Friday, November 03, 2006

Hola Chavez . . .

Next Road Trip for myself and other fooligans . . . Venezuela para Copa America 2007!

Preliminary plans: June 23, 2007 - July 8, 2007.

In the past, group play was centered in a single city for each group. If that trend continues, this trip will be pretty boss as we'll get to know the group stage city fairly well.

If you were counting on pictures from Germany, the plan is to have them up sometime before the next World Cup.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Panda Survival Expedition

Our tour of the "Deutsche Weinstrasse" in the Rhein Valley got off to a disspointing start as we discovered that we did not have the option of renting a Smart Car, but instead were forced to rent a Fiat Panda. Not a total dissapointment mind you as the Panda definitely offered up high chances of death on the Autobahn. After picking up the go-kart, he followed Frommer's suggestion to head to the tourist office in Worms to pick up a map of the Deutsche Weinstraße (ß = a double s for those not in the know). Unfortunately, we only had directions to Worms, but figured the tourist office would be located next to the Hauptbahnhof (central train station). Turns out, all you have to do to find anything in Worms is drive around in a circle around the giant Schloß (un-fortified castle) in the middle and your destination will magically appear. We were immediately relieved and inspired by our luck of finding it so easily. Those sentiments quickly changed as the staffers in the tourist office had no idea what the Deutsche Weinstraße was and just loaded me up with maps and directions to Mainz - been there, done that, not too much to see.

Armed with Frommer's and not ready to condemn Arthur, we headed for the first town on his description of the Weinstraße and actually found it. Fortunately, we ran into the Deutsche Weinstraße information point - Unfortunately, the staffer did not speak any english, but at least loaded us up with more brochures and maps - in English! Our first stop was at a Weingut (not sure what this means exactly, but they appeared to be little shacks where you could taste the wines of a specific vintner) owned by the Dr. Bürkliner-Wolf family. A very nice woman told us all about their vineyards and offered us generous pours of many different vintages and qualities of Rieslings and even a Gewürztraminer. We met the owner and he promised to look Hans and I up during his trip to the US this fall - a very nice man who produced some great wine.

We moved on from town to town, beginning to think it was a holiday as nothing appeared open. The towns themselves were very picturesque, consisting of narrow, winding streets bordered by black and white wood houses, all in the middle of vineyards sprawlling into the hills on one side, and into the plains on the other. We quickly realized that it wasn't a holiday, but it was still before noon on a Monday and most of the Weingut's probably did not anticipate visitors. We stopped at another Weingut owned by Dr. Deinhard which was not nearly as friendly and whose wines could not compare. The Weinstraße ends at the French Border about 60 clicks north by northwest of Strasbourg and Hans and I were determined to make it to the border so that I could set my feet in France for the first time ever.

To do so, we raced south in the Panda, trying desperately to follow the Weinstraße, but fortunately, the German's inability to post signs in useful places led us on many scenic sidetrips - none more so than our excursion into the hills near Hambach Schloß. We nearly killed the Panda as we encouraged it to keep climbing the graded and windy roads to the Schloß that never appeared. Magically, upon our descent, we re-discovered the Weinstraße and continued south to another Weingut - a roadside shack that was actually being visited by other people. We sampled more Rieslings and Gewürztraminers and also sampled some of the craptastic German reds and a fabulous (I'm talking about wine so it is perfectly acceptable for me to use that word) Eiswein (Icewine). They offered tasteless wines in special world cup packaging but neither Hans nor I was drunk enough to be suckered into such a touristy buy.

Realizing we were running short on time, we made a panda-line towards the border so that we could check out Frakenstein's Burg (a fortified castle) on the way back to Mannheim where we had to return the car. We finally figured out the roads and plowed through the border, which is marked by a giant wooden gate, marking the end of the German Weinstraße and the beginning of the giant sprawls of vines that take over so much of France. We put out feet in France and headed north to the town of Frankenstein, which would require Hans to surgically execute the guesswork route that I tried to piece together from our pile of maps. We succeded, but unfortunately, Frankenstein's Burg - which is said to have inspired Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - was in ruins and did not offer any access by vehicle. The closest we came to exploring it was a view from the straße below.

We did make our mark though and we returned the car just 3 minutes before our deadline. Overall, the day was a success.

I attended the Germany-Italy semifinal yesterday and I am going to the France-Portugal halbfinale in about 20 minutes. I will post my thoughts on them tomorrow after I am able to fully digest them. Of course, that is conditioned on me surviving the night I have planned on the floor of the München train station. Allianz Arena, here I come! Allez les bleus! Go Portugal (I don't speak Portuguese but I do wish them luck - hoppefully this will be as exciting as last night.)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Zie last few days

Mick, Ethan and Ranjan left Germany on Friday, so Hans and I figured we had to give them a proper tour of the Berlin nightlife. The day started, however, with a sightseeing expedition of Berlin and we visited the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz and took in the cityscape from the Berlin TV Tower. Obviously, there were no matches on Thursday. We also paid a visit to the Addidas World of Football which sits right outside the Reichstag. Addidas has built a 10,000 seat replica of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin which has live broadcasts of all matches. We were on hand to witness the unveiling of the Gold, Silver and Bronze boots, which are given to the top goal-scorers (in obvious order). I provided the highlight of the day with a superb free-kick which I bent up and over the wall at the Free Kick demonstration exposition pavillion - yeah, it was boss.

