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BALDINGER: My NFL Europe travel guide

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Brian Baldinger

 
   
 
This is my seventh season of broadcasting games for NFL Europe, and I've loved every minute of it. It's a refreshing league, a breath of fresh air that gets me extra excited for the NFL season. It has kind of a college atmosphere, with the players living together decently (not outlandishly) in dormitories. The players have none of the attitudes and other stuff that you get sometimes in the NFL. Everyone is paid the same, so there's no talk about money and salaries. It's all about the purity of the sport, and that's fun to be around. The other great thing is traveling to each of the home cities of NFL Europe and partaking in the lifestyles of the locals. Of course, there is a universal motto for our productions crews in Europe: Whatever happens in Europe stays in Europe. But which city ranks as the best in my world? Let's break it down as I would break down a 3-4 defense. For each of the NFL Europe cities — Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Frankfurt, Glasgow (Scottish Claymores), Düsseldorf (Rhein Fire) — I will rank them one through six, awarding six points to the first-place city, five to the second-place city, etc. We'll keep it simple, this ain't calculus. I'm ranking the cities in six very important categories: Food, Sight-seeing, Nightlife/Temptation, People/Vibe, Football Passion, and of course, Women. I know my demographics.

Food

The best restaurant in all of NFL Europe is the Steiner Haus in Frankfurt. The whole concept is beautiful. They will give you your meat like you're a caveman. They give you a hunk of red meat and put in on a hot stone. You grab some utensils, let it burn and watch it change colors — then it's medium rare, well done or whatever you decide to do. Then just tear it up with your teeth. It's tougher than it sounds too, because you've got your meat plus shrimp on the stone, and don't forget your own potatoes and asparagus, too. On top of that, you're pounding quart-sized beers and that can make you lose your attention. You can't have attention deficit disorder if your meat is on a stone; you have to be on top of it. You can never have a Steiner Haus in the U.S. because we have too many lawyers. All it takes is one lady to burn her finger on the stone and the restaurant is shut down. But in Germany, everybody is drinking beers and if you burn your finger, that's just another reason to drink more beer. Got to go to Barcelona next for food ... plus for any reason. Go to Barcelona to pick olives, you know? Just go to Barcelona. You've got a couple great choices there. You can go to La Venta, which is high on a hill overlooking the city. And you have to be patient, because they may just stop serving for any reason for an hour or two — it may be midnight and they feel like taking a rest — then there isn't a waiter to order from. But it doesn't matter because you're in Barcelona and you're drinking some cava. Düsseldorf ranks third in grub. When in Düsseldorf you have to go to Schiffshinn, which is pure German food. It's schnitzel, it's weiner schnitzel, it's pork knuckles, it's anything to do with the pig. Big pig factor. Grab some fat, throw something on it and cover with hot mustard. What I love about the place is the excellent service. You've got beer for the table by the time last person at the table sits down. The fun part is that the waiters have huge beer-balls that are shaped like kegs, then they will drink with you. They will toast you. Those guys can be seen waiting on the pig knuckles to come out while drinking a beer. I can eat schnitzel with every meal. I love eggs on schnitzel. For dessert is apple strudel with cinnamon. If someone can help you up then you got to walk around the Alstadt, German-style. I know there is a restaurant in Berlin ... at least that's what I hear. Berlin is a pretty international city with no highways, so there is no easy way to get from anywhere in that city. I know there are a couple good restaurants there, but we haven't gotten to them because we didn't feel like taking another road trip to find it. So in Berlin just give me a hotdog and some French fries and I will call it a night.
BALDY RANKINGS: Food
1. Frankfurt — 6 points
2. Barcelona — 5 points
3. Rhein — 4 points
4. Berlin — 3 points
5. Amsterdam — 2 points
6. Scotland — 1 point
In Amsterdam, the Dutch are pretty cool. You can't go wrong there. The service is slow though. You're going to wait a long time in Holland. Scotland is rough. The women in Scotland, by the time they get married, have got to be able to prepare potatoes in seven different ways. You're going to eat potatoes with every meal. They will be disguised, fried, German, Au Gratin, stuffed, baked, mashed, etc. You will have potatoes with every meal.

