FIU Football: Our Polish Correspondent Invades the Pizza Bowl

Who says an alt-weekly's blog can't have a foreign correspondent? Meet Jacek Urbanczyk, Poland-based sports journalist and Riptide's stringer for the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit, between the University of Toledo and our very own Florida International University.

He's apparently in Detroit to drum up enthusiasm for the Polish American Football League. His prose is being translated for us by Polish-American broadcaster Raymond Rolak, who told us by way of introduction to Urbanczyk's writing style: "Everything is wonderous [sic] for him."

Without further ado, the first of Urbanczyk's "Postcards from Detroit", in which he marvels at obscure historical football facts and declares solemnly: "I went to the Hockeytown Café and it is like a sports museum." Seriously, with this level of excitement for a sports bar, can you imagine his game-day missives come Sunday?


This will be my first time in Detroit. I am observing the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl to consult for the fledgling Polish League of American Football. Both teams, the University of Toledo and Florida International University seem fully happy to be playing in Detroit. The December 26th game will showcase Detroit nicely. A Super Bowl was played at Ford Field just a few years ago.

I have learned so much football history. The travels of a Division I football program resemble a military campaign. Who knew Wayne State University was a charter member of the Mid-American Conference in 1947? Who knew that the NFL great Frank Gatski, a Marshall standout played for the Detroit Lions? I was impressed to learn about sports broadcaster Ernie Harwell and the collective works of baseball manager Sparky Anderson. Both passed this year.

At a kickoff luncheon, FIU coach Mario Cristobal said, "I don't smile a lot but as you can see from my smiles today, we are so happy to be here in Detroit. Our guys did the work last summer in the weight room to get here." This will be the first Bowl game for FIU and Cristobal was Sun Belt Conference, Coach of the Year.

Toledo has sophomore wide receiver Eric Page as an instant scoring threat. Besides receiving, he is dangerous on returns. Page had 94 receptions on the season. Florida International had the Sun Belt Player of the Year in T.Y. Hilton. The junior wide-receiver is a scoring machine with 26 career touchdowns. Both of these players are big time and instant scoring threats. Each team has impact linebackers. As in Formula-One Motor Sports both programs have high octane offensives.

I will be immersed in football experiences and participating in the whole Bowl week festivities. Bowl games are a reward for the NCAA players and the activities are all about enriching their spirit and entertaining them. The games are about celebrating the season's success. I cannot comment enough how very festive the atmosphere is. I went to the Hockeytown Café and it is like a sports museum. This is a not to miss watering hole and eatery close to the Detroit stadium.

I am being hosted by veteran sports broadcaster Raymond Rolak. He is past chairman of the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. He recently returned from Hawaii after appearing in a cinema production. He covered the last World Bowl in Frankfurt for his news agency. He has a football pedigree encompassing coaching, broadcasting, teaching the game and marketing.

Rolak and Ken Hoffman, the longtime Exec. Director of the LCPB have provided me with unprecedented access to report to Europe about the Bowl Week and the American college football experience. Don Canham, the former Director of Athletics at the University of Michigan said a long time ago, "Bring mother to the game and the whole family will come."

A new Bowl attraction is the pre game Pizza Party at adjacent Comerica Park. That is where the Detroit Tigers play. Youth baseball in Poland is getting more popular. Just to look at the major league diamond with a some snow on the field is a novel attraction. I was told it is a value added event for students and families.

Also, team members will serve Christmas morning breakfast at the Masonic Temple to those in need. The Bowl has partnered up with the Salvation Army. Hoffman said this year's charity partner is Make-A-Wish. The team and travel parties will even have a lunch at the Detroit Institute of Arts, an international cultural destination. "Besides the game, the whole Bowl experience is about enriching the players. This has become a signature event for Detroit," said Hoffman.

-- Jacek Urbanczyk

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Gus Garcia-Roberts