Robert Lunn is a former defensive tackle from UCONN. He graduated in 2008 and is now playing professional football — in Portchach, Austria. He's graciously shared some of the things he's experienced so far.
Lunn is no stranger to blogging, either. Some of his musings can be found on his personal blog "Thoughts From A Fat White Guy" ,guest appearances on Chris Cooley's dick-free blog portion of his personal site, and a blogger for the newly launched NESN.com.
MY AUSTRIAN TEAMMATES PUT THE "WHORE" IN "MAN WHORE"
Any fan of football at any level-pro, college, high school (even peewee for that matter)-should realize that football players get more girls (and/or pussy) than the general population. Simple fact; as old as time, as consistent as gravity. It's no different in Austria. My teammates are more concerned with getting laid than they are with tackling, hitting, or any football fundamental. In fact, when pressed about how girls felt about having sex on a couch (Pete doesn't have an actual "bedroom"), my Austrian teammate replied, "Yez, but I am not interested in this-their-feelings." It's a misogynistic society to boot; an American teammate had a girl over the first night, and the post-coitus conversation amounted to her begging him not to kick her out. Our Austrian brethren informed us that it was par for the course, to make a girl leave after you "were done." I knew I loved this country.
So in Klagenfurt there exists a shop-"My America Shop" that sells everything American: From Mountain Dew, to Kool-Aid, to Butterfingers, to Zippos, and Bruce Springsteen albums. You really get a sense of what other countries think of America, when there is a shop that has boiled down the essence of the USA to Mountain Dew and Zippos (unfortunately, no handguns).
THIS WILL NOT QUENCH MY THIRST
As player/coach, I called a water break. I ran over to the cooler and I saw the other players drinking a brownish liquid. I thought to myself, "Well, this is unlike any Gatorade I've ever seen." And then I noticed there was steam coming from the water cup. It was not Gatorade. It was not water — it was hot tea! ! I never thought I'd see that in any of my years playing football. It lends legitimacy to the Americans' rallying cry: "T.I.A., This. Is. Austria!"
BODIES ARE NOT TEMPLES
I live in Portchach. Which is 15 minutes outside the city of Klagenfurt. And 5 minutes from the town of Graz. Why is this important? Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Graz. Let me say this — the last physical specimen left Austria when the Governator jumped the pond in 1968. The millions of dollars spent to keep pro athletes' bodies in top shape, or even working order, is completely lost here. Half our starting offensive line has a two-pack-a-day smoking habit, and our starting kicker — affectionately nicknamed "Schnapps" — is a flat out alcoholic. Schnapps' "practice" consists of kicking a few balls, then hitting the shower because, "Coach… I'm sweating."
PRACTICE HAPPENS WHEN IT HAPPENS
The biggest challenge is getting the Austrians to show up to practice on a regular basis. Apparently the fact that I flew 5,000 miles to a country I don't understand, and make practice every day, is completely lost. My inspirational speeches are also ineffective. A heart to heart, your Disney-sports-movie-moment, where I explained that we needed players at practice, rain or shine, and how I held a 3.1 GPA and played major college football… The next practice? Even more guys missing. (The moment must have gotten lost in translation-helps me sleep at night.) At some point, frustration has to give way to laughter, and like a beaten man I laugh my way through practice, with several "How the fuck did it come to this?" fuck-my-life-moments.
COACH MANFRED IS A PILLAR OF DISCIPLINE
I have a coach that could write the book on Former Athletes and Obscurity (with a foreword by Pac Man Jones). Manfred (just Manfred…like Madonna) was a famous Austrian soccer goalie, and after that I don't know much more. I use the term "coach" very loosely. Truth is, while he has a heart of gold, I have absolutely no clue what Manfred actually does. I want to sit him down in one of the "Office Space" moments: "Uh yeah... what would you say you do here? Besides Dutch Oven your office in a thick cloud of cigarette smoke 5 days a week?" Compare this to my former head coach, Randy Edsall, whose clean living and boy scout mentality is legendary. And while Edsall runs at 4 a.m. every morning , Manfred wheezes uncontrollably after walking a flight of stairs.
THE REFS ARE SURPRISINGLY AMENABLE TO MY INTERPRETATION
Rushing the QB in this league is an absolute free-for-all. The Austrian offensive linemen are not used to the speed of the American pass rush. And while I'm not exactly DeMarcus Ware, I did play 4 years in the Big East. It should also be of note that Austrian offensive linemen, like all offensive linemen, are cheaters. That being said, a mild holding call (that never would have been called on American soil) had me fired-up, especially since I was one step shy of recording my first sack of the day. I turned to the ref and complained (like all defensive linemen are trained to do), "Come on ref, make the fucking call — that's a hold!" For the first time, in all my years of football, he agreed with me. And he dropped the flag.10-yard penalty. Just like that. Like we were discussing politics over lunch, "Yah, I coo-d see how zat might be a hold, yah…okay."
BE PREPARED TO GET INJURED
One thing I have had to realize is that the Austrians have not grown up with American Football on TV. Their dads didn't take them to games, and the Superbowl isn't shown every year. Their only impression of the game comes mostly from Madden, NFL Blitz, and "Any Given Sunday." To them, "cheap shots" are part of the game. Which explains why when our American wideout was getting his arm cranked after being tackled at our own 25, the refs did nothing. Their coach, only yards away on the sideline, clapped in unabashed admiration. Of course, after seeing this I was filled with typical American rage and ran over and began screaming, "That's fucking bullshit, and you know it. Do it again and I'll fucking kill you." 15 yards, unsportsmanlike conduct. Oddly, the ref was more concerned about my yelling. "Dis iz American foot-ball. NOT a South Central gang fight." His unintentional humor completely disarmed me. I just laughed and trotted back to our huddle.
Robert Lunn can be reached at thefatwhiteguyATgmail.com. Share your thoughts with him. He's a big boy.