Sightseeing

Since we're playing to the FOX demographic, Number One has to be Barcelona. I don't know of any real men who don't like beautiful girls, and that means you have to go to Barcelona. I don't care what your energy level or age is; Barcelona is a beautiful city. It's on the Mediterranean, with Antonio Gaudi everywhere. It's all about Gaudi architecture there. The beaches are extravagant and unbelievably well maintained, and there is always action there, action all night. It's a lively place. A strong Number Two is Scotland for the most amazing golf in the world. Glasgow is a small airport, but every time you go downstairs to get your luggage there is nothing but golf bags on the luggage rack. The only thing coming out of the shoot is clubs. You can't play golf in Scotland without a caddie. All those courses require caddies, and that's the reason you play fast there because they will find your lost ball. You can't even keep score, so I keep score by how many balls I lost — but you don't lose any balls there. The other thing is you have to be prepared to play in all the elements — and I don't care if the rain is coming down sideways. Those caddies will tell you, "This is why you come here to play. This is perfect weather." No matter the weather, you're going on to the next hole. Amsterdam is gorgeous too, with the famous Amsterdam Canals and, ahem, "window-shopping." No place in the world has window-shopping quite like Amsterdam. Berlin is the most historic NFL Europe city. That's where the famous Berlin Wall was and the Brandenberg Gate. They still have buildings that were bombed in World War II that still are bombed. They are reminders that we probably shouldn't have any more World Wars.
BALDY RANKINGS: Sightseeing
1. Barcelona — 6 points
2. Scotland — 5 points
3. Amsterdam — 4 points
4. Berlin — 3 points
5. Rhein — 2 points
6. Frankfurt — 1 point
Düsseldorf is on the Rhein River. It was developed nicely, and is a nice city. The only reason to go to Frankfurt is to change planes. It is a big busy airport. Everyone is there to get to Italy or the Mediterranean or some other point south.

Nightlife/tempation

It's a big battle for the top spot, but I give it to Barcelona. Their saying in Spain is "You have to kill the night" meaning there is no turning in at 2 or 3 a.m. When the sun comes up, you're allowed to go back to your room. And forget about getting breakfast in Spain on a Saturday or Sunday morning — there isn't anyone serving it, so you're on your own. They are still getting their coffee, doughnuts and whiskey outside the clubs at six o'clock in the morning. They're not eating dinner until midnight. I kind of like the siesta thing and they seem to take their time with their meals, too. But the nightlife is "all night." Amsterdam is a close second. It's legendary for their liberalism. — what they allow everybody to see. Barney's in New York doesn't have anything on window displays out in Amsterdam. Then you've got to go to Berlin. Berlin has been on the cutting edge of disco techs for a long time. There is a lot to choose from there. The people of Scotland are so beautiful and so much fun, that to sit there on your third pint and try to understand and believe that the person talking to you is actually speaking English is amazing. You're thinking, "I know that's English, I heard a word that's English," but you'll swear with that accent and the beer that you are on foreign turf. You need an interpreter with a real Scottish person. I love that accent though. The first time you hear it, you swear you don't understand any of it. But after the second and third times, you fall love with it. By the fourth time, you start imitating it.
BALDY RANKINGS: Nightlife/temptation
1. Barcelona — 6 points
2. Amsterdam — 5 points
3. Berlin — 4 points
4. Scotland — 3 points
5. Rhein — 2 points
6. Frankfurt — 1 point
Düsseldorf is not a bad-looking town that has a lot of fashionable women, but they come in fifth in sight-seeing. As far as Frankfurt, just change planes. It's a banking town with too many suits, and too many bad, stiff ties.

People/vibe

Go to Scotland first. Those people just don't know how to be un-friendly, unless it's just between Edinburgh and Glasgow. But there is no bad American sentiment in Glasgow. They see a big American football player and they want to go drink with him and break that person down. The Dutch in Amsterdam are the most liberal people in the world. They don't care about race, color or religion; they don't see it and they don't judge it. It's kind of refreshing that they will let anybody in their country. They are just nice people. I haven't had any problems in Barcelona. Those people are just having fun. They are just having a good time. Life on the Mediterranean is a good life, good quality life, and they all know it. What's to complain about? They speak a little bit more English in Berlin. It's a little more cosmopolitan and a little more international. The girls are pretty good-looking there.
BALDY RANKINGS: People/vibe
1. Scotland — 6 points
2. Amsterdam — 5 points
3. Barcelona — 4 points
4. Berlin — 3 points
5. Rhein — 2 points
6. Frankfurt — 1 point
Then you go to Düsseldorf. The old city attracts a fun crowd. Then there's that other town that we keep giving sixth-places to. When we were based in Frankfurt one year, we had an agreement. We said to each other we had a German mark reserved for anyone that smiled. Well, we never gave any of them away.

