Sunday, May 20, 2018

What Really Feeds JJ Watt

JJ Watt, Defensive End for the Houston Texans eats 10-12 eggs a day. He said, "I probably eat 7-8 times a day...it's about every hour and a half, every two hours—depending on the schedule. But I'm always eating, whether it's before a meeting, during a meeting, immediately before practice and after practice." Standing 6'5" and 290 lbs are you surprised?! He added, "You have to fuel the machine. So, I will start the day with 5 eggs over medium, two pieces of toast, oatmeal, yogurt, milk, water, orange juice, an apple and a banana. You can't go on and do a full day of activities without something in your stomach. That's what you've got to do." Though his $300-$400 weekly grocery bill fuels the three-time defensive player of the year, JJ Watt's announcement to pay for the funeral of the most recent school shooting, has proven to me that something other than healthy food nourishes and sustains him: his charity work.

Watt was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year, an award he shares with fellow Houston All-Star, the Astros' second baseman, Jose Altuve. Altuve was named the American League MVP and helped his team capture their first World Series title with his .452 postseason batting average. No one will argue that all 5'7" of Jose Altuve was a worthy candidate for SOTY. Watt, on the other hand, may have been a surprise. He experienced a devastating knee injury a little more than six weeks after Harvey’s landfall which sidelined him for the rest of the season. However, what Watt did with that post-surgery time, is not only remarkable, it's a reflection of who he is, how he was raised and what sustains him. 

With all three sons now in the NFL, the Watt family has always had a hefty grocery bill. But they were known for feeding half of J.J.’s football team out of their kitchen. “The boys depleted our savings for college as our food bills skyrocketed and the travel bills went up,” says John. “We said, ‘I hope they get scholarships.’ ” They did..and they didn't. J.J. left his scholarship at Central Michigan to pursue his dream of playing at the University of Wisconsin. Fortunately, his success as a Badger paved the way for his younger brothers Derek and TJ. Madison to fit those bills. 
The Watt family's sense of giving was in no way limited to the dinner table. Robert Klemko writes, "By J.J.’s teenage years, the lessons imparted on the Watt boys were being put into practice. When J.J. was 13 and his mother was offered a full-time job that would require her to stop volunteering at the local elementary school, reading to children, it was Watt family code that she’d find a replacement before accepting the new gig. Says Connie, “And J.J. right away said, ‘I’ll take over your volunteer hours.’ And he did.”

Watt raised $37 million for the relief efforts in Houston. What is both inspiring and impressive is yes his commitment, dedication, and sheer desire to use his platform for good, but moreover that his works fuel others to do the same.

Of no surprise, back in Pewaukee—Watt's hometown, Connie, his mother, helped organize a food-and-supply drive that ultimately sent 10 semi-trucks and a cargo plane headed to Houston, packed with goods. Local farmers and truckers donated not only their time but also the money required to get a convoy of 18-wheelers across the country and back. “We begged them to let us at least pay for gas,” Connie says, “and they just refused.” 
A five-hour drive north of Houston, in Hudson, Iowa, Kevin Yoder and Michael Roberts, volunteer co–head coaches on their sons’ third- and fourth-grade flag football team, wondered if their boys would be interested in helping out. After all, they were extended members of the Houston family—months prior, in a random draw, their team was assigned Texans-branded uniforms. 
“We gave them the challenge on Tuesday night [after the hurricane],” says Yoder. “ ‘Go home, do extra chores, turn in your pop cans, and we’ll see how much we can raise by Thursday.’ We thought they might come back with $50.” 
Instead, the boys returned with $559. They printed up a novelty-sized check and sent a picture, along with the money, to Watt. Yoder, meanwhile, was reminded of a Bible story that his sons, Anderson and McCoy, had studied. The Lesson of the widow’s mite, from the Book of Mark, describes Jesus observing wealthy people donating to charity in large amounts—and a single widow donating a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” 
Even with his $100 million dollar contract ($59.1 million of which is guaranteed), Watt has given generously—reminding me the lesson of this parable is not for him, but for me.
On Saturday, May 19, Watt announced that he would pay for the funerals of those killed in the shooting at Santa Fe High School. "Ten people were killed Friday morning and 10 more were wounded when a 17-year-old carrying a shotgun and revolver opened fire at the high school about 30 miles from downtown Houston." The Texans have confirmed his statement. I should be surprised. I'm not. Amazing.

