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The NFL has even begun to talk about a game in Moscow, and Rams' owner Georgia Frontiere said she will volunteer her team for that assignment, too. Said Ram linebacker Frank Stams, "Get drafted by the Rams and see the world."
Tagliabue said that teams are now fighting for the chance to go overseas. Said Kansas City head coach Marty Schottenheimer: "My guys are asking me if we can come to Berlin every year. I have a feeling, though, that having no curfew has something to do with that."
Even though Los Angeles is Berlin's sister city, the Chiefs could have claimed to be the true home team. Kansas City's John Alt, an offensive tackle, and place-kicker Nick Lowery, the NFL's alltime field goal-kicking percentage leader, were born in Stuttgart and Munich, respectively. Alt was two months old when his parents—his father was in the U.S. Army, and his mother was from Stuttgart—moved to the States. Lowery's father, Sidney, worked for the CIA in Munich and later in Bonn, so Nick had two separate stints in West Germany before pro football allowed him to bring his parents back with him.
Another Chief, quarterback Mike Elkins, wasn't the first member of his family to play football in Olympic Stadium. In 1946, his father, Jack, then an Army sergeant stationed in Germany, played offensive and defensive end on the Continental Base Section team that defeated the Berlin Command 14-12 in the European championship. "It's extraordinary to see the changes," said the elder Elkins, who came from Greensboro, N.C., to Berlin for last week's game.
So much has happened in such a short time in Berlin. Schottenheimer, whose grandfather is from Gelsenkirchen, near D�sseldorf, said, "The events of the past year didn't hit home to me until I visited what was left of the Wall the other day. There were crosses there to commemorate people who had died trying to escape from the East to the West, with dates, and one of the dates was in 1989. It was unsettling to think how close that person had come to freedom."
While the trip was a great learning experience for many of the players, it was also something of an education for the Germans. Said Irv Pankey, the 134-kilogram (295-pound) offensive tackle for the Rams, "We'd be walking down the streets and people would be staring at us like we were some sorts of monsters. But then we'd smile and say, 'How ya doin'?' and suddenly we weren't monsters anymore. We were people."
The significance of recent events in Berlin made the ordinary tasks of preseason—getting in tune and winning jobs—seem trivial, but the Rams and Chiefs did get some work done. On three of the six days they practiced, they also scrimmaged one another, and scrimmages against unfamiliar opponents are particularly useful at this stage of the season.
Most of the afternoons and evenings were free for extracurricular activities. On Tuesday evening the Chiefs rented out a huge boat that took the team along the Havel River to Potsdam. On Wednesday afternoon local German amateur football teams were invited to a clinic run by Ram defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur. (Belying his name, Shurmur is not German. "I'm Polish, Irish and English," he says.)
Thursday night the kickers and punters from the Chiefs and Rams were invited to participate in a kicking contest at halftime of a soccer game between Hertha of Berlin and St. Pauli from Hamburg. What they didn't know, though, was that they were participating in a frog-kicking contest. No, they did not kick frogs, nor did they do the frog kick. From about 10 meters away they had to kick a soccer ball at a huge plaster Frosch (frog), a symbol for both the Hertha fans and a new radio station in town. If a kicker hit the frog, 200 deutsche marks was donated to youth soccer by the radio station.
On Friday the commissioner and several players visited the Wall, or that part that hasn't been chipped away and sold for souvenirs. Berlin was also a nice public relations showcase for Tagliabue, who has more of a common touch than did his predecessor, Pete Rozelle. He freely chatted with Pankey, Ram guard Duval Love and the Chiefs' star running back, Christian Okoye. At one point, Tagliabue asked Pankey where he went to school. Pankey replied Penn State, and Tagliabue said, "Oh, your coach taught you a little about values, didn't he?" "I'm learning some values this week, too," Pankey said.