Football passion

Here's where Frankfurt comes in at Number One. Their passion for football is more then just a party; they love that sport. But Düsseldorf is 1A. The rivalry they share with Frankfurt is as strong as any rivalry in the U.S. Obviously it does not have the same history of Army-Navy. But its intensity rivals those like Duke-UNC, UCLA-USC — you name the rivalry and it's right there. Plus I love their sayings. Deke Cooper is the strong safety for the Rhein Fire and he leads his league in interceptions, so the Rhein fans call him the "Lord of the Interceptor." He told me he went to Notre Dame, but Notre Dame at their best could never come close to what these guys have done with the fans and their involvement. Scotland doesn't draw as well, but those who go to the game are rabid and loyal. Just like golf, it doesn't matter what the weather is, what the conditions are, or what the team is doing, they don't care — they are showing up. There are no bandwagon fans in Scotland. They are fun, true-blue fans. Amsterdam has a fun arena to come to, and the fans get loud. Plus, there are always pretty girls at the games. Berlin citizens are not real big sports fans. Maybe it's the place they play in. They are almost like a wine and cheese crowd — almost like fans.
BALDY RANKINGS: Football passion
1. Frankfurt — 5.5 points
1a. Rhein — 5.5 points
3. Scotland — 4 points
4. Amsterdam — 3 points
5. Berlin — 2 points
6. Barcelona — 1 point
In Barcelona, if they are in the sun they can be pretty good fans. But if the sun goes away or the game gets late, they can lose interest. It's all about the sun in Barcelona, wherever the sun is. If the sun is on the beach, that's where they are. If the sun is in the stadium, then they will sit in the section. They are strictly there for the rays.

Women

Barcelona is Number One, period. Everything about the women is Number One, the sexuality, sensuality, the look, the dress, the genetic gene pool — forget it. Amsterdam women (not even including the "mannequins" in the windows) definitely represent. Berlin is third. I have never NOT seen beautiful girls working at the stadium. Good looking girls are there serving drinks every game. They don't even know that they are so good looking. But I know. Scottish girls are fun, so much fun that I put them in fourth. They will drink YOU under the table, and then take YOU home. They are unbelievable.
BALDY RANKINGS: Women
1. Barcelona — 5.5 points
2. Amsterdam — 5.5 points
3. Berlin — 4 points
4. Scotland — 3 points
5. Rhein — 2 points
6. Frankfurt — 1 point
Düsseldorf does pretty well, but behind the others ... I'll keep them at fifth. And then there's Frankfurt ... what's the next category again? Actually, that should be enough. Now let's check our complicated FOXSports.com Euro-City Ranking Formula for a winner:
BALDY RANKINGS (points shown)
Team Food Sights Nightlife People Football Women TOTAL
Barcelona 5 6 6 4 1 6 28
Amsterdam 2 4 5 5 3 5 24
Scotland 1 5 3 6 4 3 22
Berlin 3 3 4 3 2 4 19
Rhein 4 2 2 2 5.5 2 17.5
Frankfurt 6 1 1 1 5.5 1 15.5

There you have it, Barcelona takes the crown of Baldy's Best NFL Europe City on the strength of three first-place rankings (Sight-seeing, Nightlife, Ladies). Amsterdam is a strong second, and I love Scotland's solid third-place finish.

Notice that the three German cities are ranked 4-5-6. Frankfurt has good food and loves their football, so go there to see a game and eat dinner, then get out as fast as you can.

Of course, the "Phantom City" that I keep pushing Commissioner Paul Tagliabue for is Milan. When Milan comes into the league, they automatically win every category. Either Milan or Rome automatically wins every category. But Rome will probably come in when L.A. joins the NFL. This Saturday on FOX, Brian Baldinger will call World Bowl XI from Scotland along with his backpacking buddy, .

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