Saturday, August 25, 2018

My Hope for the 2018-2019: Failure

"Sweet 16" at St. Ignatius College Prep is underway, as the first day of the 2018-2019 school year commenced on Friday, August 24. 2018. Yes, we start school on a Friday. Yes, people think that's strange. Yes, I love starting on the last day of the work week. Why? that first day of school is pro forma. Though I still get a little nervous (which I think is a good thing), the day largely feels like a ritualized song and dance. Students walk into the classroom bright eyed and bushy tailed, wondering where they will sit and which one of their friends or trusted classmates are in the same course. I have my talking points, I do what I can to extend a warm and personal welcome and I let them know a little bit about who I am and what we will study. This year, I decided I wanted to leave them with but one hope and expectation for the course: to fail. 
If you are a parent those words should be of major concern. If you are a student, that "F" word is an injustice. Are you an administrator? Yes, I want my job. If you are an educator, you might be wondering if cynicism has eaten my heart and corrupted my soul. However, if you are an athlete—especially a golfer—maybe you have at least a small sense of where I am coming from. Indeed Sports and Spirituality have taught me the power and the good of my hope and expectation for the new school year—a lesson that is articulated best by a young man, in an unlikely setting, and in an unsuccessful place. 
"Going the Extra Length" produced by CBS Sunday Morning is a story about how we might become successful people. Their website states: 
The swim coach of Seguin High School in Arlington, Texas, says you can't overstate the underachievement of his school's swim team; he measures success by his athletes not getting disqualified. So when Gerald Hodges – a pretty-good athlete who couldn't swim – joined up, it was because he couldn't bear not being good at something. Steve Hartman talked with Hodges about how he was able to measure success in the final lap.
I hope that you will watch this story and live by the words of Gerald this year. 
I hope my students and my golfers learn how to handle NOT being good at something. I hope they find themselves failing and when they do, I want them to work hard, listening to others, ask for help from their teachers, parents, and coaches, and realize what they are made of to improve, get better and grow stronger. Who knows where that can and will take them....

So before the bell rang, I reminded my students of what Steve Hartman said, "Setting yourself up for failure is actually the key to success, especially if you can somehow master your weakness." It's going to be a great year!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

USC's Track Star Kendall Ellis and Her Work of Art

The great middle and long distance runner Steve Prefontaine once told a reporter, "A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they're capable of understanding." No wonder so many passages of Scripture refer to running. The Word, like art, offers a message that is timeless and eternal, universal and beautiful. See for yourself:
  • I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. —2 Timothy 4:7
  • Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. —1 Corinthians 9:24-25
  • Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us* and persevere in running the race that lies before us —Hebrews 12:1
Though I agree with Pre— a race is a work of art—the feat on Hayward Field at the 2018 NCAA Track and Field Championship Races, leads me to believe there is but one way to look and at be affected by the accomplishment of USC track star, Kendall Ellis. 

I could capture in writing what she did, but why. See for yourself. I can guarantee your reaction: sheer and total amazement, awe, inspiration, even wonder. In short, five different ways of describing the same thing. Truly she ran like a woman inspired.

To be inspired is to be filled with the spirit, and many Christians will recognize that energy and life pulse as the Holy Spirit. 
At our back to school faculty in-service day, we unpacked the theme of our year: Ignite the Fire Within. Though it may sound strange, that fire is the passion we each have inside of us. This fire leads and guides us to give and not to count the cost. It is not separate from, but a part of the Holy Spirit. No wonder The Spirit is often depicted as a White Dove amidst tongues of fire. We humbly prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide us this year and leave us with the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

As I read about each of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, my mind's eye kept returning to Ellis' race. In her race, I saw Wisdom, Understanding, Fortitude, and Awe. I realized another may look at it and see Knowledge and Awe. As I considered how a coach, another runner, or a teammate may view that relay-—truly a work of art—I decided the Oregon legend Steve Prefontaine and I might both be right. People who see this race are affected in different ways. They probably see the Gifts of the Spirit they know. 

