Monday, February 24, 2014

In Praise of Skylar Diggins

Watching the Notre Dame women's basketball team play ACC rival Duke this past Sunday confirmed something I have been thinking about over the course of the last year: Skylar Diggins' is an increasingly impressive spokeswoman for the University. 
As tasteful as this issue will allow....
Diggins was on campus to not only cheer for her former teammates, she also worked out with them the day before—simulating the Blue Devil's star point guard, Alexis Jones. Captain of the Irish women's team, Diggins played in three Final Four tournament games and twice in the championship round. She graduated with a degree in management-entrepreneurship and in her final season, led the Irish to their first and only Big East Championship. 

I enjoyed seeing her development as a leader and a player. For example, as I wrote in Sportsmanship 101: Fundamental of the Game, "I hated seeing the Notre Dame Women’s basketball team lose the National Championship to Texas A&M. But, I am more upset that Skylar Diggins, sophomore guard of the Lady Irish left the floor without shaking hands with the Aggies." Last year, however, when the Irish were defeated by archival UConn in the Final Four, Diggins, now a senior, imparted emotional words of gratitude for the team she had played with all year; her affection for them and her coach was undeniable. Drafted third overall in the WNBA to the Tulsa Shock, I think her 441,000 followers on Twitter would agree, she has poise, class, intelligence and insight on and off the hardwood. But, what's most fascinating to me is that she has managed to extend this to the 2014 Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue.

Why is this ok?
I don't have a whole lot of positive things to say about the 50th Anniversary edition of this money making issue. We are told to never judge a book by its cover, but I'm afraid in this case it's hard not to; I fail to see how a photograph that puts three women in thong-like bikini bottoms (without a bikini top) front and center as appropriate for what it claims to be. I could give other examples and raise more questions (maybe I will in a future posting) but there are a few exceptions in the 250-page magazine. The one that reigns supreme is the the photo shoot of Skylar Diggins. Equally impressive to me is the athlete herself.

Diggins is a natural leader. As a point guard, you should be. But I believe her approach to the swimsuit issue, is one that other women and  female athletes in particular, can learn from. In the South Bend Tribune's Skylar Diggins in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, she said:
“I didn’t really know how I was going to approach modeling swimsuits,” Diggins said in a video on SportsIllustrated.com. “I had never modeled in a swimsuit before."

“I loved the pictures. I think this was a great change of pace for me, speaking as an athlete, now, to show my femininity. I think that every woman is beautiful in her own way. It’s great to be a part of this magazine that celebrates not only models, but athletes as well, and puts it into perspective that all women are beautiful.”
She maintains her femininity on the court.
I do not believe Diggins' femininity is compromised on the court; I see her natural beauty in concert with her athleticism and confidence as quite striking. But, I recognize that others might find that hard to believe amidst the hard hitting fouls, sweat and aggression that basketball demands. We live in a world that makes it very hard for women to believe they are beautiful in their own way, and too often this includes beauty as an athlete. I appreciate what she has to say; I think she's right.

Furthermore, no photo is unrealistic or distasteful. My friend said "that bathing suit looks like one you could buy at J. Crew." In other words, what Diggins sports is one that many women can and do wear. Maybe that's because she consulted her parents before she consented to the opportunity. Her step-father Maurice Clark admitted, “I told her the only thing is, Mom is going to have to go on the set and make sure the swimsuits she puts on have some taste, and make sure it wasn’t anything too bad for Dad’s sake.”
Evidence of a commitment to physical fitness.
I don't want to be unrealistic about the criticism that I am sure many may find but fellow women in the basketball community have been quite supportive. “I don’t see it as a bad thing in any way,” Rebecca Lobo said. “I’ve always liked the ESPN body issue, because it’s a good example to show young girls what a healthy, athletic body looks like. This is the same situation here. Skylar has worked really hard in the weight room and on the track, on the basketball court, to have the physique that she has. “I’m sure people will be critical, because some people like to criticize. Personally, as a mother of three young daughters, I have four children, I think it’s good for them to see strong, confident women, instead of the waist-thin models. Skylar Diggins is a woman who works hard and has a very healthy body. I’ve seen most of the pictures that she’s in, and they all look very tasteful to me. She’s beautiful.”