I've always been partial to comfort food. It lives up to its name. My hope is that the students and faculty at Santa Fe High School are finding comfort in meals made by neighbors, in the love and support of one another, in prayer and in time for grief.....and I'm sure in the gifted charity of J. J. Watt—his other great fuel and sustenance. 

Photo Credits
SOTY

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Got Inspiration? Thank You, Frank Allocco

What I'm about to write isn't rocket science. I'm confident this message has been shared with me by my teachers, coaches, parents, and friends but we all need reminders. Twine not required.
I haven't been feeling very inspired lately. As a sports fan and a teacher of a course called Sports and Spirituality, I'm not often ISO inspiration. Besides, inspiration is everywhere: all one needs to do is turn on any given playoff game, attend a high school senior day game or pick up the now biweekly edition of Sports Illustrated and you will find that for which you seek. Perhaps I haven't been tuning in or paying attention, but my lack of inspiration means I'm less inclined to write a blog posting or share a story with a friend, yielding an unwelcome cycle. Why? because inspiration begets inspiration. So what do you do when it's missing...when you go through the motions...when things feel well, meh. Fortunately, my annual guest speaker, Frank Allocco reminded me of an answer. 

Frank Allocco is the Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director of External Relations at the University of San Francisco. I know Frank because not only was he the quarterback at the University of Notre Dame he founded the Excel basketball camp my brother attended many times while growing up. He was the head basketball coach at De La Salle High School where he won two state championships. He is a husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, coach, poet, athlete and a friend. A true Notre Dame man, he is a motivational speaker who never fails to make an indelible impression on my seniors. He is visionary and wise. In short, he is an inspiration.
I left our class yesterday feeling the way I hadn't in a long time. If you want inspiration...if you're seeking to be inspired, surround yourself with inspiring people. These words, this insight was not the message of Coach Allocco. No, this insight was a by-product of his presence. I am ever grateful for his time and attention. He gives one of the greatest gifts anyone can give: he gives his time, attention and his presence. Given the pace and demands of this world, that might be one of the most inspirational things about him. However, there is much more....you can start by reading "Lofty Dream and Buried Blessings" and conclude with his insights from his 2018 talk at St. Ignatius. Here are but a few...

1. Have a sense of urgency about what you do. 
Life presents a wealth of opportunities, some of which we capitalize upon. When and if we do. we can make minutes into memories. However, none of this happens without a certain sense of urgency. Coach Holtz said we should continually ask ourselves: What's Important Now. The "now" speaks to that urgency. Get it done. Do the work. Not tomorrow...not next week...today.

2. Put your athletes in a position where they become role models.
It's one thing to tell your team that they are role models—or expected to be— and another to provide the tools so they can grow into them. Coach Allocco told us that before every game he made sure that his players, the boys' varsity basketball team, found the kids in the stands and shook their hands. This small act of kindness is important for two reasons: it reinforces the virtue of gratitude. It's never a given that someone can or will show up for our games...but we are glad they do! A handshake is a "thank you" and a welcome in one. Second, this deed helps a teenager realize the impact they (may) have. They might have been a kid in the stands in the pasting—dreaming of wearing a varsity jersey. Others might make a connection with those they encounter. This small gesture is an act of service. If we can do the small things, we can do the big ones too.

Coach Allocco's own coach and personal hero.
Ara greatest legacy was left off the football field.
3. The world can be a cold and dreary place....
Coach Allocco has more than his fair share of good stories. As I listened to some new ones, and others I had heard before, I realized why he was able to tell so many good ones. Yes, the words of Greg Boyle, SJ ring true: "good stories come to those who can tell them," but I also think good stories come to those who reach out to others. That's what Frank does. He meets people while swimming in a pool, he greets strangers and has welcomed them to Notre Dame, he pays attention to a button you might be wearing and wants to know more about its message. In short, he erases the lines between us and them....until there is "just us." 


