Category Archives: Seinäjoki

Dinner with Mika and Leena

24 May 2014

Last year in Seinäjoki we had the pleasure of meeting and working with Mika Somerkallio. Last year Mika was in charge of taking care of the import players and coaches. He was the one that got us into our apartment, arranged for places at which Charlie and I could eat, got us bicycles, and so forth. It was like having our own concierge. We even got to play some golf with Mika at a local club. During the last season, Mika and his girlfriend Leena also had had Charlie and I and my wife Nancy, who was visiting, over for a fantastic dinner of reindeer. It was not long this year before he wanted to have us out for dinner.

After a few attempts at scheduling an evening that would work, we finally hooked up on a Monday night. Monday worked because we did not have a practice. My only inconvenience was a meeting for work that I had to dial in for at 7PM. I decided that I could do that from Mika’s house with my laptop and VOIP phone system. So we were set to enjoy some of his legendary cooking. If there was one thing that Mika knew … that was how to put together a great meal with all the trimmings and matching spirits aligned with each course.

Mika showed up at K34, our apartment, around 6PM and gathered us up and we were soon headed out to his place, which was too far to bike. We actually had to get on a freeway to get there. The weather was really weird during the trip. The day had been incredibly beautiful and warm until about 5PM. That is when a major storm had rolled in. It almost darkened Seinäjoki. The rain had come down in sheets and there were some serious wind gusts that had bent the trees outside the back of our apartment. The storm was still raging during the drive over.

When we arrived, the table was already set and we could smell the food. Mika had prepared a slow-cooked pork dish that looked fantastic. Along with that, he had a nice salad prepared and a choice of tortilla shells and circular pocket bread. Thrown in there was some fresh leafy lettuce as well. And, of course, a nice red wine that had beat out 200 hundred others in a country-wide wine competition.

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Leena had not arrived yet. She is an accomplished horse rider and competes in Finland and across Europe in various riding events. So it was just the three of us for now. We settled in for a great meal after a beer or two.

The pork was fantastic and the wine complemented it perfectly. I think Charlie and I both had three or four sizable servings. I forgot to mention a savoury gravy that we liberally added to each serving. After stuffing ourselves with the main dinner, Mika produced a dark chocolate desert that contained cherry bits all covered in a creamy sweet sauce. The red wine was ditched at this point and replaced with a special desert wine, which was sweet and perfectly complemented the dark chocolate. Even though I really didn’t have the room for this, I didn’t pass on it. It was a great dining experience as I knew it would be.

After dinner, I retired to a separate room to dial in for my meeting. During that time, Leena returned and got some “leftovers.” The only hitch to the entire experience was a power outage caused by the storm about 45 minutes into my meeting. The meeting had pretty much wrapped up anyway so it was not that big of a deal.

We spent the rest of the evening visiting and going over some photos on Mika’s computer of a winter trip he and Leena had taken to Thailand. The pictures reminded me a lot of my three weeks I had spent in India a few years back. Streets were filled with the ubiquitous three-wheeled taxis, traffic flowed like water, and street vendors with local foods were everywhere. All in all it looked like a great trip.

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About 9PM we needed to get back. We were both coming off a couple really late nights over the weekend. One had been out to some local clubs with the president of the Crocs organization and her friend and the other had been out with our good Polish friend Grezgorz (who I call Gregory) and his crazy fun girlfriend Katja along with her sister Maria. Both fun but really late nights. So Leena and Mika packed us up in the car and got us back home. It had been a great night out with good friends and food.

Food Program

17 May 2014

It has been a couple weeks now since we have been here in Seinäjoki. One of the “perks” that comes with the contract here is a food program. The way that program works is the organization tells Charlie and I where we can go locally to eat during the weekdays. We are on our own on the weekends. Last year we had a variety of restaurants that had been designated for us. For example, we had a great Pizza buffet that we could eat at on Wednesday’s only. Each place had a buffet style lunch from which you could totally load up. We became quite skilled at taking advantage of the buffet during lunch to pretty much consume most of the calories we needed for a day.

This year we have been instructed to go to the Ravintola Joupiska, which is a nice place to eat right next to Seinäjoki’s local ski resort/jumping area.