In this way, I believe Skylar is a worthy role model. Although she may have been disposed with some athletic genes, she has as an incredible body because she works at it. Not only does she look undeniably fit and athletic, she is also strong and thin. To me, she looks healthy and happy. 
Since watching Skylar Diggins Toughest Workout on espnW, I know I have never approached the gym in the same way. For example, the "Hour of Power" class I attend on Mondays and Fridays includes a circuit with battling ropes. During my 60-second interval, I do what I can to channel my inner-Skylar. I am the type of athlete who benefits from having a visual example. I recall her competitive edge and attitude, especially when I feel tired or weak. In that sense, Diggins' work ethic is invaluable to me! And her teammates agree.

“I think it’s very cool,” McBride said. “Skylar is already such a great figure for women’s basketball, and for her to be able to switch it over and use the beauty side of it is outstanding. Our images change so many times as basketball players. For her to go out there and express it in a different way, as beautiful of a girl as she is, it’s really cool.

“Skylar is so comfortable in her skin, and she’s so confident, on and off the court. I’m really proud of her. She’s really stepped up.” Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach Muffet McGraw also supported Diggins’ appearance as a swimsuit model. “Skylar has always represented Notre Dame well, and continues to,” McGraw said. 

Coach McGraw, one of my heroes, is right. And the publicity Diggins has garnered from what may be a controversial decision has only illuminated for me why I appreciate Skylar Diggins. It should be obvious, it should be a given: she is so much more than a basketball player. We are always more than what meets the eye. As she mentions in the video, she is "a daughter and a sister." She is a self-promoter and an entrepreneur. She is a friend and someday she might be a wife and mother. She is undeniably blessed and I feel fortunate to share a connection with her that started with Notre Dame, but has extended far beyond in our shared principles and values. Thank you Sky! By the way, can we workout sometime? Go Irish.

Photo Credits
Play Calling
Swimsuit Issue
Sky in SI

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why I Don't Read Fiction: I Don't Need To


I don't read fiction. I know why people do. The story can go where you want it to go. Imagination should never be underestimated, but, I don't see the point of reading or writing fiction when there's so much good stuff out there that really happened. One of my colleagues, a theologian and historian who loves to tell stories—real ones—says "I can't make this stuff up!" Guess what! He doesn't have to. Non-fiction can be that good. 

Sports is a showcase for non-fiction. You may wonder about many of the legends that accompany our sports world. But I stand by my claim. Most fiction is, after all, based in non-fiction. The author, the witness, the athlete gets to add details of their pleasing. Maybe the end has changed, but with this posting, I would like to offer five examples of sports as non-fiction. Events and occurrences so unique, that my only response is similar to those of my co-worker. I can't make them up!  Enjoy

Two of the greatest
1. Joe Montana's first football game
In his book "the Score Takes Care of Itself" Bill Walsh revealed something I never would have guessed about Joe Cool. Walsh leads with biographic information and writes "Quarterback Joe Montana's historic career included four Super Bowl championships and three Super Bowl MVP awards and was due in large part to the fact that in addition to having talent he was a natural-born leader." 

Although such accolades are remarkable, what I find hard to believe is that "this superb player (by way of Pennsylvania's Ringgold High School and the University of Notre Dame) was a guy who never saw a professional game in person until he played in one." 

I once thought it was impressive/unusual that I attended Notre Dame sight unseen. Perhaps the truth about #16 is just as much a reflection of the era as my story is—both would rarely if ever happen today, but it's incredible nonetheless.
Hard to believe #2 is retiring after this season, and I'm writing about an event that happened in 2001...
2. Derek Jeter is Mr. November
To most Yankee fans, he's known as "The Captain" but the story behind how and why Derek Jeter is also known as "Mr. November" is compelling.

In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, many New Yorkers found Yankee Stadium as a necessary place to mourn, come together, remember and find comfort. Others found post-season baseball to be a welcome distraction. Such is the tale of one of my favorite documentaries "Nine Innings From Ground Zero."

It chronicles how The Bronx Bombers defeated both the Moneyball Oakland A's and the Seattle Mariners, to play the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series. Although the Yankees lost the first two games in Arizona, they returned to the Big Apple for games 3-5 and they did not disappoint.