We say that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," but I have come to believe some things are so triumphant and glorious that the one who is beholden can see but one thing: beauty. That's universal and yet, it's personal too. Perhaps that's what makes a song, a painting, a sculpture and a 4x400 meter race, truly, a work of art.

Photo Credits
Kendall Ellis Baton

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Dodger's Challenge ≠ Kershaw's Challenge

Dodgers fans must be scratching their heads. This team, one that most MLB fans expect to win the National Leauge (at least the NL West) is third in their division, two games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks, and a half game behind the Colorado Rockies. Between a teammate like Yasiel Puig and a loss on Saturday night to the Mariners in an extra-inning walk-off balk (you have to read it to believe it) they certainly have their challenges. Their best pitcher Clayton Kershaw is, however, not one of them.
Today, the three-time Cy Young award winner earned his 150th win. He is 6-5 on the season (sustained a lower back strain earlier this year) with an ERA of 2.47. Though it is a challenge for me to find much good in anything Dodger blue, I have to admit I look forward to teaching about this 6'4 lefty whose fastball challenges most batters. Here's why.

Kershaw's Twitter profile reveals a person who lives and loves Sports and Spirituality.
Underneath his name/number are but two items: 
Colossians 3:23 and a website address: kershawschallenge.com
The Bible passage to which Kershaw refers is a letter from St. Paul addressed to a congregation at Colossae in the Lycus Valley in Asia Minor, east of Ephesus. Colossians 3:23 says: Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others. Beautiful. Why? Because what the Lord asks of us to do for Him, cannot be but for the good of all creation.

Since 2011, Kershaw's Challenge, his foundation has sought "to serve vulnerable and at-risk children living in Los Angeles, Dallas, Zambia and the Dominican Republic. Our goal is to partner with organizations that are committed to this as well and work alongside them on specific projects to make life better for children." I love that they work in the city where he grew up: Dallas, the city where he now works: Los Angeles, and two places abroad. And yet, his philanthropy is not separate from his faith, but rather, a result of it. Their mission statement reveals 
Kershaw’s Challenge is a faith-based, others-focused organization. We exist to encourage people to use whatever God-given passion or talent they have to make a difference and give back to people in need. We want to empower people to use their spheres of influence to impact communities positively and to expand God’s Kingdom. We believe that God can transform at-risk children and neighborhoods through the benevolence and impact of others.
I have one friend—just one!!!— who is a Dodger fan. He pointed out that the prayer Clayton Kerhaw offers everyday is a good one. It's not challenging either. It's one we can and should all say. He prays,  "Lord, whatever happens, be with me." I don't doubt that Kershaw offers the same daily prayer whether he is on the mound or working with the young people his foundation serves. And to me, that's the joy of Sports and Spirituality.

NB: I'd rather just give to his foundation, but I have to admit, these shirts are nice!
Photo Credits
CK Pitching

Friday, August 17, 2018

Summer Reading: Bringing Spirituality to Sports. Thank you Greg Boyle, SJ

I read one book this summer. Scratch that—I read about 15 books this summer, but I only finished one. #notproud. Perhaps you understand. Maybe you don't...because with a two-month hiatus from work, I should be sharing a post entitled: The 10 best sports books and 10 best reads re: spirituality. There's always next summer, right? #goalsetting.
The one book I read and finished, however, is a great one: Greg Boyle's "Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship." and though it didn't have much by way of sports, it was resplendent in spirituality. Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries is a Catholic priest who has and continues to give his life in total service to others. His flock are men and women who are seeking a much different life than the one they most likely know: a life of violence, abuse, drug usage, and despair in and through gangs. 

Some might say that he has saved but he is the first to save they have saved him...from himself...from self-absorption and believing in his own cleverness, obsessions, and ambition. Word. As a poet and prophet, you will find countless nuggets of wisdom in his stories. The following quotes are the ones I determined resonate with sports, coaching and athletic ministry. 

