Thursday, October 14, 2021

One Way to Discuss Spirituality of Sports.... Thank you, Brandon Crawford

This message is for all the teachers who are sports fans. Are you dying to talk to your students about last night's game but not sure how? Are you seeking a fun way to integrate your passion? Justify losing the curriculum you will not cover because it's Orange October (insert your team/their motto here). With a class like Sports and Spirituality, I may not share your struggle but I still want to make the conversation a valuable one. Here's a thought.

Many teachers begin class with a journal prompt, a starter activity or thought of the day. Without a doubt, a predictable, formatted, content-based beginning of class activity can be used to achieve one of several goals. For example, beginning of class activities have previously been used to gain student attention, provide accountability, review material, engage with new content, or establish routines. To gain students’ attention, many teachers use multi-media, hands-on activities, surprising events, humor, or stories to appeal to students’ emotions (Davis, 2009). I like to use a singular photograph and get those creative juices flowing. Here's a good one.

On Monday, October 11, with the series tied at one game a piece, the San Francisco Giants returned to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 of the National League Division Series Championship. My Giants prevailed by beating their rival of 130 years 1-0. That W did not happen without the stellar defense of All-Star first baseman Brandon Crawford.

With two runners aboard and two outs, Dodgers' right fielder Mookie Betts hit a liner that seemed destined for left field, which would have tied the game 1-1, but Craw "perfectly timed his leap and got all sorts of airtime to pull the ball out of the air." Call it instincts, call it hops, I called it magnificent.

After the game, the Giants posted this photo to their social media page. The moment was exhilarating. The video replay of it is incredible. And the photo? Stupendous. I put it into my keynote presentation and asked my students to partner up. Their task: write a caption for this snapshot.

Some photos speak for themselves. I wanted to let my students speak to this one. With a caption less is more. Brevity is not alway their friend.

Even though the majority of my kids knew the context—more than I thought actually watched it live—they struggled to put a quip, a pithy remark or adequate description from pen to paper. A few students took a stab. One or two prevailed! I'll let you guess which ones.

  • Reach for the Series
  • There's more than gold in that glove
  • Jump
  • Baller
  • Sometimes seeing IS believing
  • He should have been a Spartan (that's one of mine...DLS!)

I wrote "Transcendent." What would you say?

After this activity, I asked my students to open our text to the essay "For the Love of the Game." One of my students read for us the designated verse from the chapter "Celebrating the Body." In it, Richard Gaillardetz writes,

A healthy appreciation for the goodness of the body opens us reflection on how the athletes' experience of embodiment can become the occasion for the encounter with the divine. Many athletes will describe a heightened bodily awareness in sport that, precisely in its bodiliness, enables an experience of transcendence.
It's always a good day in the classroom when what we read can speak for what we love, experience, witness, and seek to understand. What is an experience of transcendence? What might it mean to encounter the divine? And what does it mean to have a heightened bodily awareness? Again, thank you, Brandon Crawford.

One of the many reasons I love post-season sports—especially baseball is because every game is so significant. Every at bat, every out—each one is worth paying attention to. I find that very act to be a spiritual discipline. So let's fire it up! Sports and Spirituality is taking the field at Oracle Park tonight. First pitch: 6:07 p.m. Go Giants!

Photo Credits
B-Craw and High Five

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Good News: The Importance of the Hall of Fame

You don't need to hear it from me, we all know we live in challenging times. If it's not the political division and polarization that is dividing our country or living with and through a pandemic, it's the rising costs of gas and food, the effects of social media on teenagers... We are tired. Many are weary. What to do? The answer is simple: share the good news of Sports and Spirituality.

The Gospel is the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is available to anyone and everyone— thanks be to God. In the spiritual life, it is important to hear, pray with and pay attention to the words of everlasting life. They are as relevant and important today as they were 2,000 years ago. I was reminded of that in today's second reading.

In sports, the good news extends far beyonds the wins and the lessons learned from the losses. Though it's been a joy to celebrate the success of the San Francisco Giants, I would like to share where I found an antidote to despair, a wellspring of inspiration that lifted my spirits and left me thinking more about the importance of community and the strife for excellence: The Hall of Fame Induction and Celebration at the Olympic Club.