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This place is a quick five minute bike ride from our student housing complex. The last half of the distance has a slight uphill grade that we are glad for when we leave. One thing about where we are living so far is that it is nice and centrally located.

Ravintola Joupiska has a rustic, log-cabin feel and is warm and inviting inside. The guy that runs it is friendly and puts out his little notebook each day for Charlie and I to sign before we start through the buffet. There never seems to be more than two or three other parties in there eating when we are there, which is pretty much around noon. Sometimes, though, there are special groups in a conference-like room that is sectioned off of the main dining area.

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The food is pretty good. The cook mixes it up so that you have some sort of beef or chicken within an appropriate gravy sauce. Rice and potatoes are always available as is green salad and various garnishes. Sometimes you get a pasta dish like mac-an-cheese. You always have some good veggies and lots of bread and butter. And, because it is buffet style, you can eat your fill, which we do.

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I am not sure if our food program will continue with this single selection or if we will change later on. But for now, the Ravintola Joupiska is a good place to eat with warm, filling food.

Doubling Up

11 May 2014

It has been just over a week now that Charlie and I have been living in Seinäjoki. Time isn’t exactly going fast. I suppose you could contribute that to limited activity. We both pretty much stick to the apartment unless it is practice or a quick trip to the store to get some minimal staples on which we exist. So, we spend a lot of time in our little white-walled apartment. Here is a shot off the front and out the back window.

view-front view-outback

After being picked up up at the VR station last Thursday, we were brought to our place — Building K and number 34. I pretty much knew what we were in store for based of last year’s two apartments I experienced. I took some private solace in the fact that our apartment number was the same number that graced the back of who I personally thought was the greatest running back in the history of the NFL – Walter Payton.

This year we would be sharing a place for the first month. After the first month, we would be moving out and I presume would be getting small places of our own. Our number 34 was up on the second floor so we had to navigate a brief flight of metal stairs with our bags in order to reach it. Soon, we were standing inside the functional quarters.

The layout is such that you enter into a common area that has a small dining type table in a sort of nook, a kitchen area opposite that wrapping around a corner, and a bathroom on another side. The remaining side of the common area was occupied by the double doors leading into two separate sleeping areas.

kitchen bedroom-doors

Each “bedroom” was equipped with a wireless modem, a miniature bed, and a large view window overlooking the Seinäjoki River. The bed is just long and wide enough for you to lie down. Surprisingly, the it is quite comfortable. I noticed someone had taken the time to hang the sheet-curtains over the window, which is a tedious process as it consists of many little clips into which you have to secure what amounts to a “sheet” covering. I had randomly taken the right room and later regretted it since I discovered Charlie had dark colored sheets over his window whereas I had light ones. This would be a disadvantage during the long periods of light in the Finnish summer. I still had a full bottle of Nyquil though so that would help me adjust to the sleeping patterns for now.

bedroom workspace

One thing we had that I did not have last year was a freezer compartment below the refrigerator. That would be nice. After just a week here, we had already discovered that this freezer’s primary function was to store the cheap little ice cream treats on a stick that you could pick up at the store. There was no shortage of dairy products (mainly ice cream) in this country. In fact, I was not disappointed when we got to the VR station in Helsinki to catch the train North by the fact that literally the first person I noticed waiting for a train was a man eating a vanilla ice cream cone.

Another difference we noticed was the way the shower worked. The showers in these apartments are not like units in the states. They do not have sliding doors or steps or mini-walls for tubs. They are just the plumbing on the wall. In fairness, they do have a ring around the showering area on the ceiling that you could attach a pull curtain if you wanted some semblance of privacy… we don’t bother with that. In any case, we discovered that the way to turn on the shower is to push a button not unlike one of those faucets at a freeway rest stop. After pushing the button, you get about 30 seconds of nice warm water at good pressure. But then, the flow stops and you have to push the button again. My guess is that this is the answer to what seems to be a universal young person problem concerning turning off water once you are done. I recalled the daily occurrences at the Banks High School boys locker room after football practice when Coach Ball and I would be leaving and the last thing we would do was shut off showers that were left running. I never could understand this phenomenon as I don’t even let the water run as I brush my teeth. Apparently, this apartment complex had solved that issue.

bathroom porthole

Another characteristic I had discovered is windows that don’t open. It looked like these windows have hinges but had been forever locked. Maybe some special tool could get them open but we didn’t have access to that tool. However, we did have a small foot-by-foot square “porthole” near the door that opened. This was our only means of fresh air flow so we leave it open at all times.