Saint Ignatius wants us to consider “how God dwells” in things, inviting us to sheer wonder at sonograms and sunsets, and everything in between.
Reading this reminded me that "everything in between" is inclusive of the canyon at Sharp Park, home course of SI  JV girls' golf. Though we don't always want to cross the street and walk through the tunnel to play the 4 long holes that are nestled in a cove created by nature—one with incline and lots of trouble, plenty of space for a golf ball to go out of bounds or just plain get lost—when Alistair McKenzie designed this course, he simply chiseled away to reveal a space where God dwells. Amen.

When Ignatius speaks of consolation, he means any movement that propels us in the forward direction. Desolation, then, is it opposite; not just feeling bad but also being kept from allowing our hearts to be cradled in God's. A homie, generally an able to filter his thoughts, met a stranger who had no legs. Unable to hold back, he looked at him and said, “Whoa. How do you manage?” 
The legless man shrugged and said, “I just keep moving.” 
Pretty much it.

Though I had run and completed three marathons, I had a healthy fear of running the Dispea in 2007. "The Olympian" describes this special though demanding race so well. "Started in 1905, the 7.4 mile Dipsea is the oldest trail race in the United States. Over the years, sections of the course have garnered colorful but harrowing monikers such as "Dynamite," "Cardiac" and "Insult" hills. Every year there are multiple injuries and runners treated for dehydration and exhaustion." From its start of, oh 20 flights of trail stairs to the choice a runner must make between two paths: one labeled "safe" and the other labeled "suicide" I needed advice from my friend Kevin Grady, Dipsea finisher and former cross country coach. He told me one thing: "keep moving forward." I drew upon his words. I did what he said. I still live by those words.
Boyle's story, however, is that much more poignant. To me, this anecdote speaks to the power of noticing, of wonder, of connection, of disposition and attitude. We all need to "just keep moving." This is a story I want to share with my students and my athletes. Those words "keep moving" might serve as my motto for the year. 

"Wage peace with your listening." Judyth Hill

If we are seeking "to be understood as to understand," we must listen. Each season brings with it a share of challenges and difficulties. Team chemistry is never a given. Our athletes will feel disappointed, angry, spiteful and defeated. What a beautiful image to consider that we can change the tide of acrimony and disenfranchisement by opening our ears.

And yet, I believe there are so many ways to listen. Pay attention. Notice, Observe more. Talk less. Seek clarification. Stay curious. You'll wage peace in that process. 
Ignatius of Loyola invites us to find God in all things. And he means all things. He is right in saying this, for the world is steeped in God. Grace indeed is everywhere. Ignatius discouraged his Jesuit for meditating on lofty, abstract divine truth. Meditate on the world, he instructed them, and all that happens in it, packed shoulder to shoulder with God. We live amidst the universe and soaked in the grace that invites us to savor it in.

Not really sure what I need to add. "All things" and as Boyle emphasizes "all things" means sports, athletes, practice, competition, victory and defeat, triumph and challenge. I hope it's a great year!

I don't doubt that as a coach, teacher or parent, you probably feel as though you are often "barking at the choir." Through his writing Greg Boyle, SJ invites us to "find kinship with one another and re-convinces us all of our own goodness." What a great summer read. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

A Sports & Spirituality Story about 25: Barry Bonds

"Let me tell you a story about 25." —Danny Glover
Though sixteen other men have worn the jersey number 25, the last one to dawn it in for the San Francisco Giants is none other than the Home Run King, Barry Bonds. 25 now hangs with nine other numbers on the Giants own Hall of Fame. The team's CEO Larry Baer, noted that 30,176 men have worn MLB uniforms. Baer continued, “Only 199, less than six-tenths of one percent, have been so extraordinary, so etched into the story of a franchise, that it would be impossible to imagine their number ever gracing another man’s back. And that’s what we have here with Barry Bonds.” Such distinction merits a story.