In game 4, the Yankees managed to take the game into extra innings. With the score still tied, Shortstop Derek Jeter came to the plate at the bottom of the 11th inning. Baseball fans know the Yankees already had a "Mr. October" in Reggie Jackson, and yet the unimaginable was nigh. The clock struck midnight and moments later, "Captain Clutch" sends it deep. The walk off home run. The game began on Wednesday, October 31 but it concluded in the early hours of November 1. Suddenly, a new legend was christened; "Mr. November" was born. Easy to like Derek Jeter, but not always the New York Yankees. Regardless of one's allegiance, biases, etc, it's hard not to recognize something special happened.

3. The Williams Sisters
I have written about Venus and Serena many times and every time I return to the same question. Why isn't there more talk about them? Knowing Serena, she would agree. She said, "Two black girls from Compton were probably not supposed to play tennis let alone be any good at it." Tennis is far from an inner-city sport; and although it's globally diverse, Americans who play the sport are infrequently people of color.

Her father Richard coached Venus and Serena from a young age, using revolutionary ideas that changed the game. Before they were born he developed a 78 page plan to make them number one in the world. What's crazier? His plan? or that he succeeded, no, that they succeeded.
Both Richard and their mother Oracene Price coached Venus and Serena
Venus admits "he told me I would be number one in the world. I was brainwashed." Venus, the 6'1" beautiful older sister by 15 months to Serena truly loves the game. Although she has a rare auto-immune disease, she is still on the circuit and hopes to continue after her singles career to play doubles with her younger sister.

The family left Compton to enroll the girls in Rick Macci's tennis academy in West Palm Beach.  After watching Venus hit, Macci said to Richard Williams "I think you have the next Michael Jordan." Williams replied, "No brother man, I've got the next two." Who says that? Who does that? The Williams do. 

What are the odds that two sisters could choose the same profession, let alone dominate it? These are real questions, not fictional ones they raise for us.

4. The Sheer Athleticism of Bo Jackson.
Seeing is believing; the Apostle Thomas, asked for nothing different. If you need the proof, ESPN's "30 for 30: You Don't Know Bo" provides ample evidence of Jackson's athletic genius and then some. The 51st winner of the Heisman trophy played both professional football and baseball, claiming the latter was a hobby. In the video a number of his former coaches affirm his raw talent.  

As written in Bo Knows Best,"We had an outdoor party at a lake after we won the county championship," says Terry Brasseale, Bo's baseball coach at McAdory High School. "Bo's just out there in water up to his waist. All of a sudden, he jumps up, does a backflip out of the water, and lands on his feet. I said to my girlfriend, 'Did you see that?' " I'm here to say I wish I had.

He can shoot a bow and arrow with his feet. 
Was that a man or a grasshopper who climbed at a 90 degree angle to the outfield wall to make a catch? As a Kansas City Royal, Jackson broke a Louisville slugger over his knee and over his batting helmet. I never thought a baseball bat looked like a tooth pick until Vincent "Bo" Jackson picked one up. And the worst part of his story is that overnight, our comic book hero was gone.....No one would dare make that up.


5. Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan

In the spirit of the Winter Olympics, I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the more unusual and unbelievable stories in athletics and sports rivalries. Captured in "ESPN's 30 for 30: The Price of Gold," even all these years later, it's hard to believe what went down between "tough Tonya" and "Why me? Nancy."

Although the saga was 20 years ago, I found myself asking questions about the sport of iceskating that are as relevant today as they were then. How corrupt is the sport (with regard to judging)? Why do we expect a "Barbie Doll" appearance from these athletes? What happens when they break our mold? And what is the "price of gold?" What will we pay to win it all?
Sports as non-fiction presents us with tough questions, great memories, incredible sights and more. And what we see and experience is real. It's humanity and its best and its worst. 

In "Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion," priest and prophet Greg Boyle shares why he believes God made us. The answer? "Because God thought we would enjoy it." Athletics, sports story and history point to this truth. Enjoy and delight....nothing more. Amen.

Photo Credits
Walsh and Montana
Mr. Nov

The Captain
Williams Family
Bo

Monday, February 17, 2014

Who Is On Your Mount Rushmore?