So, the nightlife tour. During our last visit to Berlin, we discovered the Schlemmer Pavillion and some of the Berlin clubs. Because we were all still reeling from our club-night in Cologne, we decided to opt for the bars. We started out at FC Magnet bar, a football themed bar that Hans, Roger and I unsuccessfully tried to locate on our prior visit (that same expedition also saw me take a massive digger as I rounded the corner of an alley trying to chase a cat - Jäagermeister). Unfortunately, we found it this time and it was a massive dissapointment. We made our way back to the Schlemmer for some road sodas but stopped off to have a ping pong match with some kids from Israel. After the Schlemmer, Ranjan's friend advised us to go to White Trash, where we met up with Ethan and Ranjan, and Brent and Nate of ESC fame, and Andy and Matthias - our new mates from Cologne who knew even less about Berlin than us, but did know that the Schlemmer was the best Kebab in town. We ended the night dancing the night away again at another club - coincidentally named Magnet club. It only took Mick 33 minutes to have his shirt off. On the way home, chaos ensued. Hans apologizes to the owner of the 2001 Jetta. I apologize to all of mankind.

Hans and I split ways from the group and headed to Hamburg for the Italy-Ukraine match. We stayed at a true Youth Hostel which was overrun with 14-year olds. Not as sweet as it sounds. We tried to watch the Germany match at the Fanfest, but the Polizei closed the doors as we approached, instead directing us to "the alternative fanfest on the Reeperbahn" - Hamburg's answer to the Red Light District. We only lasted for the first half as the 50,000 people that were packed into a space for 20,000 and the sweltering heat were enough to convince us to retreat to the air-conditioned confines of our Hostel. The school kids and teachers alike erupted when Lehman made the save that allowed Klinsmann to keep his semi-finals or bust promise.

At the match, I cheered for the Italians for about 20 minutes before I wanted to kill all of them. Diving sissies. An Italian guy behind us was awesome though. He videotaped himself signing the national anthem while he sang it into his cell-phone. He would also yell "Shame-O!" and "Handball-O!" whenever the diving italians fell over or the Ukrainians chested the ball. Hilarious. I think his name was Mario and he only spoke the broken english.

After the match, we returned to the insanity of the Reeperbahn where a massive street party had broken out. Thousands of bottles had also been broken in the streets - not flip-flop weather. We partied for a while before being forced back to the Hostel because of their draconian 2 am curfew. We didn't leave before enjoying more Mexican Doubles. In fact, the day should be titled: the Mexican Octouple as we ate 2 Mexican Doubles each!

We woke up severly hungover with no place to go so we headed to the train station and made a platform decision to jump on a train to Heidelburg. We caught the England debacle and watched Les Bleus dismiss the Selecao (as I had accuratley predicted). This morning, because it is again a footy-free day, we visited the Schloss castle in the hills of Heidelburg. We took the train to the Königstuhl and attempted to hike down to the castle, only to find ourselves completely lost after only 20 minutes. We marched back to the start and then took the express stairs down and found the castle in no time. The castle is magnificent, very much intact despite the wars, which begs the question: which bombing ace missed his target? The castle also contains a pharmacy museum and a dwarf that never refuses a drink - explains why he's turned to wood.

We leave for Mannheim today and we pick up a Smart Car tomorrow. We're going to visit some vineyards as we race around the hills of the Rhineland in our glorified smart car. Chances of death - high.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Mexican Double

Today, i encountered the greatest burger to ever grace the earth: the Mexican Double. Hans and I met up with Mick and Ranjan yesterday in Cologne and basically thilled the day away watching the Black Stars take it head on to Brazil and then France dominating Spain. Maybe some poor decisions by Aragones had something to do with that.

Anyway, Cologne lived up to its reputation to be a great party city, even on a rainy Tuesday night. We were unsuccessful in our bid to get into a club because of our lack of proper footwear. I think we discovered an old east-block relic in their custom of not letting us buy our way into the club (it`s not lost on me that Cologne has never been ruled by communists). Ah well, we danced the night away at another club and we basically took over the podium of a dance floor in the middle of the club. Great stuff that Red Bull - Vodka!

By the way, kölsch, the local Cologne beer, tastes like warm piss.

On to the real story in Cologne, the Mexican Double. Mick persuaded us to follow him to Berlin and we had our brekkie at the BK Lounge. I opted for the burger that had two chargrilled all beef patties with nachos on top. Brilliant!