Thus, on Saturday, August 11, 2018, in what was a beautiful evening in the City by the Bay, some the games' all-time greats and Giants' All-Stars were on deck to share their own story about 25. I don't doubt that every fan in the house could do the same. And, I wonder in the future when a child asks their mom or dad, aunt or uncle about 25, what story will be told? Here's the story I'd like to tell about 25—Sports and Spirituality style.

Bonds played in Major League Baseball from 1986 until 2007, coming to San Francisco in 2003 after seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His stats are remarkable, downright breath-taking—a word I use intentionally. Take a look
  • 7-time MVP
  • 14-time All-Star
  • 8-time Gold Glove winner
  • 14-time Silver Slugger award winner
  • 6 Division Titles
  • 73 Home Runs: a single-season record.... One that complemented THE record:
  • 762 Home Runs
  • 35 Splash Hits: an HR that goes outside of Pac Bell/AT&T Park and into San Francisco Bay
  • 2558 walks: (perhaps more than once) a pitcher walked Bonds with the bases loaded.
Those numbers tell a significant part of the story about 25, but it didn't end there. Glover framed things perfectly when he stated: "You know what was bigger than the records he shattered? It's the way he stole our breath with every swing." As a baseball fan, I agree. As a sports fan, I concur. And, as a Giants fan, I know. 

What intrigues me most in this story about 25 are those four words: "he stole our breath." Glover invites fans to remember those moments where we stood in utter disbelief. When all we could say was "wow!" if that. To have our breath stolen means that air—a source of life— is taken from us. There is, however, nothing pejorative about his remark. But in my story, I think otherwise.

I listened to the ceremony on KNBR 680 AM radio. It was a treat for me to imagine the events as they unfolded. My mind and heart put color—far beyond orange and black—to the celebration. I thought about AT&T Park in its glory, the left field wall ready for its newest number. I rejoiced when I heard that Giants first baseman Will Clark got a standing ovation. I was thrilled Robb Nen was in the house and not surprised that Jeff Kent wasn't. I found myself car dancing when Bonds walked through the centerfield gates to "The Next Episode." I already knew how dapper 25 would look, how fit he is—a truth confirmed by Giants announcer Jon Miller. I got choked up several times, recalling the memories of so many seasons and the reality that it is because of 25 that we now have a downtown ballpark in SF. They refer to Yankee Stadium as "the House that Ruth built," but Giants fans would be misguided if they didn't recognize our cathedral as "the House that Bonds built". And yet, as I listened to the entire ceremony, I realized that at times, it was hard to breathe...once again, it had been stolen. Part of me was uncomfortable....I found myself waiting for a shoe to drop....wondering if anyone would address the elephant in the stadium. Doubting that was even possible....

Bonds watching "Bonds on Bonds" a reality TV show that lasted 2 months
A day like August 11, 2018—a great day in San Francisco Giants history—is meant to be a day of celebration. Days like this one are not meant to be truth-telling or discerning, and yet because of that, I must admit—it felt inauthentic. And the reason that I editorialize my story in this way extends beyond my belief that Barry Bonds used anabolic steroids. To a certain degree, I fault MLB for not testing for HGH and other PEDs as the game did what it could to recover from the 1994 strike (a shortened season). Like his Godfather, I believe Bonds should be put in the Hall of Fame, with—not an asterik—but the information that Bonds' name appears in the Mitchell Report. We: the fans— those interested in the story— can make our own decisions and judgments. This chapter in 25's career is real, but what—at times was harder for me to hold—is that Bonds was a difficult teammate. Sportsmanship is not a word associated with 25. 