I have attended this evening event since 2018, when Jill Costello—a former coxswain that I coached—was inducted, posthumously. I am very proud to have been one of many people who submitted her profile for induction. As an invested club member, sports fan and student of history I have always found this evening to be interesting and inspiring. Here's why.
As written in the program, 

The purpose of the Olympic Club's Hall of Fame is to recognize and to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves on behalf of The Olympic Club in at least one of the following categories: (1) athletic achievement, (2) coaching and development of Club athletes, or (3) significant distinguished service to the Club.

There are currently 86 individuals and eight teams representing 20 sports in the Hall of Fame, as well as 23 charter members. Their stories emphasize not only the hard work and commitment necessary to hear greatness, but also the importance of the Club in their development. 

And those stories are exactly what we need—what I need to hear.

To hear the story of each inductee is to be reminded that no one achieves greatness alone. Whether the honoree was part of an individual or a team sport, they recognized family members, coaches, teammates and friends who supported them along the way. Each member of the Hall of Fame overcame adversity. No one was a stranger to failure or set backs. And yet, the Hall of Fame Class of 2021 triumphed in their own way. Their grit, determination, sense of humor, their memories and stories made victory, excellence and triumph a reality. They did it! I dare say we are all better for it.

The evening begins with a reception that is open to all members. At this reception, I was able to congratulate the inductees, many who I did not know. It didn't matter. I ran into friends who were happy to introduce me—what an honor. Each  one was gracious and welcoming. It must be humbling to be in that type of spotlight. I loved seeing just how many club members came out for each individual. This is community at its best.

The official program was hosted by Brian Murphy, of Murph and Mac, my morning sports talk radio show on KNBR—the Giants flagship station. When you spend an hour listening to a person every morning, it's hard not to feel like you know him or her very well. I thanked Murph for emceeing the event and for the excitement he gets in his voice when he talks about the 2021 SF Giants. He set the tone on this evening just as he does on 104.5/680. Thanks Murph!

As meaningful as it was to come together even during this phase of COVID, the good news is the story of each honoree. I will profile but three (as featured in the photo at the top)

Margery Meyer, inducted for swimming "did not start competitive swinnging until 1987 at the age of 64 at the encouragement of her daughter, Marguerite. She later remarked I found something lurking deep that gave birth to something in me... a potential I didn't know I had. I got a taste of it, and away I went!"

At 21, Al Sandoval "started playing handball at the historic courts in Golden Gate Park the Olympic club recruited him in 1980 his fellow Hambel players were mark on his legendary intensity on the court, where he lived “in the zone“ and intermittent hyper focused sometimes spiritual state of mind where anything is possible. Sandoval‘s intense focus is contagious, elevating his doubles partner‘s games above their school level he refuses to concede that a higher ranked player could beat him."

And, I have had the great pleasure of playing golf with the highly decorated, incredibly talented Patricia A. Cornett, MD. "She walked on to the Stanford University golf team and was eventually one of the first six women at Stanford to receive a scholarship. Cornett helped lead Stanford to conference titles in 1975 and 1976 and was a WGCA All-American first team selection in 1975. She competed in four national collegiate championships, with third and eighth place finishes. She then went on to earn her medical degree at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. Over the years, she has balanced her professional and golf careers admirably; she was once ranked number seven in Golf Digest's Top 100 golfer doctors in America, one of only two women recognized."

These are but three snapshots into the new faces that decorate the Olympic Club's Hall of Fame The others are Commodore Cochran, Track and Field, Russell A. Hafferkamp, Water Polo,  Peter Varellas, Water Polo, and the 2015 Women's Basketball Team

Schools and communities throughout the country have their own Hall of Fame ceremonies and events. Please don't lose the commitment to honoring our past through celebration today. It is Good News. Thanks be to God for these people and all those who have brought them to this ring of honor. The significance of this annual event is not lost on me or anyone who was able to attend. Congratulations to all!

