Huddle Up is a weekly Q&A with a Cardinals player on a topic outside of football. In this week's installment, tight end Darren Fells talks about the years he spent living abroad as a professional basketball player.
Question: Can you tell me off-hand how many countries you've lived in and for how long?
Answer: Lived in or visited?
Q: Well, I was thinking lived in. Wouldn't it be too hard to name all the ones you've visited?
A: Yeah. I've been to a ton of countries. I played and lived in Belgium for two years. The season was ten months, so pretty much two years there. Same thing with Finland. Then I was in France for about two months, Mexico for four, Argentina for four.
Q: What was one of the most eye-opening experiences?
A: The biggest (rated-)PG one I can tell you was in Finland. During the winter you only get two hours of sunlight. You wake up at 10 o'clock in the morning after a game and head over to practice. You have a three-hour practice, and when practice is over at 1 o'clock it's just pitch dark for the rest of the day. You have that for about four months. It's the most surreal thing I've ever experienced. Mentally you're thinking it's 9 o'clock (at night) and it's one in the afternoon.
Q: Did you ever get used to that?
A: I'm always a relaxed guy. Most people find that very depressing, but I figured out to just get over it. It's one of those things you have to say that it's not going to bother you. It's pretty different.
Q: Your career took you overseas, but did you originally like the idea of being able to see a lot of different places? Were you into learning different cultures?
A: That was the main reason why I decided to go over there. I love traveling. I love experiencing different cultures. The biggest thing for me is experiencing different cultural foods. That's how you fit in. When I was in Belgium, when all my teammates were going to where all the other Americans were going, I would hang out with all the Belgian guys and girls there, to see what their culture was like. It was the same thing when I was in Finland. We'd go out with Finnish people.
Q: Is there something that you miss from one of those places?
A: One of the things I do miss the most is Belgian beer.
They have the best beer in the world. They have this competition between German beer and Belgian beer. Belgian beer definitely is better. Not to make an alcoholic statement, but I do miss that. The variety there was incredible. From Finland, I guess I miss a little bit of the snow. It snowed eight of the ten months I was there. Being able to see snow was nice, compared to Arizona, where you see none.
Q: Did you have a favorite stop overall?
A: Belgium was probably the best one because coast-to-coast it was a two-hour drive. You're able to travel and see a lot more. I hopped on a train and in an hour-and-a-half I was in Paris. I hopped in a car, drove an hour east and I was in Amsterdam. Drive north and you're in Germany. So I was able to do a lot more traveling when I was there.
Q: Could you see yourself living overseas when you're done playing, or do you like the idea of traveling but having a home base in the U.S.?
A: I have to have a home base, in California. I definitely want to go back home and have that as my home base. But every offseason me and my wife plan on doing some traveling. We're expecting, so it's not going to happen in the next few years, but we plan on going to Italy and all the places in Europe.