Many fans will offer their own story. The media is relentless and I don't really feel the need to defend them, but the image of his recliner in the designated part of the locker room or his refusal to show up for the team photo, sear my memory. The book "Love Me, Hate Me" might be unfair—it did not include Bonds as one of 500 interviews,—but from them, Sports Illustrated's sportswriter Jeff Pearlman concludes that "his reputation as an insufferable braggart, whose mythical home runs are rivaled only by his legendary ego is deserved." The book's description on Amazon adds, "Bonds inspires a like amount of passion from both sides of the fence. For many, Bonds belongs beside Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron in baseball's holy trinity; for others, he embodies all that is wrong with the modern athlete: aloof; arrogant; alienated." Perhaps Bonds could have addressed that he was, quite often, a difficult teammate. Maybe he regrets some of his choices. He wouldn't be the first or the last. Those at the center of the celebration can be humble in victory. There was space for adoration and atonement, glory and remembering those good times. I just wish he had shared a human bend to it all—flawed, fragile, broken and reborn.
I do love that swing.
The root of the word spirituality is spiritus, Latin for spirit or breath. The etymology of this word has always resonated with me and my understanding of spirituality. The spirit was alive on Saturday, August 11, 2018. At times it was made visible in the hugs, cheers and tears, smiles and the swagger. But it was also taken away as it has before with 25, for better and for worse.

Photo Credits
Bleacher Report: A GREAT summary of the day!
Behind the Scenes with BB

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Why I say "Girls" or "Boys" and not "Mens" and "Womens" in High School Athletics

There is a Chinese proverb: "The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name." This truth statement extends beyond calling "a spade a spade." It speaks to the power of words, how we use them and for what purpose. Titles, names, descriptors—all of these words help us to know and understand someone or something. I've heard a wise person knows what he or she does not know. Well, a wise person refers to a person, place or thing with the right name, too. And so it is in this context that I must share my struggle with a name/term that is used often in high school sports: "men" or "women." 
I love these girls....
Looking at the Fall sports schedule, on the Athletics pages of most high school websites, you will find a roster for "men's and women's cross country" or the names of the head coaches for "men's and women's water polo." On my own school's website, I had to change the start date for "women's golf." Such necessary and important information doesn't make me pause, but, I look at these web pages with a discerning eye and I am often uncomfortable and unsure of myself. How? Why? I'm not convinced we should use the word "men" or "women" to describe high school athletics.

The question I raise has nothing to do with gender identity. Rather, I struggle with calling a 14-year-old girl or a 15-year-old boy a "woman" or a "man." As a coach, I work very closely with 10 young women who are anything but women. They are (still) very young; I don't see that as a bad thing. They are still growing, their brains are still developing, their hearts and minds still expanding! They don't even know what they don't know, there's so much to learn. Teenagers may not be children, but they are not adults.


It took me a good bit of time and maturity to become comfortable with the word "woman". To me, that term carries with it more than what the word "adult" does. I suppose there are societal expectations, norms and mores, ideas and generalizations that give it an added weight. Some are appropriate and fitting, others might be up for grabs, but I can only speak for myself: becoming a woman takes time and it should. To place the responsibilities that come with it on a young person before their time is a disservice to them and to society. 
When people ask me what I coach, I tell them "girls' golf." I have coached "girls cross country and girls' crew." I sincerely believe I have a responsibility to transport the girls / young women in my care through experiences that can provide them with a stronger sense of who they are and who they are meant to be. This is a core belief in my coaching philosophy. In due time, they will become women. It doesn't happen overnight or in an instant, nor does it happen their freshman and sophomore year.

Do I think that all high school sports should use the word(s) "boys" and "girls" to describe their sports? What about varsity sports that often include young men and women who are 17 and 18 years old, often mature, developed, tall, strong and confident? I'm not sure. I think our language has its limitations and I see that in my role as a coach of a girls' sport. But I also think this idea and the responsibility that comes with it merits further discussion. Let me know.

PS: I HATED the term Lady Irish or Lady Vols to describe women's basketball. 
I'm glad to see this descriptor go away....