In Berlin now - will probably die soon.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

You're Sh§t, but You're Chicks are Hot!

Those were the sounds of thousands of Aussies ringing through Ktown before the match with Italy. Obviously, we cheered for the Aussies. And, obviously, the ref came through for the Italians in the end.

This message is really intended for Italy: Nobody likes you, or that stupid game you call calcio. Go home, shower, shower again (use soap this time), learn how to run without tripping over blades of grass, grow some sacs (US boys, you can do that as well) and then maybe the world will enjoy watching you play again.

Now, I am in the unfortunate position of wanting Italy to beat the Ukraine as a Germany-Italy semifinal might make my tickets valuable enough for me to want to sell them.

In Cologne today, rainy, but that provides the perfect excuse to drink Kölsch all day and watch soccer. Mom, don't worry, I took a break from the sauce for the last two days.

Can you imagine the quarterfinals? Germany vs. Argentina, England vs. Portugal, Italy vs. Ukraine (snooze) and Brazil vs. Spain or France - awesome stuff.

Too much Munich!

After such a successful trip to a traditional German restaurant in Nuremburg, we decided to try some authentic Bavarian grub in Munich. Mistake, mistake, mistake. Hans and Mick both ordered the "Meat-Loaf" while I ordered the "Veal Goulash". Turns out Meat-looaf in Bavaria equals "hot-dog-loaf." Their meals were plate sized slices of hot dogs with a side of neon yellow potato salad. Yuck. Mick actually polished his off while Hans could only bear to eat about half. Winner = Hans. My goulash turned out to be dog food in disguise.

That pretty much ended our night and we were forced to retreat to the confines of the Easy Palace Hostel where we were assured to have "Easy" access to a throne.

Day number 2 had us return to our senses and return to eating food that comes in towers. We visited Sausalitos, a campy Tex-Mex jaunt near the Hofbrauhaus and ordered the Sampler Platter yet again. Lesson learned, when in doubt, order food in towers. The sampler platter was a 4-tiered tower of tex-mex power that had just about everything imaginable on it. It was no coincedince that we chose tex-mex on the day Mexico were to take on Argentina. Go Concacaf.

We took in the game at the Hard Rock - before you jeer, Hard Rock´s are cool evereywhere but the US. What do they serve at the Hard Rock Munich? Liter Beer of course! By the end of the night, Mick and I each put down 5 liters, while Hans succumbed to the tex-mex power and headed home after only 3. To celebrate one of the finest goals we`ve ever seen (and Mick and I have seen many goals together - most going into our own net unfortunatley), we headed out to a club with some kids we met at the Hard Rock. That`s where the night gets blurry. At some point, we got into a cab with one of the kids we met and some Germans - and headed to a Rave! Good god. No idea how we got there - and lets just say we redefined "sh§t show" while we were there. If it hadn't been for the id bracelets the Easy Palace made us where, god only knows how we would have gotten home. Yikes.

Lessons learned in Munich:
  1. Bavarian food is crap.
  2. No need to drink 5 Liters of Beer.
  3. Never get in a cab with random Germans (I feel like we should have learned this from Indiana Jones).
We spent the next day touring the beautiful Olympic Park and watching the games at the fanfest. The Portugal-Holland ref should be shot dead. Next stop: Ktown for Italy-Australia!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Munich Again

Now that our team has gone home, we are free to enjoy the World Cup as spectators (when we had a team to support, we were participants). After the match, we drowned our sorrows with the regulars from the ESC, the NJ Brigade, the Atlanta House and the two Mikes from Cali. We were also joined by another member of the Kookie Boys in Mick. Unfortunately, as we gained a member, we lost Brian as he had to go back home to work - sucker (though Hans and I are definitely jealous of him). Running low on time and big on appetite the next morning, Hans, Mick and I went to a traditional Nuremburg restaurant by the train staion and quickly dedcided to order the most outrageous sounding thing on the menu - a sample tower of meat. We had a roast, 2 different kinds of sausages, pork chops and some amazing bread dumplings. The goodies arrived on a three-tiered tower of heaven. It took us all of 12 minutes to devour it. Definitely order the same if you ever find yourself in Nuremburg - it´s in the castle by the train station.

We came back to Munich yesterday and found pretty much the same party that we left it as before we went to Nuremburg. We took a cab from the train station and were fortunate to meet the most bizzare cab driver ever who knew a lot about Chicago because of the "stories" (tv shows) he´d seen about prohibition-era Chiacgo. He asked Hans, a chi-town resident, about Speakeasies, Lake Michigan and Slaughterhouses. He didn´t want to talk about Al Capone though because he hadn´t been featured in the stories that most recentlay aired.

Germany happend to play Sweden here in the Round of 16 and a German win set the city into a frenzy. Amazing chaos, but the real chaos did not start until then next night - which you get to hear about in my next post.

