By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
Florian Larose is not a world traveler. The 23-year-old from Paris, France, had never been to Birmingham – England or Alabama.
He’s in the middle of his first trip to the United States, in the Magic City to compete in flag football in The World Games 2022 (TWG 2022).
And he has liked what he has seen.
“Everything is bigger than in France. Everything,” he said. “It’s green and it’s beautiful. We heard it’s hot. It’s hotter than in France. But it’s great. I love it.”
Whether they traveled across a neighboring state line, across the country or across an ocean, many of the persons who have come to town for TWG 2022 are making their first visits to Alabama in general and Birmingham in particular.
Conversations with those first-timers have yielded glowing assessments of the metro area and its people.
Peter Mills, who is from Portsmouth, England in the United Kingdom, was taken aback when asked if he had noticed the hot temperatures in Birmingham, which hovered around the 100-degrees mark as the competitions began.
“Are you joking?” he said with a laugh. “Of course, we have. Yes, it’s very, very hot. But it’s OK.”
Mills, who took in lacrosse action at UAB’s PNC Field, said there’s no confusing Birmingham, England, for Birmingham, Ala. “It’s hotter, hotter here,” he said, “and more clammy. It’s very, very good. Lots of hospitality. Lots of people welcoming us. Really good.”
The consistent observation of visitors surveyed by the Birmingham Times yielded two repeated words: Hot and hospitality.
Laderrick Smith of Pompano Beach, Fla., was spotted signing an autograph at Legion Field prior to playing with the Team USA flag football squad. “It’s a lot of great people around,” he said. “This is very great down here. Everybody’s friendly, nice, respectful.”
Smith’s teammate Frankie Solomon Jr. of Dallas, Texas echoed that sentiment and suspects locals are drawn to his team because of the popularity of football here.
“I think that in the United States, Americano football, which is what everybody else calls it, is very much so more embraced,” he said. “I think that you guys have an argument because Texas is where all the footballers are at — nah, I’m just playing.
“It’s very good to be embraced because I know you guys (have) got Alabama and Auburn, and that’s where you breed running backs and quarterbacks,” he mused.
Nearby, Dallas’ Nicole Palmer was rooting on the Team USA women’s flag football. She’s part of the support crew for that squad.
“I’m really impressed at how the city is World Games just everywhere,” she said. “The colors, the banners, the posters in the restaurants. I’m really impressed how they’re hosting.
“Everybody’s very, very friendly,” Palmer added. “The restaurants that I’ve been to are so friendly. The troopers here are really nice. Just everybody. I’ve not had any issues.”
“Better Than Advertised”
Andrew and Tanya Hood have spent much of their visit at the Hoover Met, supporting their daughter Georgia on the Team Australia softball team.
Said Tanya: “It’s actually quite a beautiful place and everyone’s also really friendly. That makes it really easy for us to be here. It is lovely.
“We did a bit of a tour around Birmingham,” she continued. “What’s that place we went to?”
“The Vulcan [Park and Museum],” her husband answered. “We went up there, and the Civil Rights [Monument Park in downtown Birmingham]. We went there as well for a look.”
Jim Anderson and John Entzminger shared a bench at the Hoover Met as their daughters played for Team Canada. Coincidentally, the two men from Victoria, British Columbia, didn’t know one another until they arrived in Alabama.
“His daughter is a veteran on the team,” Anderson said, “and mine, this is her first year.”
While Anderson didn’t know Entzminger, he knew the reputation of Southern hospitality.
“Since I arrived, it’s been better than advertised,” he said. “People have been so nice, gracious, welcoming. As a foreigner coming here, you don’t know what to expect. But it’s been such a fantastic experience being down here in Alabama.”
Entzminger agreed 100 percent.
“I’ve been to three or four restaurants (and) service was phenomenal,” he said. “People went out of their way to help you out and suggest where to go, what to see. They’ve been really, really good.
“Again, we didn’t know what to expect coming down,” Entzminger added. “We’ve never been here in our life and it’s been above average by a mile. It’s been excellent. People are so friendly.”
Entzminger added that he’s amazed at the number of volunteers who are involved to pull off something the magnitude of The World Games.
“This is one venue and they’ve been so friendly, so polite,” he said. “They’re donating their time, right? You’re a volunteer. You know what that’s like. It takes a special person to do that.
“I’ve talked to about half a dozen volunteers and they’ve been super friendly, super personable,” Entzminger continued. “It’s very impressive, very impressive.”
For more on The World Games 2022 visit www.twg2022.