I found myself thinking how much warmer and brighter the world is because of people who build that bridge—welcoming the stranger and feeding the hungry. In this case, we were hungry for his wisdom and insight. I found myself hungrier than I knew and feasting on inspiration.

Thank you, Coach Allocco. So blessed to have your friendship and now....more inspiration.

Photo Credits
Ara
Inspiration

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Prayer for Moms....Priests at the Wheel

Every job has its grunt work. For teachers, it's grading the interminable pile of papers. Not
all homework, tests, and quizzes can be reduced to a scantron sheet. Grading is a thankless, though necessary task—that's what grunt work is! Athletic directors find the grind in the endless scheduling of games, meets and matches—securing their location and referees—only to put out the fires when one piece of that puzzle goes missing. Every coach can name their grunt work in two seconds or less. As a cross country coach, leading runners through dynamic stretching and line drills was a drag. I was supposed to get angry when they were off task or going through the motions. I understand their importance, I just found it difficult to expend the energy to get fired up or angry. Couldn't we just run?! Today, I find the grunt work in driving the team van along the WCAL highway. Having to back this 10 passenger vehicle into a tight spot at the end of a long day put the "grunt" in the work. So where does this realization take us? Fortunately, the words of Oscar Romero taught me that the places that are tiring, demanding and unpopular, the work that is thankless and banal can also serve as the place where we are transformed. Those unlikely and unsuspecting spaces are where God can show up—in our lives in the lives of those we serve. I have a feeling that Moms already know this is true

The Salvadoran Archbishop and Martyr wrote,
How beautiful will be the day when all the baptized understand that their work, their job, is a priestly work, that just as I celebrate Mass at the altar, so each carpenter celebrates Mass at the workbench, and each metalworker, each professional, each doctor with the scalpel, the market woman at her stand, are performing a priestly office! 

How many cab drivers, I know listen to this message there in their cabs; you are a priest at the wheel, my friend, if you work with honesty, consecrating that taxi or yours to God, bearing a message of peace and love to the passengers who ride in your cab.
I hope that everyone who reads his words can discover how their job can be priestly work. For moms, that might just be inherent in the job description—knowing that one piece of the job is serving as the family taxi driver—a thankless though necessary task.
I too have a sense of this responsibility as a coach. Driving the team van to practice and to matches, I have listened to many candid conversations—some which sought my opinion and others in which it was unwelcome. I have had to discern when to respond and when to just keep listening. I want the team van to be a place where my golfers can be themselves, where they can be honest and open and allow others to do the same. The van can be a place where student-athletes can vent and work through questions and quagmires, but it also ought to be a place that doesn't grow negative or ungrateful. I have no tolerance for disrespect or entitlement. I remind my golfers that Mean people suck. We are called to so much more....and so am I.

Romero states that one's taxi—for me, it's a van—can be a transformative place and space. The shared ride can yield messages of peace and love. Wow. God can do that work—all I need to do is hand that over to God—God will take the wheel on that one. This might be an important message for Moms to hear.
And, I write this piece on Mother's Day because I know just how many Moms shuttle their children to and from school, practice and games. Though the responsibilities of parenting and (hopefully) increasingly more equitable, I think back to my experience on JV Tennis at Carondelet. During my freshman year, we got to our matches thanks to the taxing of moms. I made it to every swim practice and swim meet, basketball game and Irish dancing because of my mom. The term "soccer mom" (though often not a positive moniker) doesn't exist for nothing. The women who have helped children learn a sport, master a skill, become a member of a team and pursue a dream are honored today—as they should be. They have taken us there and home, allowing us to talk, listen, vent and celebrate—with a message of love.  Being a mom is so much more than being a taxi driver (though I know how many feel reduced to that job—replete with grunt work). No, theirs too is a priestly office. Thank you, Mom. 