The Lager Way

This is a post of a column written by Garth Lagerway - a former MLS player and a very wise man.

"The Lager Way - My Generation

In Nurnberg , the cauldron of justice which marked America's formal emergence as a global power when we conducted war crimes trials in the aftermath of World War II, a different kind of verdict was rendered yesterday. The match official gave a penalty against the US that was simply incorrect. Nothing more need describe it and no amount of histrionics will reverse it. It came at as destructive a time as could be imagined, directly in the wake of the US equalizer and shortly before halftime, as devastating an emotional volley as finding out your high school girlfriend is dating your brother after coming back from college thinking you were getting back together with her.All of which is irrelevant.

If the game ended 1-1 the US were still out and they finished last in shots on goal for the tournament. We simply weren't good enough. Our most talented player was unable to make an impact and collectively we looked as scared as a high school freshman asking a senior to prom. What matters is what we learn from this World Cup. I am 33 years old. Before the Ghana game I was asked to predict the outcome. I responded that "On this day, in this match, which will define nothing less than whether my generation has left the US soccer world a better place than we found it, on a day when a kid I grew up playing with in Brian McBride would compete as a warrior, I can offer only my heart." With every beat in my chest I hoped the US would win and I left no star unturned in wishing them to win. There is an unspoken taboo among professional players that you are never a fan. Fans don't change outcomes and players do. Players have responsibility and once you have that you can't go back to cheering. But on this day, for the first time since I retired 5 years ago, I was a fan. I wore my US jersey and went to a bar and cheered and cursed my joy, my wrath and ultimately, my frustration at an inanimate television, pouring out my feelings across thousands of miles hoping they would migrate back metamorphosed into US goals. But it did not come to pass.

We are the last soccer generation to go to college. Greg Berhalter (UNC), Marcus Hahneman (Seattle Pacific), Kasey Keller (Portland), Eddie Lewis (UCLA), Brian McBride (St. Louis), Eddie Pope (UNC) and our captain, Claudio Reyna (UVA) will all almost certainly have taken their curtain calls on the grandest stage before the next World Cup in 2010. We grew up not having a league to play in, competing in a sport most people in the Midwest thought was the exclusive province of homosexuals, receiving the adulation of girls who couldn't make the cheerleading squad and guys who played Dungeons and Dragons. These players made the Quarterfinals of a World Cup. Think about that. They tied Italy playing a man down for a half in a stunning display that heaped courage upon bravery in great lumps that burst and poured forth chills down the spine. They have won Gold Cups and league titles. They have matured as men reaching their goals and dreaming bigger dreams. My generation of players was more talented than the pioneers of 1990 and 1994 but, history may judge, not yet good enough to seize the world by the throat, throttle it until it turned blue and force it to acknowledge we Americans are here for good. We are not wanted here and soccer is perceived as the last forum in which to thumb one's nose at the American Colossus without fear of retribution. Rectifying that now falls to Landon, DeMarcus, Gooch, Bobby, Tim and company.

But my generation walked a long, long way down the road to victory. In the 16 years since qualifying in 1990 we went from fielding overawed college kids to seasoned pros. We started MLS, a pro league in which 18 of 23 players on the national team have played. We got so much better so quickly we believed we could advance out of a difficult group in this tournament. This was a clearly better team than 2002 and it had higher expectations. The very fact that the mainstream media cared enough to criticize this team, to analyze its flaws, is progress. We can't miss the dark eddy of hope swirling in the shadow of our defeat. If there is such a thing as faith, now is that time. For three weeks from now when the American media have little noted, nor long remembered what was said about this team here, we, the American soccer community, must remember what they did here. We must see our progress and perceive that we are getting better. We must believe in ourselves and what we have contributed because there is much left to be achieved. MLS has been in place for a decade and my generation was the first to play in front of kids who had their posters on the wall. We have given those kids heroes. These kids, who will be thrust into the spotlight and won't be able to come of age in the sleepy obscurity of a university, will need coaches and leaders. In guiding them to win a world Cup in the next 20 years, we can forget about 2006 and ensure the future of soccer in our country.

Words for the Good"

He said it better than I ever could. To be honest, I'm not at all crushed over the US exit. I simply cannot be bothered to exert any negative emotion over a group of players who came out and crapped the bed so badly. I appreciate them giving me a team to cheer for in the World Cup, but their failure to even register on the playing-with-heart meter is emabarassing. I honestly would have rather had another country qualify because the world deserves more - and many fans from other countries have expressed the sentiment that they expected more from the US. Oh well, we´ll be in the Azteca in 3 years and in South Africa in 4. Long live US Soccer.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Let´s Go Australia!!