Monday, August 6, 2018

Terrell Owens: A Man of Courage and Character Who "Loves Me More"

And on the 317th day, God made Terrell Owens. 
But why, you might ask, did it take God all of 317 days to make the now Hall of Fame wide receiver? I think the more pressing question is why did it take NFL Hall of Fame three years for Owens to be inducted. On Saturday, August 4, 2018, Terrell Eldorado Owens became the 317th member to receive a gold jacket and a bronze bust, that will forever be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. The irony in all of this, however, is that T.O. opted out of that ceremony, only to host his own inside McKenzie Arena at the University of Tennessee Chatanooga. The presentation began precisely at 3:17 pm.


I did not watch Owen's speech until after I read Terrell Owens — unique, defiant and maybe self-defeating — inducts himself into the Hall of Fame, a thorough and thoughtful article sent to me by my brother. Upon reading this piece from the Washington Post, I was reminded—yet again—when you have people like Terrell Owens, you need not read fiction. 
What an outstanding class. Unfortunate that T.O. was not there to make the mark that only he can with them.
His personal story is remarkable: though I was already familiar with his familial background (at the age of 11 he found out that the man living across the street was his father), I did not know that this six-time Pro Bowl selection was not allowed to play sports until high school. Given the specialization of today's youth sports and that so few D1 athletes play more than one sport (he played both football and basketball at UTC), Owens is that much more of an anomaly. He was teased and bullied because he was gangly with very dark skin; he was once very quiet and shy. The man that most San Francisco 49ers fans know is different: he loves me some me. He stood on the star in Dallas, he celebrated excessively in the end zone—polarizing players / getting penalized and yet he was revered by teammates for his work ethic and was, according to former Eagles coach, Andy Reid, "one of the most coachable guys I've ever had." As a coach, I consider that descriptor the highest of praise. 

The article is worth reading in its entirety as Adam Kilgore addresses the pros and cons, complexity and angles of T.O's choice to accept entry into the Hall of Fame. Please know, however, it will probably leave you with more questions than answers and well, maybe the desire to read more...nonfiction.
When you finish, take a look—and a listen, at his speech (linked here). Owens is undoubtedly the star of his own show. Not many people can pull off a suit like the one he wears: dotted with the NFL Hall of Fame Logo. Replete with his megawatt smile, Owens' quoted MLK, Einstein and even Scripture. As a child, his Grandmama made him read the Bible every night and he chose to read from Deuteronomy 31:6 for "it represents me well," he said. The Word says: Be strong and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them, for it is the LORD, your God, who marches with you; he will never fail you or forsake you. This may have been my favorite moment for it was a true reflection of who he is and what's in his heart. The towel that he kept using to dry his eyes?! Not so much....seriously? a towel?!!

I do believe that Terrell Owens is the man he claims to be: "A man of conviction, a man of faith, a man of humility, a man of character and integrity, charisma, and discipline. A man of courage, one who had the courage to choose Chatanooga over Canton." And yet, I also believe given the huge persona that he has offered the media, the NFL and his fans in a sport that yes, celebrates individuals, but is regarded as the ultimate team sport—he could have said what he said with his classmates, on that field. That's not his way. As he told a fan who yelled: "I Love you!"—he said, "I love me more." 

In my book, I love him for being unabashedly who he is, but as in any good story/novel, we are here to discuss, debate and disagree. No wonder it took 317 days to create this character....

