Special to Raiders.com
Football means family
As fans of The Oakland Raiders you all know the weekly game previews on Raiders.com. Part of those previews is the connections section. There you can read everything about who played with whom and who played where and knows XYZ. Now connections are an important part of life and even more so in the days of social networks ruling the World Wide Web. But nowhere are connections as deep and long-lasting as in football.
Let me tell you this. During my time with the NFL Europa's Hamburg Sea Devils and with the Raiders I have met so many people, I could easily come to the USA and travel from east to west from north to south for probably eight weeks and I would find a place to stay at a different friend's house every single day. Only in football is that possible!
People come and go and that is part of football as well, but you never lose the connection. Never. And you always meet someone new someplace who knows someone you know from back in the day. It's the biggest family in the world if you ask me.
And that was once again obvious during my stint at The Oakland Raiders training camp. Not only that people invited me to their house or that I was so much more involved in many different things compared to my first visit in Napa, I experienced the connections-thing first hand. Almost every day.
There's the connection between Oakland Raiders special teams coordinator John Fassel and SWARCO Raiders head coach Santos Carrillo. Both know each other since their college days and are best friends. This friendship led to the fact that the SWARCO Raiders guest coaches had an easy time getting around camp this summer. They even exchanged email-addresses with some of the players.
I have a connection to Raiders TE Tony Stewart. Not only was he born in Germany, he went to college at Penn State with one of my best friends. See, it's easy. You drop a name; you connect in an instant.
The connections during my time at camp even went much farther. Now how big is the chance of meeting a football friend from Germany thousands and thousands of miles west? Pretty small. And still it happened. My buddy Tuli grew up in California and played linebacker at the University of New Mexico, but lives in Germany since the early 1990s. We worked together with NFL Europa, but haven't seen in each other in a year or two. I chat with him on Facebook (talking of social networks) and he says he's in San Francisco for a High School reunion. Less than 24 hours later we met up in Napa.
On game day against the Dallas Cowboys we caught up again. But he wasn't the only football friend from my Hamburg days I saw that day. I have a buddy, who plays for the Cowboys. So after warm ups and after the Raiders convincing 31-10 win against Dallas me and my friend Ryan met at midfield and talked about the good old times.
I think I can honestly say that my time with the Raiders during this summer was a big family reunion. A great experience. But before I fly home to Germany to finally be back together again with the family I miss the most – my wife Katja and my little son Elvis – I will meet with yet another friend. Guess what, a football connection…
Thanks for reading my blog and GO RAIDERS!
Beginner's Guide to Traveling to the US
Every time I visit the USA people tell me they couldn't tell that I was German. "You don't have an accent. You look and dress pretty American." These are the standard phrases I hear all the time the moment I set foot on American soil.
Now this fact opens many doors – right here in America as well as in Europe. And I'm thankful for that. I guess I turned into a "Germerican" when I worked three years in the PR department for NFL Europa's Hamburg Sea Devils. That's also the place where I learned a lot about the differences between Germans and Americans, between German habits and American habits and between how the Germans live their lives and how Americans do.
So when you travel those 3,800 miles (or more) from one of these countries to the other, you better be ready for some change. As much as it is different for Americans traveling overseas, it is for Europeans coming to visit the US, because of the many differences: the language, the currency, the time difference. Now those are the things you know about before you leave, but there's a few lessons travelers have to learn the hard way. Two of those travelers are my Austrian friends, the SWARCO Raiders guest coaches Robert Balazinec and Markus Krause.
Passport: No, they didn't forget theirs. Otherwise they wouldn't be here. But when you fly over the Atlantic Ocean, you might make sure your passport picture is not half as old as you are. I guess only a good-looking guy like Markus Krause gets by with a picture in which he obviously is 14 years "old." "You are so cute on this picture!" Thank God the young lady at customs fell for the young Austrian version of Johnny Depp.