Heat flows throughout the apartment by means of radiators attached to the walls. These devices work quite well and keep the place at a very comfortable level.

Lighting is adequate except for in the bathroom. There is something wrong with the light there as it flickers on and off randomly at a fairly quick frequency. That is a little annoying and makes me thankful that I am not an epileptic as I am sure it would trigger an episode.

All in all the place is functional. I wouldn’t say comfortable as the only chairs are block, wooden affairs that can get quite hard. We don’t have the means to create some nice living area that you could imagine with soft lounge chairs, TV’s, pictures hanging on the wall and so forth — which is fine. Time is take up with two things for me work and football.

Crocs 45 – TAFT 30

18 August 2013

It was June 8th the last time we played TAFT. TAFT is from the town of Vantaa and stands for Tikkurila American Football Team with Tikkurila being the Vaanta District. Back then we came out with a 27 to 13 win in “The Swamp.” Since then, TAFT had gone on a tear and had only lost two additional games (Wolverines and Roosters) to derive an identical win loss record as the Crocs at 6 and 3. If you read my last week’s blog on the state of the Maple League you would know that the Roosters have the number one playoff seed wrapped up with a perfect 9 and 0 record while TAFT, the Wolverines, and the Crocs were all sitting at 6 wins and 3 losses. Our win against the Wolverines last week locked us into the playoffs but the seeding for second or third spot was now all riding on this game against TAFT. In a nutshell, if we won this second meeting with TAFT on the road we would be seeded second for the semi-final game and get to host the game. If went to Helsinki and lost to TAFT, we would be seeded third and have to travel to Helsinki to play the number one seed Roosters. So, the game had huge financial and playoff implications for the Crocs. Kickoff was at 6PM on Sunday in Helsinki.

standings

The main concerns for our defense in this game were Kadmiry, Privott, and Tellish. Kadmiry is the only Finnish quarterback in the Maple League and also plays for the Finnish National team. He is an accurate passer with decent running abilities. Privott, is a talented American receiver with speed and an uncanny ability to reel the pass in. Tellish is an American running back whose yards come through a healthy mix of rushes and receptions. During our last game I had focused the defense entirely on stopping Privott from taking over the game. We did a good job of limiting him that game by allowing only three receptions for 45 yards. Since then, Kadmiry had been distributing his passes more evenly among his many receivers. This Sunday, I could not just focus on Privott. We had to focus on the passing game as a whole.

The week prior to this game, TAFT had suffered a blistering loss to the Wolverines with a score of 60 to 20 on national television. It was unknown as to their mental state coming off that game to face us. We had been told by TAFT after our first meeting that this final game between the Crocs and TAFT would be hyped as the big game to try and draw as many spectators as possible. This game was also being streamed live to the Internet and then broadcast delayed through television.

Toni Hanka and Scott pre-game

We loaded into the bus and were on the road at 10:45AM on Sunday. The drive was the usual with the exception that my wife, Nancy, would be making the trip with us. She had arrived in Finland the Thursday before for a three-week visit.

The weather was perfect. The sun was out and there were no raindrops in the forecast. We were playing at the ISS Stadium, which turned out to be a fantastic surface. It was field turf and in perfect condition. The only knock on the field were the goalposts. They were “created” out of two soccer goals with four-inch, PVC uprights attached to the ends. We saw this configuration in our first game against the Butchers. The results were goalposts that were too wide and crossbars that were only eight feet high instead of the regulation 10 feet. It would not be that difficult to at least stick some “Tee” joints in the four-inch PVC pipes used for the uprights so that you could create a crossbar at 10 feet.