We warmed up for the US-Ghana match by singing the night away at the hofbrauhaus in Munich. Hans, Brian and I ran into the NJ Brigade on the streets of Munich. They had already been to the Hofbrauhaus and were three sheets to the wind when we caught them - mind you, it was 5 in the afternoon. We persuaded them to return with us which was very easy to do. Hans and I made a vow to each drink 4 liters of beer before we left. When I finally get pictures on here, I´ll post the before-and-after shots we took of ourselves. At the Hof, they serve beer in liter steins and half-liter steins. After 6, the only serve liters. We, along with fans from Australia, Korea, Spain and Germany took turns singing for our countries. Great times. I can proudly say that the US owned the day. We had fans at tables in each of the various halls so we were able to spread our sound far and wide. The Aussies gave us a little stick with their "I´d rather be an Aussie than a Yank" chant, to which we retorted "I´d rather be a Yank than a convict!"

Andrew and John from the Atlanta House showed up as well and they joined us at our table. We were also joined by Bernie and his son. Bernie was a guy from Richmond who turned out to only be able to drink 2 liters before having to call it quits. His 19 year old son was quite the champ though. Something tells me the mother does not approve.

Anyway, if we did not win the singing battle, we surely won the drinking battle. Hans and I polished off 5.5 liters each, while Brian came in with a respectable 3.75. He did eat the chocolate mousse though.


Ok, so here´s the scoop on Prague - it´s a small city with not terribly much to see and beer is cheap. You can pretty much guess what we spent our time on their. First off, if you ever go to Praha, I recommend the Czech Inn - it´s not exactly in the center of the city, but it is a short tram ride to Wencelas (sp?) Square (the main square). It´s cheap, very clean and they have cheap beer. My only complaint is there keyboards - which is the real reason i didn`t blog earlier.

So beer then, we spent 2 nights there - the first of which we ended up at the 4 story club on the river right next to the Charles Bridge. Chances are, if you´ve been to Prague, you´ve been there. The club turned out to be more frat party than club and of course, drunk (shirtless) english we´re abound. We encountered one chap who accessorized by hanging a toilet seat around his neck. Now, i´m guessing that the big czech bouncer didn´t let him in with the toilet seat so he must have borrowed it from the club - gross. When I asked another English fan (who was actually wearing a shirt) which club he supported, he answered by promptly pulling his shirt over his head and exposing the Newcastle shield tatooed on his back. Always with the shirts off! Something Mick can´t even explain.

After a few too many vodka-red bulls, I managed to find myself in a slapping contest with some Irish. Classic. While I was slapping away, Brian and Hans decided to serenade the clubgoers with their rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" which saw them singing "and the rocket´s red glare" to the entire tune of the song. As happenstance would have, we ran into Rob and Mike from the Atlanta House. We left the club with the sun coming up - never good for sight-seeing the next day.

The next night, we met 2 girls from Iceland who just might be bigger lushes than ourselves. They had just taken a 12 hour train from somewhere and passed the time by getting completely soused on wine. We shut down 2 bars with them before we couldn´t find anymore, which was not for a lack of effort on their part. They approached every pimp, crackhead, prositiute and every other nightcrawler that inhabits the streets of prague after the sun sets to inquire about "some bar." Ahhh, Prague.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I am alive!

Sorry for the lack of blogging for the past few days. Äfter you read this post, im sure you will understand why. Also, im tzping this on a czech kezboard, and im sick of correcting mzself when i tzpe z instead of y - thez reverse them here - so zou get to read thank them for the screwiness of this post.

Ah right, we plazed italz. what an unbelievable match. while manz of zou saw mz mug on the tube, we watched from the first row behind the goal we - er italy - scored on in the first half and we defended in the second half. We arrived in Kaiserslautern - Ktown - from Mainz with the NJ Brigade and the train ride over was a blast. We chatted with other US fans and everyone seemed to recogniye the dire importance of the match. Ktown was alreadz rocking when we arrived. The soldiers from Uncle Sams other army - the ones stationed at Rammstein AFB - led the charge in the streets in the best pre-match fanfest ive seen. We ran met up with the regulars - and even found the Elvises from Korea. Talk about media whores. those guys have 2 documentarz crews following them around.

In the streets, we looked like we outnumbered the italians so our spirits were high for the match. Inside the stadium - that sentement quicklz changed as the Italians had already moved into their seats and were alreadz singing in unison. Our attempts to get the USA fans waiting in line for Brats and biers were unsuccessful and I feared that the decision to give so manz tickets to soliders was a mistake - it turns out I was mistaken.

All of the regulars realiyed that our tickets were sprinkled accross several sections - we havent seen our sticks scattered that bad since the last time the zanks cam over here - that was bad i know, but i§ve been waiting 3 dazs to tzpe that. Anzwaz, I informed a steward that i needed to find a waz to meet up with mz friends and i needed directions to their section. He, of course, gave me directions to mz section. I decided to plaz dumb, drunk american from then on and just blew into the section where most of the regulars had congregated with a bier in either hand and shouting U-S-A! at the top of mz lungs. seemed to work. The fans we had that game were the best of anz match ive ever been to - and id dare saz the best US show of support ever. Thankfullz, the bozs plazed well enough to deserve it. What a match! Stupid uruguazan referee!

