Thursday, January 12, 2017

Do Some Sports Reveal Character More Accurately Than Others? The Story of Cardinal Tobin

My parents believe one can learn a lot about a person's character from the card game, Bridge. Their conviction has invited me to consider what other games and sports do the same. With all due respect to Coach John Wooden who famously quipped, "sports do not build character, they reveal it," I suppose the answer should be "all of them." But I'm inclined to think that some might do the job more effectively than others. Your thoughts?
Golf is a no-brainer; tennis might be, too.  And, reading The New York Times article "Coming to Newark Archdiocese: A Different Kind of Cardinal,"  invited me to think not so much about the sport, but the space that it inhabits as a way to learn about other people. That place is often stinky and sweaty. It can be state of the art or show signs of wear are tare from days older than Rocky. Some are open 24 hours and others are hopping at the break of dawn. That's your local gym...or more specifically the weight room.

As a woman who inhabits one approximately twice a week, I can testify that Dude Perfect's Gym Stereotypes are not in vain. These guys out of Texas A&M crack me up because they highlight human nature, or in this case insights into our character and maybe more into different personalities. Yes, there's the talker, the sweaty guy, and Mr. Sauna Suit. We know the person who sings loudly, the other who grunts for all to hear and I've wondered from time to time if I am lifting weights next to Narcissus. A person can't possibly look at themselves in the mirror that long....that intently? Can they? Oh yes they can...they do.
I've seen people horde their share of weights and stake their plot of land for no one to compromise. But I've also seen people pick up after themselves and others. I have seen that sweaty guy or girl feverishly wipe down the equipment they just showered, leaving it cleaner than when they arrived. I've been warmly greeted by people I barely know because we share a common ritual and commitment. I'm so lucky. 

I probably know more about the people who workout on the 6th floor at my gym than I realize. I know many people's names, a little bit about their families, where they work and what they do. But I'm also sure that no one in there is a Bishop, let alone a Cardinal.

I loved reading about the Archbishop elect of Newark, New Jersey: Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin for a number of reasons. The oldest of thirteen children, he has cared for the poor all his life. His humility is just one of many reasons why Pope Francis remembered this talented and gracious leader who speaks five languages. In Cardinal Tobin, I see servant leadership and a sense of humor. Imagine this guy admitting he "used to be a priest" in between his reps. Though still a priest, his responsibilities extend far beyond the parish where he grew up. In him, I find a face of the Church that I love and not ashamed to call my own. In Father Tobin, I see sports and spirituality as one.
Pope Francis said that "priests should be shepherds living with the smell of sheep." In addition to smelling like sheep, Cardinal Tobin probably smells like rats—a gym rat. When he left, he was "presented with a goodbye gift: a framed photo of the cardinal with his seven workout buddies, whose ages range from 27 to over 70." Though the article tells us some wonderful things about this Church leader—for example, I'm impressed that he "woke up as early as 4 many morning to pray before arriving at the gym by 5:30," I think his crew is a better character reference. I encourage you to read the full article here, but if you want the real story on Cardinal Tobin ask anyone who has seen or interacted with him at the gym. The sport and the space reveal a lot. 

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