Introductions captains

We were still a bit thin on defense with Ville Järvio out with a knee injury and our left outside linebacker, Li, out with a pulled hamstring. We did have our big Finnish National defensive tackle Janne back for the game, however. Again, these injuries had influenced our decision on which three Americans would play in today’s game. We had decided to go again with Adams the QB, Joc the running back, and Stacey the safety. This meant our defensive tackle BJ Bell from UNLV would be sitting again.

The team captains met at the center of the concrete field and the coin was flipped. We came up a winner and elected to receive. We began our first possession from our 22 yard line after being unable to return a low, skipping kickoff. The very first play from scrimmage resulted in a “slipping” Crawford picking up no gain. Three plays later we were punting.

kadmiry throw taft score

Kadmiry came out and methodically put together a 63-yard drive into our endzone. TAFT mixed up some runs with some short, effective passes. They were perfect in execution. TAFT was on the board 7 to 0.

On our second possession, we did pick up two quick first downs but then a sacked Adams stalled the drive and we were punting again, this time from our 47 yard line. We downed the ball at the TAFT 24 yard line and Kadmiry and team took the field again.

This time TAFT mounted an 11-play drive to score. Tellish ripped off some decent runs in the teens and Kadmiry hit two different receivers for key receptions before connecting with Privott for the actual scoring strike. The PAT was good to cap off another perfectly executed series of offensive plays. TAFT was playing well and were up 14 to 0 now with just 29 seconds left in the first quarter.

adams in the pocket brown td run

We started our second offensive series on our 43 yard line. Crawford knocked out a run for 10 yards and then Adams connected for some passes to get us to a third and one situation on the TAFT 26 yard line. Adams took the snap from under center and popped a quick bubble pass to the right to a waiting Rodney Brown. Brown took off and threaded the secondary with some deft running to get us into the endzone. Vili hit the PAT and we were on the board – TAFT 14 and Crocs 7.

We kicked off and TAFT began at their 41 yard line. The first play from scrimmage saw Kadmiry from an empty set take the ball up the middle. He was stripped and the ball was loose and we recovered. Croc ball on the TAFT 49 yard line.

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After a short pass completion to Makinen for six yards, Crawford rushed for 18, 23, and 2 yards to score. Vili hit the PAT and we were tied with 8:11 left in the half.

We kicked off with a short “hole” kick that is designed to allow us a shot at getting the ball. However, it was fielded by one of the TAFT second-tier players and they had the ball on the 50. Kadmiry opened with two completed passes and then they rushed the ball eight consecutive times to find the endzone. We had come into the game with a pass-minded strategy. So, the fact that TAFT could pick up medium yard runs was no surprise. The PAT was good and TAFT led 21 to 14.

The offense was back on the field after the kickoff and Crawford opened with a rush for two yards. Then, Adams found a deep Rodney Brown and connected for 45 yards to the TAFT six yard line. We failed to make progress, though, with Crawford getting dropped for a six yard loss and ended up lining up for a 26-yard field goal attempt. Vili split the makeshift PVC uprights and it was TAFT 21 and Crocs 17 with 1:30 remaining in the half.

After the kickoff, TAFT began on their own 31 yard line. With all three timeouts available, and a quarterback that could thread the needle, TAFT was able to move the ball to within field goal range. Defensively, we were employing a “loose” system to prevent a big score right before half. After spending their final timeout, TAFT lined up for 48 yard field goal, which they hit with the ball barely clearing the eight-foot crossbar. This irritated me but I had to live with it. Another thing that irritated me during this drive was a “spiked” ball from the shotgun position. I was sure this was a delay of game penalty since both the NFL and National High School Rules dictate that you can only intentionally spike the ball to stop the clock after taking a snap from under center. Later, after I got home I tried in vain to find the exact ruling on that for the NCAA, which is the set of rules the Maple League uses so I can’t definitively say the referees were wrong but I think they might have been. Regardless, the half ended with TAFT leading 24 to 17.

taft field goal taft fg signal and post shot

During the break, we gathered in the near corner of the stadium and split up into our respective groups. I waited a bit before addressing the defense. I told them that TAFT was doing nothing differently than what we expected. They were playing the same type of game they played against us back in June. We were either not playing at the same level or they were executing better. I challenged them to up the level of play and I made a few defensive personnel changes for the second half.

brown pick crawford score

We started the second half with a couple attempted kickoffs, the first going out of bounds. TAFT began on their own 37 yard line. The first play from scrimmage was an attempted out route to a receiver who was covered by Rodney in the flats. Rodney made a great positional move to get between the quarterback and the receiver and intercepted the ball. This was turnover number two and we had the ball on the TAFT 41 yard line.