After the match, we tried to find Brian, whotook in the match from deep inside the Pison trenches. Our efforts were in vain though as a couple hours ticked bz and we didnt find him. Those passing hours also saw off the last train back to Mainy and we realized that we were going to be stuck in Ktown till the first train in the morning - which was about 4:30 am. So, Roger mzself and Hans decided to partz until then. We plazed soccer with an emptz ponz keg for a bit - stupid, stupid idea as mz throbbing feet hhave been reminding me ever since. In an effort to improve relations amongst the yanks and the germans, i traded shirts with one of the germans - a brilliant move that brought tons of flashes - and three beautiful deutshcefraulines! Finally, we thought - and thinking is pretty much all we did. Somehow, our lederhosen weren§t enough to keep them interested and some hippies from San Francisco swooped in. Damn you San Francisco!

We got on the train and headed back to Mainz onlz to find that we faced a 2 hour layover in Mannheim - thank you Germanz efficienz. Hans plazed Rishi from the post-Czech celebrations and passed out in the train station. We got back to Mainy at 8:15. Yeah, fun stuff.

We spent the next daz in Frankfurt and watched the Brazil-Aussie match at the fanfest with 50,000 German-poseurs cheering for Brazil. Who ever would have thought that the Germans would be so pessimistic that thez§d adpot their rivals - question mark.

In prague now - unfortunately, mz mom reads this so more details will not be forthcoming from Prague. Sorry Dad.

I haven´§t been able to post pictures zet - something i will continue to try to do - but will definitely do when i get back.

Come on England - an english win helps out TnT and we need Concacaf representation in the second round!

The waz the tickets were assigned, our troops were scattered

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Do or Die

It´s time to put up or shut up. This is our Independence Day. I hope Bruce finds something to say to motivate the Boys to play well enough to win today. Let´s be honest, if our expectation was to blow through the group, we were all seriously delusional. The real goal was to play well enough to win each match and then hopefully we´d find a way through. That didn`t happen Monday and a similar performance will see our boys fly home on the 23rd. Which, coincidentally, is the same day that they flew home in 2002. Also coincidentally, today is the 4 year anniversary of the 2-0 result against Mexico that saw us through to the quarterfinals of Japorea 2002. God, please let history repeat itself today! (and i´m not talking about 1990 repeating itself)

We are staying in Mainz - a smallish city in the Rhineland. We arrived late last night and took a nice stroll through the city - very beautiful. Lots of cobbled plazas and tudor style buildings (I think Hans said "tudor" - he may have actually been speaking of his foul smelling "tooter" though). There is a cathedral built right into the middle of the downtown area. Amazing to see the modern development spring up around the history - that sort of graceful juxtaposition is something we rarely see back home.

We didn`t go out last night figuring that we needed to save ourselves for tonight - we did however locate a replacement for the Schlemmer Pavillion - the Tuffli Barek. We leave it all in the stands tonight - and if the boys don´t produce, you may well see me on the pitch. Brian joins us today as well. He has no idea what he is in for.

My Prediction: USA 3 : Italy 1

Friday, June 16, 2006

Californication at the Schlemmer Pavillion

Hans, Roger, Kotas, Jodi, Rob and I headed out to far east Berlin to catch the RHCP show at the most secluded ampthiteater in the world. we had to take an old rickety train to the middle of nowhere and then walk through the woods. of course, there were bier and wurst to be had along the way.

i think we were the lone americans and people seemed to like us. they laughed at us anyway which is good enough for me. we met some brazilians who were obsessed with singing the croation soccer song - which I consider to be the best song so far. Oh yeah, the show was amazing.

We returned to Dante's in downtown Berlin and kept the party going. As has become our custom, we ended the night on the corner (though, this time at 3 am) at the Schlemmer Pavillion for some Doner kebabs. God only knows how many Doner kebabs we've eaten, but our combined Wurst count currently stands at 9. Dissapointingly low I know. It's sure to improve as we head south.

Because we'll probably die if we spend another day in Berlin, we're heading to Mainz a day early. Thankfully a guy we met yesterday pointed us in the direction of a solid Biergarten there.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Walking in Memphis!

Lo-lo-lo-lo-lo-looooooooooo, lo-lo-lo-lo-lo-looooooooooo Deutschland! These were the sounds of Berlin last night as Germany assured themselves of a place in the second round with the win over the Poles. We watched the match at the fanfest with about 10,000 Germans and 20 Poles. Amazing stuff. Flags everywhere, Singing the entire match. We saw Guile (from Street Fighter II acclaim) destroy some poor German kid - only the second fight we've seen at the world's biggest Man-Fest in the week we've been here.

