 140 yards 1 TD, 56 passing attempts 385 yards 5 TD’s 1 INT (yes I said 1 INT, I think my coach slid the statistician a couple Euro’s to take the 2nd one off of the books, but the official stats said 1, so that’s what I’m going with here)
- And Most Importantly: Hanau Hornets: 1st Win of the Year!!

Pictured Below is a Handmade Voodoo Doll of an English soccer player, which was placed in the window of our locker room by one of our players:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Week #2: Wurzburg

After another light practice on Thursday, I decided to trek out on my own to see the city of Wurzburg (pop: 134,500) during the day on Friday. Wurzburg is about a 45 minute drive from Aschaffenburg on the Autobahn, and is famous for their Franconia wine and for the Prince-Bishops who resided there.

A little background on Wurzburg according to my Lonely Planet Guidebook: “This scenic town straddles the Main River and is renowned for its art, architecture, and delicate wines. A large student population guarantees a laid-back vibe, and plenty of hip nightlife pulsates through its cobbled streets.

Wurzburg was a Franconia duchy when in 686, three Irish missionaries tried to persuade Duke Gosbert to convert, and ditch his wife. Gosbert was mulling it over when his wife had the three missionaries bumped off. When the murders were discovered decades later, the martyrs became saints and Wurzburg was made a pilgrimage city, and in 742, a bishopric.

For centuries the resident prince-bishops wielded enormous power and wealth, and the city grew in opulence under their rule. Their crowning glory is the Residenz, one of the finest baroque structures in Germany and a Unesco World Heritage Site.”

I arrived in Wurzburg and quickly found a parking garage for my car for the day, as all of the sites in Wurzburg are within walking distance of each other. I parked across the Main River from most of the sights, but luckily there is a pedestrian bridge, called the Alte Mainbrucke, which affords great views of the Main and leads directly into the heart and city center of Wurzburg.

I headed first to the information center where I picked up a more detailed map of the city and found out that there were English tours being offered at 3pm at the main attraction of the city, the Residenz. This left me with about 2 hours to do some exploring. I was already in the city square surrounded by impressive buildings and churches, so I decided to head inside a few of them to get some pictures.
That morning I had made the semi-conscious decision to wear my Maryland Terps Tee-shirt thinking that I would look like a “tourist” but also thinking that maybe I would be more likely to meet other people from the U.S. Well when I was walking through the main square I saw two ladies sitting at one of the outdoor restaurants waving at me yelling, “Maryland, Maryland.” So I asked if I could join them, sat down, and ordered a beer. I found out that they are from Mt. Washington and Reisterstown, and are huge, season-ticket holding, Ravens fans. Needless to say, we did not have trouble finding things to talk about. Carol and Joetta were on a European River Cruise with their families, and had stopped over in Wurzburg from Paris, on their way to Prague. We sat and chatted for a while until it was time for me to head off to the Residenz English Tour, and they even bought my beer, sympathizing for the poor professional football player! But they were both great, very friendly, and made me glad that I chose to look like a tourist that day.

I made the 10 min. walk down the street to the spectacular Residenz, which according to my Frommer’s Guide: “The Residenz of Wurzburg is the last and finest of a line of baroque castles built in Bavaria in the 17th and 18th centuries. This horseshoe shaped edifice was begun to satisfy Prince Bishop Johann Philipp Franz von Schonborn’s passion for elegance and splendor.” Entering the palace/castle, you find yourself at the grand staircase looking up at the magnificent fresco painted on the ceiling of the 4 continents (Europe, Africa, Asia, and America) all paying homage to the Prince-Bishop. Also on the tour were spectacular rooms, each decorated more elaborately than the next with the final, most extravagant room consisting of gold stucco painted onto mirrors which covered the entire room. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed within the Residenz.

After the tour, I headed outside to explore the palace gardens, and then headed back towards the bridge I crossed earlier in the day to make the trek up to the Festung Marienberg (Marienberg Fortress). The fortress sits high up on a hill overlooking all of Wurzburg, and I do mean high. It was a pretty warm day already (about 82 deg.) and I was sweating pretty good after the 10-15 min walk to the top of the hill and fortress. But the view was definitely worth the work to get up there. From the top you could see literally all of Wurzburg including the churches, town square, Residenz, and the vineyards on the outskirts of the city.

After my hike back down the hill, I got in my car and headed back to Aschaffenburg around 6pm. Rudy was taking me to the local Volksfest where he promised me at least a few of the legendary German liter beers, and some local fest food to go along with the heavy amounts of beer.

Week #2: Exploring Aschaffenburg

This week consisted of exploring most of what Aschaffenburg and the city of Wurzburg had to offer. Gaby’s sister Susanna graciously volunteered to be my tour guide and take me around the sites of Aschaffenburg for a couple days early in the week.

First stop was the Schloss Johannisburg, the Renaissance castle built from 1605-1614. Once the summer home of the Mainz Archbishops, it now houses the Schlossmuseum, which consists of many oil paintings (many by Cranach, and his students), furniture of the period, and an impressive collection of cork models depicting landmarks from Rome (created by an Aschaffenburg resident).

Next to the Schloss Johanissburg and the palace gardens is the Pompejanum, built by King Ludwig I as a replica of a Pompeii Villa. Inside there are many frescos, sculptures, and some artifacts from Crete. Both the Schloss Johanissburg and the Pompejanum overlook the Main (pro: “mine”) River.

The actual town of Aschaffenburg is very nice, and contains numerous shops, restaurants, and hotels, all in a very typical German setting. In the main shop and restaurant area there are pedestrian only zones where one can walk around and peruse the shops with out fear of being hit by the notoriously aggressive German drivers (still not as bad as Jersey though).

The next day Susanna and I took the 10 min. drive to the Park Schonbusch, “a shady 18th century expanse scattered with ornamental ponds and follies, and the Schlosschen, a country retreat of the Mainz Archbishops.”

More Photos can be found by clicking the Link on the top right of the blog.