Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What is New Adds to an Old Tradition: The Bruce Mahoney 2016

This Friday night marks the culmination of the fall sports spirit week: the Bruce Mahoney football game—a contest that holds the distinction as the longest standing athletic rivalry between two schools west of the Mississippi River. Nearly 5,000 people will gather at the historic Kezar Stadium to watch the Wildcats of St. Ignatius College Prep take on the Fightin' Irish of Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep High School. Like so many others in our two communities, I can't wait for game time. 

Given the rate of change, the immediacy of the world we live in and the limited time span of a teenager's life, I am struck by in my students' love for this tradition. When a movie created in 2007 is considered "really old," implying it is now irrelevant, I have wondered how a trophy that honors the lives of Bill Bruce (SI 1935) and Jerry Mahoney (SH 1944), who gave their lives for their country in World War II can carry such meaning.

As written on the SI's athletic website
The Bruce-Mahoney Trophy is a prize which the students of both schools value as much today as their fathers and grandfathers did before them. And the rivalry between SI and SH is as vibrant in the twenty-first century as it was in the nineteenth, when it all began. 
And I think it's worth noting exactly when the rivalry was born.
St. Patrick's Day in 1893 marked the start of this tradition when the two schools met in Central Park at Eighth and Market Streets for a rugby game; a game won by Sacred Heart, 14-4. 
Quite often when we think of tradition, whether it be in the Church, in a school or among our sports teams our first thought is that tradition is immune to change. We ask "Is it still a tradition if we don't do x or if we add y?" We worry that if we modify or amend tradition, it will lose its meaning. And yet tradition is more than skin deep; tradition does not come out of thin air (tradition probably ties of cliches like the ones I'm throwing down). It is built on a foundation that has meaning, is proven as valuable over time and quite often is made better in the process.
In the 14 years I have taught at SI, I continue to remain humbled and ever impressed by the tradition of the Bruce Mahoney. And, in that same time I have seen how members of both communities have brought new gifts and contributions to this on-going tradition. For example, one of my favorite moments at the boys' (and girls') basketball game is the pregame prayer. Because it takes place at USF's War Memorial Gym, one school is designated as the host to lead the crowd in pregame rituals. Whether or not it's SI or SH, the student body president calls all in attendance to "Take a moment of silence." After that moment, he or she says "Let us remember" and all 1500 students respond "that we are in the holy presence of God." It's a beautiful way to gather us to pause and thank God for each other. It wasn't always the way we started our shared prayer...and I don't  see it going away anytime soon. 

In the past three years, I have had a number of female students argue for a Bruce Mahoney-type trophy to be awarded in girls' athletics. Both schools have discussed and debated what shape and form it could take. It hasn't been an easy conversation, but it's been an interesting and spirited one. I hope a new tradition will be born sooner than later! And to that point, the description of the Bruce Mahoney trophy is in need of revision. We now have students whose mothers value the honor as well. Our two school communities serve young men and women throughout the Bay Area, far beyond the 49 square miles of San Francisco. They have done so since the early '90s.
Grateful for my golf partner in today's JV
scramble. One of my former players
now on varsity!

Though the Bruce Mahoney trophy goes to the school that wins two out of three contests: football, basketball and baseball—one boy's sport for each season, the majority of our 26 varsity programs have their own "Bruce Mahoney" game. The pep rally recognizes all fall sport athletes. In our spirit week golf scramble that took place today, the varsity golfers were discussing how to make their presence known...exploding golf balls? I will cheer loudly for this spirited team and whether or not I receive a football jersey from a senior, it is one of my favorite traditions, that started maybe 10 years ago as a way for an athlete to honor a teacher, counselor or administrator. 

And the game itself, considered by many of the athletes to be the most important one of the year reflects the time that we live in. A number of students continue to take a knee during the National Anthem. They have been supported by their teammates, coaches, teachers, parents and administrators. Their decision brought the team together in a necessary dialogue that yielded a new understanding and respect for one another.

Though not all football players will kneel, all of them will wear the #54 on their helmet. Our Father President shared the following message with the SI community.
As you know, Kevin Downs '09 was seriously wounded while serving the people of San Francisco as a Police officer. The entire Saint Ignatius family reaches out to Kevin and his family with our prayers and support as he recovers. Kevin's service embodies the highest ideals of his school of being a person for and with others. 
On the Monday morning after Kevin was shot the entire St. Ignatius community offered our morning's prayer for Kevin, his wife and family and all law enforcement members who serve our community as Kevin does. Additionally, we prayed for Kevinat our recent Student Liturgy and will continue to pray for him. 
The SI football team on which Kevin played is honoring his dedication by wearing a decal with his number, 54, on the back of their helmets for the rest of the season. At this week's "Bruce-Mahoney" game there will be a 50-50 Raffle for SI and SHC where SI's proceeds will be donated to the Kevin Downs' Go-Fund Account for Ranchin' Vets, the charity that Kevin established to help soldiers reintegrate into civilian life.
I did not teach Kevin, yet I knew who he was because he created an active student club: Semper Fi. Kevin created this club in part to honor his older brother, who served in the US Marine Corps. I was not surprised when I learned that Kevin felt his own calling to serve community through law enforcement.  I want him to know of my gratitude for his service both at SI and in San Francisco.

Tradition gives a community an opportunity to look back, celebrate today, and wonder about tomorrow. The Bruce Mahoney game is a benchmark in the year—it's own type of homecoming that calls us to think of those in our history and in our midst. So at Friday's game, I will look at my colleagues in student football jerseys, at those players on the field taking a knee and the young men wearing 54 on their helmet and know we are all part of something much larger than ourselves.

Oh and by the way, SI football isn't just a team for boys. The punter is a girl....

Photo Credits

No comments:

Post a Comment