OK, you will have to indulge me today, as I’m going a little off topic.
Well today, as I passed through the wrought iron gate of Parc Monceau http://www.visualtravelguide.org/medium/France-Paris-8eme-Arrondissement-Parc-Monceau.html with my two girls, Carole, age 5 and Evelyn, age 2, for the last time, I’m not ashamed to say that I teared up. It’s amazing how time flies. When I arrived in Paris almost 5 years ago Carole was all of 3 months old. Now she’s a little bilingual girl running around with her little French friends while her little sister tags along trying to keep up. My wife and I even have to remind our daughters that they’re Americans. A small problem that doesn’t overly concern me and should be fixed soon. Needless to say, even if it was not the most beautiful city in the world I will always have fond memories of Paris, because in my mind it will forever be the place where my daughters are under 6 years old.
Handball and sports wise it has also been a quite a journey. When I arrived my knowledge of French and European Handball was pretty much limited to Jackson Richardson and other aging stars that I had seen play back at the World Championships in 1993. I had no clue as to the organization of club handball, let alone what the top clubs were. What an education, as I slowly, but surely, developed new favorite teams http://teamhandball.blogspot.com/search?q=montpellier to replace the Yankees and the Lakers. Not to mention the experience of seeing the World Championships in person in Germany. And it’s been more then a viewing experience as I played 1 year of handball http://www.lsc-handball.com/ and 4 years of basketball http://www.levallois-basket.com/asp/zon_html/htm_vie.asp?htmid=3369 . Quite simply these well structured and organized leagues put adult recreational sports in the US to shame.
But, all good things must come to an end. La famille Ryan will take a long pause for one last grand European vacation through Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Corsica and the south of France, but then we’re getting on a jet plane for a new life in Las Vegas. I can already hear Carole, saying “C’est trop chaud” (It’s too hot) and “this bread isn’t any good.” Sorry, Carole there’s not a bakery on every street corner in Vegas. Convenience stores and slot machines maybe, but finding a fresh baguette will be a challenge.
And what about me? I’m going from the heart of the Handball World to a Handball Desert. To the best of my knowledge the sport has never even been played in Las Vegas. It’s safe to say that I won’t be subscribing to Eurosport and Sport Plus with my cable company there. Will I even care 6 months from now if Ivry can beat Montpellier for the title in France? Will I care if Kiel can repeat their Champions League title? Will I care whether the Spanish clubs get their revenge next year? The answer of course is HELL YES. And god willing, expanded TV viewing options in the US will soon make it possible for a growing base of fans to do the same.
So, what can be learned from this little homage to France? Well, for young players out there who are contemplating the pros and cons of playing in a foreign country, all I can say is that you’d be foolish to pass up the opportunity. Not only will you become a better player, you will be exposed to a different culture and the inevitable learning and enriching experience it will be. Pack your bags and spread your wings. Trust me; you’ll be glad you did.
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