Photo Credits
Celebrate Grunt Work

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Vocations Promotion Day 2018: The Heart Speaks

For the fifth year in a row, the Religious Studies Department at St. Ignatius (where I teach) hosted Vocations Promotion Day. Though the prior focus of #VoProDay in the past has addressed a calling to religious life—as a priest, sister or brother—this year, we included a panel of speakers to share their thoughts and stories on living their vocation as a layperson. Both groups offered a beautiful witness to the joy of the Gospel and the power of God's love. Lay or religious, ultimately, a vocation is a call to love. How we do that—generously, selflessly, and wholly is our story. The Spirit calls and hopefully, we listen. Many times throughout the day, I realized I wasn't listening to the speakers in the way I usually do. No, I was listening with my heart. I can't think of a better way to hear, understand, and learn. Let me explain.

SI is very proud of Ryan Mak, SJ. One of our own, pursuing a religious vocation with the Society of Jesus
The men and women who spoke about their religious vocations are young (read: younger than me). They are dynamic and energetic, full of vim and vigor. They have given their lives to the Lord freely and wholeheartedly. They love God and the Church—messiness and all. As they shared their stories of choosing to respond to their call, of moving toward ordination, taking vows, living in a community, why they serve, and how God is at work in their lives, I realized they were speaking a foreign language. I wondered if my students could understand what they were talking about. I thought about the chasm that exists between the life these men and women have chosen amidst the culture in which we swim. Could they handle that our guests were this unapologetic about their belief in God and love for Christ? Would they understand faith and love demands something of us? It's not often my students hear a message this direct.

As I considered these questions and looked around the room, I paid attention to what I was feeling. Something was stirring in my heart. Though their message might seem foreign, the language of God's love is universal. Though not everyone in the room might feel like these men and women do or hold what they believe, hearing and learning about the love of God is a message for every human person—language, a degree, age, race or gender is irrelevant. I'm grateful my students had the opportunity to hear about the many ways young men and women are responding to this call to love. 
One might wonder why so few young people today are pursuing this call. Nothing about that call—the call to love— is easy. Lay or religious, ordained, single or married, love is scary. We run the risk of being hurt, we must make sacrifices, we are made vulnerable and we reveal our true selves. But the call to love is unyielding, relentless and transformative. It is something we must do in order to become fully human. We must do it afraid, but we do not do it alone. God meets us more than halfway. Every speaker gave testimony to that truth and how they have responded in their own way. The language might have been foreign, but the message wasn't.

One need not host a vocations day to promote this call to love...this challenge to do it afraid. Thanks to the Grotto Network, we have a testimony from (soon to be? Father) Anthony Federico in "From ESPN to Seminary: A Comeback Story." Their website states After he was fired from ESPN, Anthony Federico wondered where he could possibly go next. He remembered a voice once telling him, "One day you will be a priest" — and he couldn't ignore his calling any longer.
I shared his story with my own classes to prepare for Vocations Promotion Day. They appreciated the message he got from his mother. I was impressed by the fact Jeremy Lin reached out to him. Though his mistake at ESPN still confounds me—one for which he paid a big price—it is important to hear how it served as a path toward his vocation. 

Mother Teresa said "We can't all do great things. But we can do small things with great love." Something tells me that if we do respond to God's call to love in our lives, the small things will add up. For some, it will be in giving their lives to another person in marriage, for others in service as a deacon or a lay minister and still others it might be leading us to lead the faithful as a sister or a priest. My simple advice is to listen—not with your ears but with your heart. As John Dunne, CSC wrote, "the heart speaks." It will.