Eight plays later we scored. Adams had made this a passing drive. We hit several nice medium range passes and then Crawford capped the drive with a two yard plunge. Vili hit the PAT and we were tied at 24.

goal line stop

On their next drive, TAFT got the ball to our 37 yard line on a couple passes after some failed runs. Four rushes later they were on our 17 yard line. Two more rushes gave them a first and goal situation from our six. So far, TAFT was predominately running the ball, which was a strategy I purposely chose to ignore today.

From the six yard line, they handed the ball off to Tellish who picked up a single yard. Then, they went to the air three consecutive times and we shut each pass down. It was a great goal line stand and we had the ball on our own five yard line.

The offense took the field and Crawford immediately broke a run for 32 yards to our 37 yard line. With a second down and 10, Crawford ripped another run off this time for 33 yards. The remainder of the drive involved a couple nice catches by Rodney and some short bursts from Crawford. It was a 94 yard, 10-play scoring drive when Crawford punched the ball in from the three yard line. Vili hit the PAT and we had captured the lead at 31 to 24 with 11:42 remaining in the game.

taft penalty tackling tellish

We kicked the ball deep and TAFT brought it out to their 36 yard line. TAFT continued to employ the strategy of spreading us out and then running the ball. Unfortunately, for them, this drive was laced with two separate holding penalties. So they found themselves with a third down and 22 situation on their 48 yard line. Ironically, they were forced to pass. They completed a 12 yard pass and then missed on the fourth down attempt. Another stop for our defense.

We took over on our 40 yard line. Two Crawford rushes netted 28 yards. These were followed by a 14-yard reception by Rodney and a 29-yard scoring run by Crawford. Vili added the PAT between the Home Depot uprights and the Crocs lead moved up to 38 to 24.

tackling taft

We kicked off and TAFT took the ball to their 28 yard line. They moved the ball to the 40 yard line and had a fresh set of downs. At this point the bigger defensive game plan was starting to kick in. We had gotten them into a position where they needed to start passing the ball more. From the 40, two incomplete passes and a quarterback sack forced a fourth down punt from their own 34 yard line.

The punt went out of bounds on our 41 yard line. Adams lined up the offense and handed off to Crawford who went 59 yards for the score. Vili added the PAT and it was Crocs 45 and TAFT 24.

kadmiry throwing privott catch and run

TAFT returned the ensuing kickoff to their 25 yard line. At this point in the game I started to make some substitutions in the defensive linebacker and secondary ranks. TAFT put together a good 11-play scoring drive that ate up most of the remaining game clock. The scoring play was a rollout to the right by Kadmiry that confused a bango strategy on two stacked receivers. As Kadmiry approached the line of scrimmage, he was able to flip the ball forward into the waiting arms of Privott for the score. The snap and hold were bad on the PAT and the “fire” play missed. So the score with 45 seconds to go was Crocs 45 and TAFT 30.

We took the kickoff and kneeled the ball out to end the game. We had done what we said we needed to do four weeks ago – we had “won out” and secured a home playoff game. We would be facing the pissed off and tough Wolverines next Sunday in “The Swamp.”

After some talks with the media and the Finnish National Coach, who was in attendance, we finally got off the field. A while later we were pulling out of the parking lot and starting the four hour trip home. The trip was not too bad and we arrived around 3AM. Nancy and I had not rode our bikes to the field house so we made the short mile walk back to the apartment.

Here are some links on the game:

Game statistics
Game playlist as .MP4 files you can view or download
Television broadcast
Some pictures
Broadcast highlights
Gridiron article
Article by touchdown.fi
Article from ILKKA.fi
Article from SAJL
Article from Croc site
Game day article from Croc site
More pictures

Vauhtiajot 2013

27 July 2013

Seinäjoki held their annual Vauhtiajot event over the weekend of the 27th. What this is a rock and race summer festival. They have a lot of Finnish bands arrive and play. Unlike Provinssirock, which was held earlier here this summer, Vauhtiajot has just a single, large stage on which bands perform.