I suppose no day is more appropriate than President's Day 2014 to think about a question many people have been discussing since LeBron James was asked—Who is on your Mount Rushmore? 
My sister and I visited in 2001; it was completely fogged in. Oh well.
Although LeBron was asked to name the individuals who would stand on his Mount Rushmore for the NBA, the question invites us to think about the original monument carved out of the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. The carving, which started in 1927 and was completed in 1941, easily could have featured leaders from a singular era, but that's not what you see. Although many Americans can readily name three of the four presidential greats, the man responsible for the protection of so much American land and wildlife through the creation of our National Park system (one of which is Mt. Rushmore) is the fourth face—none other than Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. 

In recent years, I have heard some say it's time we make room for another; voices have called for adding Ronald Reagan. Part of me wonders if one day, Mount Rushmore will include a female face? It's a fun conversation to have, and I'm sure that's why LeBron James put himself out there when he answered it.
No Bill Russell? Really?!
For the four time NBA Most Valuable Player, the question was asked in relation to his craft. As written by Dwaine Price of the Sac Bee, "James said his Mount Rushmore of players - the four greatest NBA players of all-time - would include Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson. For what it's worth, that's not a bad fearsome foursome.

But we all know that going down that greatest of all-time lane is a game you can't win. Particularly when you limit yourself to just four players.

James, however, went there and did that, and the criticism naturally started pouring in from all corners of this global sport. James, who also said somebody's got to be removed from Mount Rushmore because he's going to be at the top of the mountain when his career is over, believes the historical architects have some more house cleaning to do."
From the moment he answered the question, people have raised even more. How or why he did not include Wilt Chamberlain? What about Kareem Abdul- Jabar? And who is Oscar Robertson—the "TR" of his Mount? And I would like to raise another. Who is on yours? Why? 
I think it's a fun question to entertain and to consider in various domains.  Who is on your spiritual Mount Rushmore? One for your favorite sport or your passion? For your faith?
Last Thursday, I attended a breakfast hosted by the Catholic Professionals of San Jose that featured the head football coach of the San Jose Spartans, Ron Carragher. Without even knowing it, he essentially revealed who was on his personal Mount Rushmore—one for character and outstanding virtue. 
Raised by a single mother, Caragher was tremendously grateful for the male role models who shaped his life—his character, men who set examples of strong leadership and how to be a gentleman. What was striking to me is that he met each of these men through his participation in athletics. 
In sharing the story of how he returned home to the San Jose area with his wife Wendy and their three sons, he extended his gratitude to the great coaches who shaped him along the way. His fifth grade football coach, and another one at Bellarmine—where he went to high school. Terry Donahue was tremendously influential in Caragher becoming the coach that he is today. Recruited as a quarterback, Carragher's fate changed when a man named Troy Aikman transferred to UCLA. Donahue however, kept Ron Caragher involved from the sidelines. He was tasked with tracking plays when he wasn't backing up Aikman.
The beauty of one's own Mount Rushmore, is that you can include people you know and those who admire from afar. They can be from multiple eras and even opposing teams. And Ron Caragher would agree. Although he never played for John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, Caragher has read enough about his leadership and commitment to excellence that it was obvious to me that the "Wizard of Westlake" would be his fourth and final face on his Mountain side. I am certain Wooden's principles and pyramid of success guide the San Jose State Spartans football team under Caragher's leadership today.
As a Catholic, I recognize that my faith tradition affords me with hundreds of examples of men and women who have given their life in total service to God and to others. There is no shortage of saints to place on my Catholic Mount Rushmore. Mary and Joseph, Mother Teresa, and Saint Paul come to mind. But, so do everyday people that have colored my world. 
On this President's Day, I invite you to think of Americans you might place on your Mount Rushmore and take it from there....for music lovers, maybe a Rock n Roll Mount Rushmore? For tennis players—I would love to read that one! Is there room for a fifth face? Might you be on anyone's Mount Rushmore? As Russell Wilson's father might say "Why not you."  

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/02/16/6162444/commentary-lebron-james-caused.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Remembering #74: Brenden Tiggs

Tiggs being Tiggs.
Teachers have to be good at a lot of things, and one of them it to listen to the many conversations among students, but pretend as though we aren't. That might be a survival mechanism or the first line of defense, but something must abate the endless complaints about "not understanding the homework" and how confusing the directions were (regardless of the fact they are written and explained). It's important to give teenagers the air space to harp and vent; to settle into their space and relax. And so it should go without saying that my 14 years of teaching, I have been privy to some interesting insights, retorts and exclamations. But none have been as unexpectedly funny as one from my beloved student Brendan Tiggs, who I would like to honor with this posting. 