Photo Credits
Vocation Diagram 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Typical: Meet Atypical. Welcome Mike McGlinchey

I have a lot of fun with words and phrases—or at least I try to. Case in point: when someone tells me, "it's nice to see you," the typical response is a gracious one—"thank you." But it's much more fun to say something atypical or different. I say "it's nice to be seen." It is. So when the San Francisco 49ers took Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey as their ninth pick in the 2018 NFL draft, I knew my students would expect me to make an announcement about it. They know I am itching for any reason to talk ND and they're right. So as I was scheming an atypical way to make news, I realized a fitting theme was emerging: McGlinchey is both typical and atypical. 
I began class by showing an image of San Francisco's City Hall. This majestic building at Larkin and Central Streets was lit in red and gold. One need not be a football fan to understand why—the Niners' colors and distinct—but I made sure everyone knew the NFL draft was underway.  
I then said "sometimes you go to a place. For example, as you know I go to Notre Dame—at least once a year—and I hope some of you will visit too. But sometimes you guys...Notre Dame comes to you." I then flashed the photo you see here. 

A student responded by asking "Did you see the reactions of the Niners fans when he was picked? Rather than jumping up and down, everyone was looking at one another with a look of confusion. They were saying What? Who did we draft?" I wasn't about to let anyone curb my enthusiasm. I replied "I know. That's a typical response anytime a lineman gets drafted. They never attract attention; they are workhorses. He has the most important job on the team—he has to protect Jimmy G. Standing 6''8" and 304 lbs, I think we are in good hands." 

I wish I had told them just how atypical those numbers are in the McGlinchey clan. In "Things I Know: And the Things I Learned from Experience" McGlinchey writes:
My dad is about 5'11". My mom is 5'8". So it must have been a genetic mutation—I got lucky. I’ve got two cousins who are 6-3 and 6-4 but nothing quite like 6-7. I was always the biggest thing in everything I did. Notre Dame got lucky with McGlinchey. He is a two-time captain and All-American who can add "first-round draft choice" to his accolades."

A few minutes later, in case I needed to add value to this great pick, I was happy to report, "By the way, he was a graduate student at Notre Dame last year. That's because in May 2017 he graduated with a degree in film, television and theatre from the College of Arts and Letters. A true student-athlete." Another student responded by saying "no offense Ms. Stricherz, but that's typical for a lineman. They're smart." Someone looked at him and said "you play O-line, right." Typical student banter. Love it.

McGlinchey hails from a huge Catholic family, which has been much discussed because his first cousin is Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcon's QB. The Niner's #69 writes
I grew up an Irish Catholic kid—in a very religious family. Notre Dame was always that school off in the distance that always had some interest for me because it was the Catholic school and they were on TV every Saturday and we really liked being able to celebrate the things we shared with Notre Dame. My uncle (John Loughery) played quarterback at Boston College in the ‘70s and my older cousin Matt (Ryan) played there, too, and is now getting his number retired there. Boston College was my first offer, and I thought I would wind up going to BC like they did. But I kind of held out for that envelope with the little golden dome on it. Once those envelopes started coming and Coach (Harry) Hiestand got the (offensive line coach) job and started recruiting me I came out here and never wanted to leave. In one visit I confirmed everything I’d always thought about Notre Dame.
I am heartened to know that a young person would value the Catholic character of Notre Dame, even from a distance. I hope that appreciation isn't atypical.

Though his clan sounds typical—so many siblings and cousins, we know in American life today with its many demands, this isn't. McGlinchey's "Strong of Heart" profile confirms the McGlinchey is much more than typical—they are exceptional in their love and support for his younger brother Jim who has autism.
The more I think about it, I don't think anyone is typical. We all have our own gifts, stories, attributes, talents, and gifts that prove we are atypical. However, I think we can all do our part to ask the questions, to respond, to play with words and ideas that let that truth reveal itself. I'll keep at it. Thank you Niners--thank you, Notre Dame. Mike McGlinchey—WELCOME. The Faithful await...