Photo Credits: 
All photos are from @OlyClub

Saturday, October 9, 2021

The 2021 San Francisco Giants Remind to ask the Question: WHY?

The San Francisco Giants won the National League West for the first time since 2012. Go Giants! In the eight years since their last title, the Orange and Black's heated rival the Los Angeles Dodgers have emerged guessed it: eight times. And in that time, the Dodgers have won one World Series, three National League pennants and with one of the highest payrolls in all of MLB, endured my taunts such as "The Giants prove the West cannot be bought it must be won." Ah baseball. 

To have the Giants back in the post-season has brought a much needed energy and excitement to the City by the Bay. The autumn skies certainly have a hint of something new. Yes, it's Orange October and with a class like Sports and Spirituality I have an opportunity, if not an obligation to talk about it. But why? That is exactly the reason I can and do. The 2021 San Francisco Giants have reminded just how important and fun it is to ask "Why?"

In Athletics, we ask "The why" on a regular basis. As a department, we have a list of reasons why students ought to play high school sports. We invite our student athletes to know their "why" and share it with their teammates. We ask coaches to consider why they coach; there are many reasons not to. Thank you, coaches! But this isn't the why of which I speak. This why is a different one.

I just love this photo of the Giants, on the field, inside Oracle Park. I included it in my presentation and shared it with my class. "What do you think? I asked? Pretty exciting, stuff huh?"

Rather than chaps or cheers, a spirited Go Giants! or even a "hell yeah," one student said "overrated!!" He said this not once but twice. Another student said "They suck!" I do have one Dodger fan in this particular class, but he wasn't the one who said it. I stood there totally confused.

To the student who yelled "overrated!" I said, "What team do you follow?" He told me "the Padres." "Interesting," I said. "Many picked them or the Dodgers to win the Division. So much for overrated." At that moment, I clicked to my next slide which had the stat from ESPN. I read it out loud. "Wow, ESPN picked them to win 70 games. If you put money on this team before the season, you would have an incredible payout right now." 

The next slide had the team with the number 107. I informed the student who thought the Giants suck that this is the most wins by any Giants team in the history of the organization. I looked to the lone Dodger fan and said "the Dodgers had 106 wins, which is impressive too. Both teams were 23-7 in their final 30 games. That's a winning percentage of .767. I mean this with sincerity, it must have been frustrating to be a Dodger fan. That's great baseball."

In order to not lose the entire class I added, "I know some of you are thinking of the Golden State Warriors. Yes, they won the most games in the history of the NBA but didn't win the Championship, so, you're right... nothing is a given. But, I don't think this team was overrated. They don't suck. Instead, I hope the question you are asking or that we should be asking is "WHY?!!! or How?! Why was this team so good? How did they do it? Now that's an exciting question!"

The answer to that question is the story of a season. I think it is what makes life interesting. It is certainly worth discussion because apples to apples the Giants are NOT like the Dodgers. While there are no gaps on the Dodger line-up, the G-men feature a lot of new names. I prefer to say that over "no -names." 

Thus, the lesson began. I shared but four reasons WHY this team is so good. Three of them were "intangibles" named by the manager, Gabe Kapler. The fourth is about him. 

As written on Yahoo! Sports, "Kapler credited his players for showing toughness and grit, and for having the vision for making the NL West title the goal when nobody around the game thought they could compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

"We all knew what the projections were and what the industry thought of us as a club. There were some intangibles that those viewpoints and those projections failed to take into consideration. The first intangible is just toughness. We had so many points during this season where it would have been easy for us to quit and we never did. We battled back.

Grit: "Another intangible it didn't account for is grit. A lot of people in this group got a little bit beat up this season. We had some injuries. We had some guys who were struggling for long periods of time, and they just got back to work every single day. They stuck with their process, they got stronger, and they came back better, and because of that we're standing where we are today. 

Vision: "The final intangible and probably the most important one is vision. At the outset of spring training I was thinking about setting expectations for this group, what we could come to expect for this season. I knew we had a lot of talent. But I wasn't sure. We have some veteran players who said we want to win the National League West. So at that point, this entire group surrounded that vision and made it a goal. We never came off that goal, and that's why I feel that pride today in this group. I'm so grateful to each and every one of you and everyone here who supported us this evening. Thank you."

