Prior to the Western Maryland College football team's historic visitto Russia, freshman running back Bryan Stiff said he looked forward to seeing their way of life.
As the Green Terrors returned home Friday, the 18-year-old North Carroll grad has a new appreciation of our way of doing things.
"It was quite a culture shock," Stiff said.
"It's a whole different world; seeing their way of life was really something. Talking to the (Russian) people, they are optimistic about the changes, but right now it's totally different for them. In the past, they were givenfood, now they have to fight for it."
"I missed a lot of the things we take for granted here, including not having to worry about finding my next meal."
Western Maryland coach Dale Sprague added: "Yousee a lot of fear and a lot of hope in their eyes. They have freedomnow, but they're not quite sure how to use it."
The highlight of the six-day trip was without question the football game, as the visiting Americans soundly defeated the group of Russian all-stars, 47-7.
"The most memorable moment came before they game when they played both national anthems -- ours and their new one -- and lifted both flags," Sprague said.
"I lost it; there was a great deal of emotion."
As for the Russian effort on the field, Sprague says they have along way to go.
"I would say they are about as good as a poor high school team, and I'm not saying that in a negative way," Sprague said. "They just dramatically lack basic, fundamental skills. We spent 45 minutes teaching tackling, repetition after repetition. They simply need more American coaches over there."
The Green Terrors did asmuch as they could to share the sport with their Russian counterparts. One major obstacle throughout the stay was the language barrier.
"We made some strides," Sprague said.
"We had to have interpreters throughout, and they had no understanding of normal football jargon. It was funny because we would say a common football phrase and theinterpreters would just laugh."
Stiff, who carried the ball twicefor 10 yards, was a little more optimistic of the Russians' progresswith the game. He thought the Russian touchdown, which came in the final series, would give them a lift.
"I thought the game went verywell," he said.
"I was surprised they knew as much as they did. With a little more technique, they're gonna be a good team. They had alot of size and strength."
Stiff enjoyed the experience, saying it "was a nice place, but I wouldn't want to live there." He characterized Moscow with much the same detail as the other players visiting.
"It's very dull and morbid," he said.
"I was fascinated with architecture of the churches; they were about the only thing with any color."
Russian flags, pins, military uniforms and vodka came home with the team and will be reminders of the experience that gave them all a better understanding of a totally different way of life.