Photo Credits
Mike and sibs

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What We Can Learn From Our Rivals: More About Ourselves

At approximately 1:00 pm on Monday, April 23 a cadre of student-athletes from Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep arrived at St. Ignatius College Prep to reclaim for the second time in 19 years the coveted Bruce Mahoney trophy. My classroom, that faces the main entrance of the school was filled with their cheers of excitement at reclaiming what has been gone from Ellis Street for far too long. As my students looked on with disappointment, some kids said "we should boo" knowing that wouldn't be right.  A few turned away, not wanting to see the impact of the loss. Still, others said "farewell for now. See you next year." I told them what I tell my students every year: they are lucky to have a rival. A good rival is never a given, and they have a good one.
What makes for a good rival? In "How Rivalries Bring Out the Best—And Worst," Matthew Hutson writes, 
A rivalry is more than just a competition, according to Gavin Kilduff, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business (who’s currently in Rio for the World Cup). It typically emerges when competitors are similar, when they face off repeatedly, and when they’re about evenly matched. When these circumstances are present, they can lend a given competitive event a psychological weight that goes well beyond its tangible stakes. 
Kilduff has found that rivalry increases both effort and performance. An analysis of competitive runners showed that they shaved more than four seconds per kilometer off their times when a rival was in the same race. In another study, Kilduff and colleagues found that NCAA basketball teams play stronger defense — a good measure of hustle — when competing against rivals. He believes that accentuating rivalry is a good tool for success when a task is effort-based and when there isn’t much leeway for cutting corners. It increases motivation, and “Motivation,” he says, “is a holy grail of management.” Rivalry also increases group cohesion: Universities with more intense rivalries receive donations from more of their alumni, and patriotism is never so great as it is during the World Cup. 
But Kilduff and collaborators have conducted several studies, some of them presented recently at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, showing that rivalry also has a dark side: It increases unethical behavior.
Indeed, a rivalry is much more than just competition. In the throes of a heated contest, truly our rival can be our worst enemy, but both before, after, and in the moment they can be our greatest teacher. Though rivalries magnify differences—many of which are true, I believe that if we can take a step back, we will realize our rival is more similar to us than we care to admit. For example, I'll never forget when a classmate of mine at Notre Dame pointed to this truth about the Trojans of USC. Notre Dame fans will claim that this rival is also known as the "University of Spoiled Children" and for years they compromised academic integrity in order to win national championships. That might be true, but so is the fact that USC fans are fiercely loyal to their alma mater. They are known for proclaiming their allegiance to the Maroon and Gold within the first five minutes of any given conversation. Their interest in Fightin' On is loud and proud. So is their band. The alumni base is so strong and a significant number of the current student body qualifies as a legacy. Sounds a lot like Notre Dame to me...Agh!
Self-knowledge is never that easy to acquire. Perhaps we should look to our rival.

Students of SI and SHC might benefit from such an investigation. Though there are differences, Huston's claim is true: the "competitors are similar." The students who comprise each student body grew up together. They went to the same grade schools and many (may) make a choice to attend the same high school as one of their parents: SI or SHC, Jesuit of Christian Brothers, Red and Blue or Green and Blue both located in the City of St. Francis.

These teams "face off regularly," and the significance of the Bruce Mahoney trophy puts more weight behind those contests. Though the series is comprised of football, basketball and baseball, every varsity team in both schools as their team's "Bruce Mahoney game."

Though no senior class wants to be known as the group that lost the Bruce Mahoney trophy, a rivalry is strengthened "when they are evenly matched." The trophy should not become a relic at either institution; its vibrancy shines brighter when it is claimed or reclaimed by both parties. I would like to think "unethical behavior" does not factor in....
The game came down to the bottom of the 7th inning. 2-1 win for SHC
Ask any athlete, coach, student or alumni about the "group cohesion" that results from the Bruce Mahoneyrivalryy and you will hear hundreds of stories about time, place, people, wins, losses, tears, and joy. And, because of our Catholic heritage, we are able to come together in prayer before each game to bless all those who support and comprise our communities. More importantly, we remember the two men who gave selflessly the greatest gift one could give—their life in service so that we might live in freedom today. I hope we do this in our school-wide prayers on the day of the games, not just on the field. Ours is a storied tradition, a living one. A rivalry worth celebrating.