"Tiggs" as his friends an teammates knew him, was a member of the loudest Sports and Spirituality class I have taught to date. This group had but four female students and it was ever difficult to get the 24 males to get anywhere close to quiet. When I told them we were going to watch a clip from "ESPN's 30 for 30's: The U" about the Miami University football team of the 1980s, they could not refrain from yelling...one after another..."The U!" 

I was trying to take role, trying to review the agenda, and to set any context whatsoever and "The U!" repeated nonstop. Exasperated with these second semester seniors, I looked over to where Brenden was sitting. He didn't know that I was looking at him and with a total straight face, he flashed his eyes to one side and said to the football fan next to him "Gimme some of that co-caine." It's not just what he said, but how he said it—I couldn't stop laughing (it was also a great reference to the habits of that Miami team in later years. Think Michael Irvin). That is one of the funniest things I have heard; I am so glad I listened.
A vigil in his honor at SJSU
Everyday class begins with silence and time for prayer; the student leader invites anyone to offer their intentions out loud. Without fail, Brenden offered prayers for his Grandma and on a near daily basis, he would pray for "anyone who might be having a tough time." 

In this instance, I make a concerted effort to listen to my students. I think about what they carry and who they remember. My only regret is that although I listened to Tiggs' prayer, I never thought he was the one who might be having the tough time.

Brenden Tiggs died at the age of 18. Because of his spirit and kindness, the hurt on this one runs deep. He was big, his impact was big, and his faith in God was too. 

Today, I listen with increased awareness to what those who knew Brenden have said about him. One of my students said "I've been blessed for the past two years in sharing the number 74 in football with Tiggs. And now I realized how blessed I am to have that and I feel like that will always connect me with him." Others who never had a class with him added that "he said offertory prayers at every Friday Morning Liturgy"; which he attended beside his football teammates.
What a great day.
I thought back to last May, when students were asked to thank a classmate for their positive presence and thoughtful contributions in class. This is part of their final project—a synthesis presentation. To no one's surprise, a great number of them thanked Tiggs, who also won the Religious Studies award. Their comments speak to his gifts. 
  • Never afraid to put himself out there
  • Insightful and thoughtful comments
  • Consistent participation
  • Truly a LOVING and friendly guy
The word "education" comes from the Latin educere which means "to draw out." Although I was his teacher, I didn't teach Brenden anything—I simply drew out what was already in him. A spirit that loved sports and found more connection than disconnection, how God can be found in all things, and that each and everyone of us is called to be a "sacrament." To have been that educator is one of the great privileges and honors of my life.

In the Catholic tradition, when someone dies we say "Grant him Lord, eternal rest." and we are called to respond by saying "And may perpetual light shine upon him." Perpetual light will shine on this "Muscular Christian." It always did.

Photos Credits

Memorial Service

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Unwritten Chapter in the Book of Manning: Friendship Part II

When pro golfer Phil Mickelson lost the 2013 US Open, he stayed in bed for several days. His wife Amy, who has stood beside Lefty is six other second place Open finishes, said "He was a shell. It was the worst disappointment for him of any tournament, by far." If it hadn't been for his good friend and caddy, Jim "Bones" Mackay, who knows when Mickelson would have left that safe space. Mackay called and texted to make sure he would see his boss in Big Sky country. Jay Heart wrote 'The family packed the week with rafting, fly fishing, archery, shooting, a visit to Yellowstone – pretty much everything but golf and not a single spare minute. "A great week with great friends who don't care if he's the U.S. Open champion or not," is how Amy explained it."
No one is immune to loss or disappointment. Thank God for friends 
This is what friends do. They pick us up when we are down, they remind us that we need to laugh and probably find a way to make us do so! They bring chicken soup when we're cold and hand over a box of tissues when the waters works won't quit. And my sense is no one needed a friend to combat his utter disappointment in the atrocious loss in Super Bowl XLVIII more than Peyton Manning. And if I had to make a bet, that friend was either his younger brother Eli or his older brother Cooper.

As written in "The Unwritten Chapter of the Book of Manning: Friendship Part I," Cooper and Peyton became more than siblings through football. Playing on the same team back in the fall of 1991 made them friends. And it's Cooper's insight on friendship that serve as my favorite chapter in "The Book of Manning."