Photo Credits
HoF class
TO

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Numbers Talk in Sports...How About in Spirituality

When numbers talk, people listen. That's because numbers are precise and easy to remember. They help us make sense of our world, of reality. For example, the first fact I share with people about my time in West Virginia is that the population of the 35th state is 1.8 million. Thanks to an executive order by the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, West Virginia became a state in 1863. Suffice to say, I got a few good numbers in there. Given the primacy of numbers, I want to know how the Catholic Church ought to consider numbers much in the same way we are in the wide world of sports. Here's a thought...
In the past 48 hours, I have seen, heard and read about record-breaking numbers, new numbers, crazy numbers. It's possible the highlight reel of the Washington Nationals vs. New York Mets game broke some sort of record, it lasted so long. The Nats beat the Mets 25-4. No, the game did not go into extra innings. No team in MLB has ever lost a game by that by that many runs. Feeling for my friends who are either a) Mets fans or b) in attendance at that game, I flipped the TV from SportsCenter to the Today show only to discover Al Roker reporting that Death Valley reached an all-time high of 129.9 degrees. The daily average is 120. Living in a city where I have turned on both my windshield wipers as well as my heater every day this week, it's hard for me to imagine a place in the same hemisphere that is posting temperatures two times that of the microclimate I inhabit. And for those who follow the stock market, Facebook reported the largest one-day loss in market value by any company in U.S. stock market history after releasing a disastrous quarterly report. Those numbers say a lot. I'm sure you could add your own record, your own set of numbers reaching new highs or unfounded lows. Oy ve! 
We keep records to serve as an account of past achievement/occurrences. Though we could frame such evidence in a narrative form, numbers do the trick and yet their power and their responsibility extend much further, as seen in athletics. Numbers reveal a win/loss record, salaries, stats and more stats. A good team will draw a large number of fans, which helps the owner meet the bottom line. When Ray Kinsella heard, "If you build it, he will come," the voice was alluding to much more than Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 Chicago White Sox. That voice was talking about numbers. 

Perhaps the greatest power and responsibility of a number is in the context of time. We actually don't need numbers to tell time, but we have created a system dependent on them.  Time is the most precious of commodities. We cannot replicate it (or can we?!) and it's something we never have enough of.  Hence, it's power.
All sports have their own relationship to it. Some sports are framed by a clock: basketball, football, hockey, and soccer to name just a few. Others, however, are not: baseball, golf. and tennis. Still, other sports like swimming, track and cross country invite in numbers—and a clock in their own way. And though the power and responsibility of numbers vary from sport to sport, there seems to be a common trend when it comes to time: Less is more.

I don't know a sport that is looking to go long. Baseball, golf, college football—all three of these very popular and successful sports are looking to shorten the game. Rob Manfred, Commissioner reported that he would like to implement even more time-saving mechanisms. Golf is obsessed with "pace of play" on every level—even the pros. College football, which hasn't decreased in its popularity to the extent pro football has, reports that most fans believe the game is just too long. While most fans want games to "trim the fat" I do wonder at what point is too much a good thing? To what degree will the game be compromised if play time is contracted? To what degree will it be enhanced?
Said no one, ever.
A friend reported his desire to shorten school masses. I hate to admit it, but as our attention spans wane and our ability to focus on any one thing lessens, it might be necessary to adapt this reality to—yes—even the way that we worship the One who is timeless. 

The number of Catholics who attend mass in the United States has decreased dramatically in the last 10 years. The reasons for this shift are fascinating to me. My friend's insight caused me to question: Might we be more likely to keep the Catholics we do have in the pews if we were to shorten a Sunday service to 45 minutes rather than 60? Would you be willing to go more than twice a month (the average) if you knew the service wouldn't take more than an hour of your time?  The one-hour commitment is not the primary reason that people no longer go to Church....in fact, I have read the reasons why....but I would like to consider following the trend that we see in sports into our spiritual life. 

I write this posting because I would sincerely like to hear what people, especially young people think. 

NB: I'm sure there is a record for the shortest mass out there as well as the longest one—if you were at the Baccalaureate Mass for St. Ignatius College Prep about 10 years ago, you may have been at it. And as much as numbers help us to make sense of our days, our weeks, what we do and what we don't do, I also know enough to recognize that the Lord isn't working with numbers. God's time is no Chronos....it's Kairos: God's time. Number don't apply.


Photo Credits
Death Valley
Pitch Clock
Shirt