In "For the Love of the Game" Richard Gaillardetz writes, "In ancient Greek culture, sport was considered from two different perspectives. The first was termed agon and the referred to the spirit of competition and the second was arete, and was oriented toward the pursuit of excellence. There is an inclination to oppose these two but the agnostic character of sport is always, at its best, also a pursuit of excellence." I have no idea if Bill Bruce or Jerry Mahoney would ever guess that their service has become a legacy that allows young men (and hopefully women) to pursue excellence in the way it has and will in the future. Thank you for all you have taught us—in the rivalry and in that journey.

Photo Credits
ND vs USC
Ballpark

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Skill of Appreciating the Tradition: The Bruce-Mahoney

Though the title of his research sounds discouraging, in his book "Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation of Young Catholics," Bob McCarty offers positive and realistic solutions for how to re-engage young people in the Church. He names several skills that ought to be taught and promoted to keep Catholic youth curious, involved and eager for more. For example, a few faith skills might be 1) how to pray 2) how to use Scripture and 3) how to recognize God's presence/instilling a sense of wonder and awe in one another. He notes that skills require preparation, experience, and reflection. His ideas and recommendations totally make sense to me; teaching a course like Sports and Spirituality, I hope that I offer a creative way to teach and instill those skills on a regular basis. And, there are no better means by which to teach about, practice and promote another skill: the skill of Appreciating the Tradition, than the Bruce-Mahoney trophy. 
At 5:15 p.m.today,  the Wildcats of St. Ignatius College Prep will take on the Fightin' Irish of Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep at AT&T Ballpark in what is the third installment of the Bruce Mahoney contest. As written about many times before, this storied rivalry holds the distinction as the longest standing athletic rivalry between two schools west of the Mississippi River. Based on the outcome of today's baseball game, the trophy will either remain at SI or be claimed sometime later this week by student-athletes from SHC. The series is comprised of football, basketball and baseball and what makes today's game special is that the series is split. SH prevailed on the gridiron, lost to SI on the hardwood and we shall see what occurs on the diamond later today. Indeed there is much to appreciate about this tradition beyond the athletic competition, iconic San Francisco venues, and the fact that alumni from each institution return year after year to wear either Green and White or Red and Blue. A starting point for appreciation ought to be education about the namesakes of the trophy: Bill Bruce and Jerry Mahoney. 

A fellow SI faculty member who I consider our resident archivist and historian shared with the faculty the "tribute to Bill Bruce written by Bill Leiser, sports editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, published on April 18, 1943—four days after Bill was killed in a plane crash. Leiser addresses the spirit of sacrifice that is at the heart of the Bruce-Mahoney competition." You can read it here.
I asked my seniors, young men and women just two months from leaving SI to comment on what stands out...what do they appreciate about Bill Bruce. They loved that he was deemed a "right guy." Every single one of them noted that me "meant more to the football team than the best galloping ghost halfback." A few were confused about why he left the NFL for the Navy; their peers and I were quick to help them understand a). the Broncos is a reference to Santa Clara University and the football team they once had and b). the NFL didn't even come into existence until 1960 (if you are to consider what it is today). Context. Still, others added that he was an "orphan," a word you don't hear that often today....or the term "St. Ignatius High School." "God rest his soul" is a beautiful way to conclude the tribute. Amen.
The Bruce-Mahoney is a wonderful tradition to appreciate and what I think adds value to it is that the tradition is a living one. This past year, including female athletics into the series, has been a subject of serious conversation, planning, and debate like never before. Though many young women and men have in years past discussed and done what they can to determine how this rivalry can both remain true to its roots and yet accommodate for who we are today, those conversations haven't had the immanence and desire for an answer like they do now. I'm excited to discover what will be!

Celebrating the Bruce-Mahoney has kept graduates of St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart Cathedral engaged, involved and curious in our communities. Let us in the Church use this as a powerful example that Appreciating a Tradition is a skill that can and should be prepared, experience and practiced. Today, my students have a better sense of who Bill Bruce is. In a few hours, they will experience the spirit of sacrifice out at the Yard and I hope at some point, they will reflect upon the gift that is this rivalry—a living tradition.


Photo Credits
SI vs SHC
Girls Hoops