After the match, the fans took the streets of Berlin in grand fashion. We ran into some other Americans outside of the Brandenburg Gate and wouldn't you know it, they were from Toledo! A brother/sister duo that went to St. Ursula and St. Johns. Small world. We made our way back to our hostel where Hans ran into a guy from Chicago on his soccer team. I think it's not just a small world but that we are just the coolest. people. ever. Just before we got back to the hostel, we encounter a band of German kids belting out Marc Cohn's smash hit - Walking in Memphis. Great stuff that bier!

We went out to the clubs at about 1:30 with Roger from the Atlanta House. At H20, we saw the second perfectly proportionate midget of the trip. She was maybe 3 feet tall but perfectly proportioned. We were seperated at another club. I hopped in a cab with a driver who decided to take me for a free sight-seeing expedition before he dropped me at our local kabob hut. I met some Croations and Irish there. The Croats had to make the drive back to Croatia so they were refuelling with some Red Bull and wodka. (it was 7 am!) Amazingly, Hans and Roger found there way to the Kabob hut as well and the party raged on for another hour. That makes it 2 nights now that we partied till the sun cam up. So much for getting over the jet lag.

Today, we're going to attempt to go for a run - the only way to sightsee - and then we meet up with the Atlanta House to get set up for the Red Hot Chili Peppers show.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I am a Jelly Donut!

We decided to wash the loss off with a trip to Berlin. God does it feel good to be in a World Cup city. The decision by the Dutch to not party after the Ivory Coast win (or at least not to tell us where the party was) and the non-chalance of Dussledorf left us crazing some real Weltmeister atmosphere and we have found it in Berlin. The official slogan of the world cup is "A time to make friends" and that is definitely happening here. We have met Swedes, Germans, Brazilians, Aussies, Poles, Spaniards and many, many Americans as well. After we checked into our hostel, we met up with the Atlanta House at the Prater Bier Garten to watch Croatia take on Brazil. I never thought i'd see so many Germans cheer for Brazil. Always wanting to cheer on the underdog, we led the packed bier garten in song for Croatia. We even learned the real song for Croatia.

After some more drinking, we left the Atlanta House crew and headed back to the hostel for more drinks. We then went to a club for more (wait for it . . . .) drinking. One of the best things about the world cup is that you never really have to think about what to wear - your team's kit is the greatest conversation starter - and contrary to popular belief, everyone loves the Yanks! (with the exception of the Spanish chick's brother).

Áfter some kebabs (basically the only thing we eat), we headed out again with some Swedes and went to another club which we are pretty sure was in Poland. We found ourselves home around 7 am with our kidneys intact. Ahhhhh, jelly donuts!

Goodbye USA!

After a morning train to Dusseldorf, we headed to Gelsenkirchen for our first taste of the World Cup against the Czechs. The train from Dusseldorf to Gelsenkirchen was packed with Yanks and offered the promising hope that we would be well represented. Those hopes were somewhat deflated when Hans and I went to the stadium early to transfer his ticket. We were greeted by Czech after Czech after Czech, one of whom told me that I "am good, but George Bush is a real wanker"´ - I was like, duh!

After dealing with Fifa bureacracy, we returned to downtown Gelsenkirchen (a shopping mall) to find nearly 1000 Yanks drinking and singing for the Stars and Stripes. Several familiar faces from Korea - Doug and Tanya, Mike Hood, ESC, NJ Brigade, Midnight Riders, Andy G. - It was amazing. We left for the game en masse and took over a train/sauna on the way there and Brent led us in song - Die Deutschefrau - is Wunderbar (or whatever the german word for wonderful is).

All i will say about the match is how deflating it was - we looked crap and even worse, our manager looked like he had no idea what he was doing! Beasley at right back!?!?

After, all I wanted to do was pass out somewhere. We dragged ourselves to a bar to watch the Italy - Ghana match where I promptly succeeded in passing out. I haven't felt like that in 4 years.

Nuebla Nueve!

The day belonged to the Mexicans in Amsterdam as they trounced Iran 3-1. I think the old saying is true - all you need to have a good time is a mexican! We watched the Holland match in amsterdam with our Korean roommate Kim. I asked Kim if he liked beer, he replied "you´ve been to Korea, you know how Koreans drink." In Korea, koreans drank until they passed out no matter where they were. It seemed as if passing out first was a badge of honor. Kim did not fail his countrymen. He also maintained the Korean tradition of not letting anyone fill their own beer. Everytime Hans and I grabbed the pitcher for a refill, Kim interjected and topped us up. He passed out aound 5 and was done for the day. One day, this space will be filled with a picture of that!

We watched the Mexico game with about 30 Mexicans before meeting up with Mike W. The Mexican fans took their fiesta to the streets after El Tri dropped the tri on Iran. We partied with the mexicans for a while before relaxing with some of the local culture. A comedic sight for sure.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Day 1(day/night who really knows?): Amsterdam

We arrived in Amsterdam and have found Europe fully immersed inWorld Cup mania. Not surprisingly - this city is full of English fans who can't seem to keep their shirts on (more on that). On my flight over, I randomly ended up sitting with 2 other guys sporting US jerseys - pretty odd to have the only guys wearing US jerseys to end up sitting together when we're all random strangers.

