Victorious Return from a Lengthy Weekend


Smiles…thumbs-up…whatever you got to indicate pleasure with the weekend, we have it.

As I boasted on Twitter, Saturday was my birthday. My wife and older son teamed up to make breakfast for me on my day, making a Czech dish my grandmother made occasionally when I was a kid. Ovocne Knedlicky is essentially fruit-filled boiled dumplings, which probably is good enough, but when you top them with cottage cheese and cinnamon-sugar, it’s simple greatness. Though, I’ll admit that some of it is necessarily nostalgia, I know I have a fondness for cheese and fruit together, so it has some solid standalone credentials as an amazing treat.

Though, I’m not sure it’s a legitimate breakfast item on days that are not my birthday, even with the fruit component.

Watching my son help make these was almost as good as eating them. Almost…

Later that day, the boys went to stay with my in-laws so we could go out to dinner and a movie for the first time in…a while. At least since our younger son was born nearly ten months ago. Yow!

Poppy, if you’re ever in Seattle, is a lovely place to have dinner, even if they slightly overcook your salmon, by the way.

Got to see “The World’s End,” which seemed tailored for my personal sense of humor as well as taste in music, as far as the soundtrack is concerned.

Essentially, it was a good day.

If you bothered to check the 1. FC Köln schedule from last season, you’d see that on the morning of my birthday (Pacific Standard Time), the Effzeh false start did not turn around as a nice gift to me. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the home team failed to even score a goal, extending the season-opening run of NO GOALS to four matches.

I don’t really count scores on penalty kicks. I accept them as a necessary evil, but it’s simply not the same.

So, while I had a great birthday this year, completely unmarred by sports-related sadness, I admittedly was still looking forward to Sunday’s match as having the potential to be the finishing touch to my celebrations.

As you know, it was not even a little disappointing.

The Yannick Gerhardt goal was simply perfect for me. You have a promising young player earning his first goal early in a match that would finish with the Effzeh in the promotion area should they win. Plus, I loved seeing Slawomir Peszko figure in the opening score before decisively heading home the final nail in Aue’s coffin.

Peszko tug

Great play as long as you don’t get busted for it.

If you know my background as a fan, you know I’m a relative newcomer to the club, but have fallen hard for 1. FC Köln over the last year and change. But, the start of it was a few years ago, when Peszko was a regular in the squad. I didn’t follow the club much more than watching the occasional match back in the 2010-11 season when I first realized I could pay attention to German football thanks to the internet. The following season was when I first started to recognize players from week to week. As I started to take note of particular players and teams, Peszko was among the gang of Podolski, Novakovic, Geromel, Lanig, and Jajalo that caught my eye on my way to finding myself a club to support, though I still wasn’t really that in tune with the off-field happenings, such as drunk-driving charges.

Hence, I have a soft spot for him. I don’t think I realized it until the FC-TV announcer said his name among the starters.

As I was away from the internet for most of what was a five-day weekend for me, I don’t know whether it was discussed or not, but I was going NUTS when I saw on the replay how Peszko tugged on the arm of Tobias Nickenig, which put just enough of a stutter into his run to get a boot in front of the ball that the shot went perfectly into the net.

Obviously, it’s impossible to say Pesko knew he was making just the right amount of a pull to get away with it, just as it’s impossible to know what happens to that ball if he does not get a hand on the defender, just as it’s impossible to say how the match would have run differently from that point on had it resulted in nothing more than, say, a goal kick.

I DO feel safe in saying that our beloved club was clearly the better of the two on the pitch, as well as that the early lead definitely seemed to give a boost to everyone not wearing purple.

All of which is to say, it was simply a perfect moment. I had a great feeling right then and there that the match would result in three points and a surge up the table, thanks to a remarkable weekend of results favoring Stöger’s still-undefeated group.

I only just now updated my Stecktabelle to put Hennes in the third slot, which means I’ve been savoring the result for a few days now. I suppose it’s time to turn the page on that, but with the international break in full effect, you’ll have to excuse me if I let it linger a bit longer than what might otherwise be reasonable.

Plus, Patrick Helmes!

I realize this is not as simply positive for many as it is for me. Again, being a relative newcomer, I don’t have any long-lingering emotional ties to past career decisions of Helmes. In fact, I was blissfully unaware he had ever played for the club until earlier in the transfer window. I didn’t realize he’d moved to Leverkusen, at all, until I watched a video on FC-TV.

Without translating all this, let’s just say some Effzeh fans were not shy in voicing their displeasure with Helmes’ move to the Pill Poppers.

While I would never call anyone a “son of a whore,” much less have it proclaimed on giant banners sure to be seen my that person, I can somewhat identify with the feelings fans might have toward a star player leaving for a rival club. I mean, if Matthew Stafford left for the Minnesota Vikings, I’d be pretty sour. Pavel Datsyuk to the Chicago Blackhawks or Miguel Cabrera to the Cleveland Indians? Same.

Except, our rivalries in American professional sports simply don’t carry the weight of some I have witnessed in the Bundesliga, even from afar. For that matter, it’s the same with general support, to be honest. Our relationship to franchises here are much more business-to-customer than club-to-member, even definitively. Of course, players who leave their teams here get differing degrees of disdain from their former fan base (LeBron James, anyone?), but it’s simply not the same.

Anyhow, back in the 2011-12 campaign, I was completely floored by just how not annoyed at Lukas Podolski the collective fan base was when it was clear he was looking to move to England and, ultimately, achieved it. Now that I’ve been reading a lot of opinions on Helmes’ return, I’m equally shocked. While the Leverkusen element is certainly a part of it, I’m not sure I can completely grasp why one guy remains a hero and the other a heel.

I guess I’m fortunate enough to be able to appreciate him as simply a new player, especially since he comes with a great pedigree. The others holding onto a grudge even now…well, he’s going to be suiting up for your club and likely contributing, so it might be best to find a way to get past it.

Thanks to any and all who wished me well for my birthday. It was great. Thanks also to everyone at 1. FC Köln who, unbeknownst to them, delivered a slightly late birthday present that continues to bring smiles several days later.

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