John Goodman, the film's narrator said "Cooper accepted a scholarship to his father’s alma mater, Ole Miss. Archie’s eldest son was ready to write his own chapter in the Book of Manning."
 As reported in the video:
"I went off to Ole Miss to play football for the mighty rebels and I wanted to catch a ball in the last two minutes to beat Alabama." 
"Football always takes some funny turns though," said Archie.
In 1992, Cooper Manning arrived at Ole Miss to continue the family football tradition, but something just didn’t seem right. 
Cooper said, "I really wasn't 100% at Ole Miss. My right hand had lost some strength. I had some atrophy in my right bicep so my dad and I flew to the Mayo Clinic, I had some serious testing and that's when the message started to come heavy that my football day were not an option." 
"I had what is called spinal stenosis. I played my entire career one hit away from being in a wheel chair the rest of my life." 
Archie replied "It was a tough time because Cooper was the one who said “Dad I want to play college football. I really want to play” It was hard to sit down and tell your son that his dream was over...he wasn't going to play football." 
Cooper said, "I remember going back to Ole Miss and being out there on a Friday before a game. I walked out to practice with my dad. I guess the coaches told the team that I wasn't going to play anymore. I remember some old guys, some seniors who should not have cared about a college freshman being really nice...being really good to me." 
"I think that even impressed my dad. I think he was a little surprised that these seniors—these older guys—gave a hoot about me."  
"I think what I miss most about football is—the guys. Not winning or losing or catching touchdowns, it's the locker room, the bus rides home. That was good stuff."

This scene was remarkably intimate and telling. Twenty years after the fact, and Cooper Manning—a grown man, husband and father is still brought to tears. The camera closes in on just his face; the loss of friendship manifested in the team was still palpable. It wasn't the wins, the plays, the contests, or the accolades which he mourned. It was the friends. The jokes, the pranks, the growth, the self realization that our teammates are privy to on a daily basis is what he missed. It speaks to the power of friendship. 

What Peyton wrote to his brother as a way of processing and coming to understand his condition.
"The Book of Manning" is remarkable in that each member of the family makes their own unique and striking impression—not just Peyton, nor Archie, but Eli, Olivia and especially Cooper. Maybe it is because we are the same age and worked through a major health issue, but Cooper's testimony stayed with me on a spiritual level. Yes, it's emotional (evidently both Archie and Olivia cried when they watched the tape) and yes it's sincere, but it's power lies in the fact that it rings true for 95% of my student athletes. Cooper articulates so beautifully the power of friendship: the crown jewel of the sporting life. 

Anthony Marinise OSB speaks to this truth in "Practice Makes Perfect: Growing Spiritually Through Sports Participation." 
It stands to reason to believe that teammates are already or will become friends with one another because of their shared interest in their respective sport, but also because of the great amounts of time they spend in one another’s presence as they train or compete alongside one another.  
A prayer worth praying.
Christianity is, in itself, a great call to friendship. When Jesus spoke to His Apostles and issued His great commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you,” (John 13:34) it is clear that Christ was instructing the Apostles to love as they had experienced Jesus’ love. St. John, in his first letter, reminds the faithful that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Following logically from St. John’s explanation of God’s nature all the while understanding that there is a type of love that exists known as “philia” or “the love of friendship,” one could understand that because God is love and love exists in friendship, then God is present in the experience of friendship.  
It is imperative for athletes to recognize that an individual’s existence as an opponent is not a valid reason for the denial or rejection of friendship. Because of the universally equal creation “in God’s image,” it is wholly possible for athletes to experience the presence of God on their respective field of play. Christ meets us in our day-to-day through the interaction of those who also share in relationship with Him; His Spirit is present in others. It is that presence that greets athletes through their interactions with others and allows them to confidently acknowledge that Christ’s Spirit “is a presence calling us to be friends.”
Maybe today you can pray for teammates past and present who have been friends—some for a season, some for several, others for a lifetime and beyond. Reflect on the ways that God has revealed Godself through the time you spent together—on the field, the bus rides, the banquets, in defeat and in victory. Amen.

Photo Credits
Bummed out Peyton
Peyton's Letter to his brother
Friendship prayer