Hans and I checked in to our craptastic Hostel and immediately headed out to start sampling the local beverages. We knew that we had to stay awake to quickly acclimate to the time change so we opted for a diet of the 3 Grolsch and 1 Red Bull (then repeat). We ended up watching the England-Paraguay match at a packed English pub that charged 50 cents have a piss. They had a nice little scam going by only charging 10 euros for Grolsch pitchers - causing us to piss often (little do those bastards know - we ran across the street to piss in a coffeehouse - all we did was piss, swear). Sitting next to us were some English fans who looked like they were the unfortunate biological result of breeding amongst an Island race.

After they luckily beat out Paraguay, and Aussie and I congratulated an Englishman who proudly proclaimed "Whoa! Look at this! We've Yanks and Convicts! It's all here now!" Awesome. Not surprisingly, the Mexican ref sucked. We met some Irish lads who knew a lot about American soccer - and not just our euro-based players. That's the great thing about the World Cup - so many people who just care about soccer.

After a quick nap/shower, we caught the end of the Sweden-TnT snoozer - the Swedes looked like they wanted to prove they are overrated while the Soca Warriors held strong and represented the region well.

We knew we had to stay up until at least 11 here so we continued to drinkand watch soccer. Argentina looked very classy in their win over the Ivory Coast. We perused the red light district for a while - eh, whatever. We'll have to see how it compares to the Reeperbahn in Hamburg and Prague.

So, English men can't seem to keep their shirts on. They roam around in packs - I feel like they're here for work, but they are always sitting around at pubs. It's not that hot here mind you, they just love letting their glory guts hang out.

Pictures of Amsterdam will be posted soon - Mike W. is joining us later and we're going to take in the Holland-Serbia match. Should be quite the party if Holland pull it off.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Start Weight

For those of you keeping score at home, my official start weight this morning was 212 lbs. Brats beware!

After watching the opening game between Germany and Costa Rica at Tonic on 7th Ave. between 48th and 49th (best midtown soccer bar by far!), I'll be headed straight to the airport and will hopefully be checked in by 3 pm for the kickoff between Poland and Ecuador (pronounced Eh-kwah-door - with the emphasis on the door).

Next post will come from the ground in Amsterdam!

The Journey Begins!

So, this is definitely not meant to be an exercise in vanity. One of my biggest regrets from my trip to the 2002 World Cup in Japorea was not keeping some sort of diary (another regret was not eating dog). Fortunately, Andy Gustafson did a great job of chronicalling the trip in his book: 23 Days in Korea. So, here is my attempt to make good on a promise I made to myself 4 years ago. The title of this post is really a misnomer - the Journey actually began in 2004 in Columbus, Ohio when we kicked off the qualification campaign with a 3-0 win over Grenada.

The matches I personally attended during the qualification campaign include:

  • June '04 - Grenada (3-0) @ Columbus
  • August '04 - Jamaica (1-1) @ Kingston
  • September '04 - El Salvador (2-0) @ Foxboro
  • October '04 - Panama (6-0) @ Washington, DC
  • March '05 - Mexico (1-2) @ Mexico City
  • April '05 - Guatemala (2-0) @ Birmingham
  • June '05 - Costa Rica (3-0) @ Salt Lake City
  • August '05 - Trinidad and Tobago (1-0) @ Hartford
  • September '05 - Mexico (2-0) @ Columbus
  • October '05 - Costa Rica (0-3) @ San Jose
  • October '05 - Panama (2-0) @ Foxboro

I will continue to follow the US team through the group stage:

  • June 12 - Gelsenkirchen - Czech Republic - 12 noon EST on espn2
  • June 17 - Kaiserslautern - Italy - 3 pm EST on ABC
  • June 22 - Nuremburg - Ghana - 10 am EST on ESPN

I will introduce the accompanying cast on this trip as they join me. As this is my first experience blogging (or publishing anything on the net for that matter), please forgive the technical difficulties that are sure to occur.

I am going to try and post as often as I can and hopefully I'll be able to upload pictures as well.

So here are my goals for this trip:

  1. Gain fewer than 10 pounds
  2. Do not excessively strain international relations (note: excessively)*
  3. Survive
  4. Party with as many people as possible
  5. Experience as much culture as possible**

* Goal #2 does not apply to the French or the Mexicans (unless it's Salma Hayek).

** Bier Gardens and Red Light Districts are indeed culture.

So, here are some of my favorite pics from 2002:

The Red Sea in Daegu- Now that is passion!

My 2002 travel buddy - wish you and Jag could have made it.

Uh-Oh! I think I stole someone's sombrero!