Aside from the music part of the festival, Vauhtiajot has an auto component. They have races during the day a short ways out of town. Charlie and I were able to attend the music part Saturday for a while. We did not make it to the auto part because of film work on Sunday… too busy.

That day we had just finished beating the Jags on our home field, “The Swamp.” I could afford to go out a bit and celebrate. Tomorrow would bring a long day of film work, which usually consisted of about 14 hours in front of the computer. So tonight, I was going to meet Charlie at his apartment and head over to the festival.

I got there about 9:30PM and we headed over to the area where it was being held. What they did was block off a huge area in the town and that became the festival area. The gate fee is pretty expensive but I had received some complimentary tickets from my friend Jussi, who works for a local radio station here. He also provides a lot of great photos of our games. Jussi had given us two separate passes (Friday and Saturday). And, we had a VIP badge to get us into an exclusive area of the festival. Charlie and I had used them both nights. Yesterday we went for just a while to check it out. We did not stay late as it was the night before a game. We actually ran into Janne our friend who owns the music store. He and his wife were there along with some other friends, one of which was an ex-Crocodile lineman that I had a great time visiting with. I had had dinner with Janne and the lineman’s brother on the evening that we went to Provinssirock.

We walked the short few blocks through the heart of town to get to the festival. You could tell as you neared it as there were more and more people loitering about on the edges of the buildings and walking about in the street. I could tell this was not a small event. You could hear the throbbing bass from the current band’s performance. The night was perfect… no rain, no coat, and it was still light.

Eventually, we got to the entrance. It was standard stuff here. Queue it up and get frisked at a security checkpoint and then you are in. We by-passed the lines where you pay to get in as we had our passes.

entry

Once inside we experienced a wad of people that were slowly moving down toward the stage area. To the right and left of the wide street we were on were vendors selling mainly beer. Some were selling food items but it was mostly beer tents. We kept moving down toward the VIP area that we had briefly visited Friday night. Before going in we stopped and listened to the current band for a while. Don’t ask me their name but I was assured later that all the bands were well-known in Finland.

stage

We decided to go into the VIP area. This area was a roped off affair that was virtually identical to the common man’s area except for a few tables set out along the edge. Other than that, it was the same. You had the same mix of wasted people in there, just as many guys in double-arm locks being escorted out, and the same six Euro beers. I am not quite sure where the Very Important Person part came in. But then… we discovered it. I spotted a familiar face cutting through the crowd. She was moving with purpose and drinks in hand. A slender cigar was between her lips and her sights were locked on Grezgorz (or as I call him Gregory), who was a short ways away in the crowd. The woman’s name was Katja. I have mentioned them both once or twice in previous blogs. I first met Gregory and Kat at the Crocodile season kickoff party. Gregory is orginally from Poland. He has been in Finland for five years. One of the nicest guys I have met. Kat is his girlfriend and very friendly and funny. Two of my favorite people that I have met while here in Finland.

Charlie and I got a couple of beers and headed over to say hi and hang some with Gregory and their gang. They had Maria (Kats sister) there. Equally entertaining and funny. I knew we were in for a kick this evening.

Greg Charlie Kat Greg Kat Scott

We spent about 2 hours there just hanging out and drinking and laughing. There were various people that popped in and out of the circle that Gregory introduced Charlie and I to. We would visit a bit and I would try my best to understand the questions with the rock music going in the background and the Suomi accents. One guy was impossible to understand. Charlie could not get a single word figured out from him as well.

Finally, around midnight, we decided to head over to Karma, a local club. We said our goodbyes and exited the festival.

Karma was jammed. We hung out for about an hour with several of the Crocodile players in various stages of celebration. At about 1:30 I needed to get to bed. I had a long day of film work ahead of me tomorrow. So, I got onto the bike and rode back to the apartment in the modest somewhat dark Finnish morning.