Thor’s Weekend Warriors
An Introduction to Vienna’s American Football Team
Many people don’t realize there have ever been Vikings in Vienna. Some people would even go as far as to say they are just a myth.
They do in fact exist. They wear helmets with horns on them (two dimensional that is) and when in formation, look as though they could raid a ship of any size. They are tall and athletic, some large enough to lift a smaller Japanese automobile with no effort. The thing that really sets these men apart from the Nordic pirates: they play American football.
Sitting on the sidelines during practice, you’ll most likely hear English as the most frequently spoken language. Don’t let this fool you: Most of the players on the team are Austrian; there are only nine who are from other countries, including, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany, Great Britain, Poland, and the United States. Such a mixed batch of nationalities (that might even cause problems in any other setting) is no barrier to team spirit. It does reflect the mobility of the players’ lives, all of whom are amateurs with other professions that can take them out of action.
"At the end of last season we lost four of our (Austrian) starters, so right now we’re trying to work on our offensive timing to work the new guys in," explained ex-Vikings quarterback and new head coach Chris Calaycay, a thirty-one year old U.S. native of Oregon, at one of the pre-season practices. "We need to make sure the chemistry is right." With the Austrian Cup in their sights and the clock ticking, time is the enemy.
A little way away, another enthusiast, David Micka, had come by to see how the team was shaping up.
"The record from last season was very impressive - 12 wins, 2 losses," Micka said. "They seem to still know the steps, they just need to match the partners and do the dance." With practice outdoors from seven-thirty to nine-thirty at night in the middle of February, the team was still enthusiastic and moving at full speed.
"I would equate these men to the long distance runners, who train in Africa at high altitudes by running up mountains," Micka said laughing.
In the late evening, under the floodlights hoisted high on poles, the team is working on running plays. The huddle is a short one, it is the offensive line’s meeting and they already know the play. The ball is snapped and the play starts; the line backers block the opposition’s defense for the tight end to snatch the ball and run for a touchdown. Just when the defensive line reaches him, they realize that he doesn’t have the ball. Instead, the quarterback passed the ball to a wide receiver, who has already made his way past all of the defensive linesmen for a touchdown.
Less than two minutes later, all the players reconvene at the line of scrimmage for another run through. They practice the same play many times to ensure that they know each move, then switch to another, and practice that one.
There seems to be a good sense of team spirit, and emotions run high, although rarely negative. Instead when a player trips up, the whole team goes back to the start, and runs the whole play again in order to perfect the play.
There’s a lot going on the field. The players, old and new, are quick on their feet, and can hold a line, keeping the opposition from breaking through and tackling the quarterback.
"It will be very interesting to see how this year’s team will compare to last years," said Micka. "Even though they lost so many starters, Viking fans could be pleasantly surprised this season"
The first pre-season game is scheduled for Mar. 15 against Grifoni Belluno, a team from Aviano Italy.
"We wanted to have a preseason game that would help condition us," explained Calaycay. "We didn’t want our first game to be against the New York Giants (This seasons national Football League Superbowl winner, and the ultimate opponent), but we want to play a team that would challenge our skills." Of course the New York Giants are not on this year’s schedule. But one can always dream.
With the first game of the regular season approaching quickly, (Mar. 29) the Vikings will be taking every practice seriously, to smooth the transition of the new players into the already established playbook.
"Once they are able to be united and play as one unit," said Micka, "they will be unstoppable."