Power Outlets: Bringing your laptop and cell phone is a good idea to stay in touch with your loved ones. Although it does make sense to check your travel guide for information on power outlets. Different countries use different electrical current and different power outlets. A German laptop (or Austrian laptop for that matter) will work just fine over here – until the battery waves goodbye. Now even though I have to pull it out of my carry-on baggage in every airport I've been, I brought my massive power converter with me. Since my Austrian friends didn't, it was a week of constant plug change.
Cash Money: Credit cards are a way of life in the US. Everyone has one. Who am I kidding; probably at least four of them. In Europe people still prefer to pay cash. There's not a problem with that over here either, but it does make sense to pay in US dollars. Someone told Blitzy and Krause that it's easier and cheaper to change EUROs in America than to withdraw money from an ATM or pay with credit card. That someone is a pretty funny guy. Only the major banks or exchange offices turn EUROs into dollars (for a fee of course). Guess what: I ran around with two guys, who have all their savings in their pockets and can't even pay for a Popsicle. How about that for being rich in experience?
TV: Since there was no money to spend, the boys spent their evenings (after the meetings) in front of the TV. You have to understand that American TV is way different from what we are used to. There seems to be a channel for every resident of this country over here. That's quite amazing and somewhat mind-blowing for a young man from overseas. Now you know how hard it actually is to write this column, sitting in my hotel room with a 21-year-old first-time US-traveler, whose hand seems to be taped to the remote control. And as a SWARCO Raiders player/coach he constantly complains about the fact that whenever there's something on about football it has to do with the Vikings. Though considering the big rivalry in Austria between the SWARCO Raiders and the Vienna Vikings I get his point. I guess on Thursday night Markus will be fine. Finally some live football right in front of him as he will stand on the sidelines during the Raiders' preseason game against Dallas.
Thanks for reading my blog and GO RAIDERS!
A long journey, a short night, a ride in style and many happy faces; yes I am back in Oakland Raiders training camp. But let's do it like a rookie and take it one step at a time.
The Oakland Raiders training camp yet again has an international flavor! Coaches from all over the world arrived in Napa Valley, California, on Thursday August 6 for the sixth annual International Guest Coach Program. Among them two coaches from the Silver and Black's Austrian marketing teammate SWARCO Raiders as well as coaches from Mexico, Spain, Sweden and Australia. And me.
As you might know I'm the one who covers the SWARCO Raiders. Therefore I was lucky enough to get invited again to training camp in Napa Valley. After spending a night at a friend's house in Madison, Wisconsin, I flew via Denver to San Francisco. On the flight I was once again reminded of the fact that Raiders fans are everywhere – even way up above the clouds. Because that's where I met Sherry from Birmingham, Alabama. She works as an ER nurse in Santa Rosa and is a life-long Raiders fan.
After a delightful conversation we wished each other (and the Raiders) good luck at the San Francisco airport. At the baggage claim I finally met the two SWARCO Raiders coaches invited to this year's International Guest Coach Program: Markus Krause and Robert Balazinec. They had some trouble finding their luggage (check out their blog). It was around midnight when we finally arrived in Oakland. After an hour-long wait for our pizza we hit the pillow.
About five hours later my phone rang. It was Santos Carrillo, head coach of the SWARCO Raiders. He was on his way to the San Francisco airport after a week of vacation and wanted to see us. After a short visit we went to the Raiders office where we met the other international coaches. All together we rode up to Napa – in a stretch limousine. What a way to ride!
Later that afternoon the coaches turned into little kids in a candy store. Yes, you guessed right. It was practice time and the international guests were welcomed by an enthusiastic Oakland Raiders team. The smiles on the international coaches' faces told me everything I needed to know. They enjoy every moment out there on the practice field.
And for me? It's great to be back. The first thing I noticed was the higher intensity at practice compared to last summer. There's a passion out there that you'd love to bottle up and sell it on the street as Raiders spirit. Just awesome!
Thanks for reading my blog and GO RAIDERS!