Thank you, Coach!

A lot of fans were dubious of Farhan Zaidi's choice to hire Gabe Kapler. Bruce Bochy certainly left big shoes to fill and Kapler did not have success in Philadelphia. The success of this season however is inextricably tied to one hallmark of his managerial style: total and complete preparation. Kapler is known for over-preparation. From spring training through the post-season, no one is more prepared that Kap. The team, the fans are privy to its dividends. 

I told my students to think about their own coaches and teachers who are always prepared. Does that class? that season? each practice feel different? I think you can tell the difference. I then invited them and myself to think about toughness, grit and vision. Are those characteristics of their own teams? Would your teammate or coach identify that intangible in you?

There are many other reasons why the San Francisco Giants had a great season. I love hearing what other have to say in answer to that question "Why?" And it is a question—as a teacher—I don't want to stop asking of my students. In fact, I wish I had asked my students WHY they thought they were overrated....or WHY they think the Giants suck. I'm curious to know what they would have said. In the meantime, there is still work to be done for this team. I will look for evidence of those attributes along the way.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Sports and Spirituality Review: Notre Dame Magazine—Summer 2021

We are still waiting for Summer in San Francisco. Once known as "Indian Summer," this season is now as elusive as a title for what should be the best time by the Bay. Hope springs eternal, or in this case, autumnal. Thus, it is only fitting that four full days into the official season of Fall, I write my Sports and Spirituality review of the Summer 2021 issue of Notre Dame Magazine. There is so much that is so good that I couldn't let it slip away. Here are a few connections, highlights and S&S nuggets. Enjoy!

ND adopts mobile-only ticketing for sporting events
Beginning this fall, the University has shifted to mobile-only ticketing for all sporting events. Is anyone that surprised? Well, yes and no. I still know a ludite or two who don't have the capability on their smartphone. "The change which has been in the planning for several years, was accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic and the need for a contactless way to distribute tickets." The University has encouraged "those who don't own smartphones to transfer their tickets electronically to a person with whom they plan to attend the game." Student tickets have been mobile only since 2014. 

At the Ask Jack event I attended before the home opener, Irish AD Jack Swarbrick admitted the University is looking for a creative way to commemorate each game. In the past, fans saved ticket stubs—some framing them with a photograph or placing them inside a game program. I know I still have the paper ticket book from my freshman and sophomore years. It lives inside a scrapbook beside friends from Farley Hall. Indeed, we want much more than digital memories...

Chesterton's things find themselves at ND's London gateway
G.K. Chesterton, the English Catholic convert and author was a philosopher, lay theologian, and literary and art critic. Known as the "prince of paradox," I first learned of him from those who referenced his work in Orthodoxy—a classic of Christian apologetics. 

As reported in this article, "a collection of Chesterton’s books and personal effects is safely in the possession of the University of Notre Dame (USA) in England, the official British name for Notre Dame’s London Global Gateway. This November, a delegation led by the University’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, ’76, ’78M.A., will travel to Fischer Hall, the school’s academic building near Trafalgar Square, to dedicate the G.K. Chesterton Collection."

Not only did Chesterton lecture and teach at Notre Dame, he "attended the first-ever football game at Notre Dame Stadium and balked at the raucous applause and chants when he was introduced to the crowd. “My, they’re angry,” he said to his driver. “Angry?” the Irishman replied. “Golly, man. They’re cheering you!” Chesterton found that hilarious. He later wrote a poem, “The Arena,” about the game he watched that day." 

The Irish beat Navy 26-2 on that day, Saturday October 11, 1930.

The Game Played 'Round the World
The work and contributions of senior photographer Matt Cashore ’94 is a significant reason ND Magazine is outstanding. In this photoessay, he "traveled the globe on University assignments, he noticed a love shared by humans everywhere." I just wish one of the photos included girls and/or women at play. The "beautiful game" is for one, for all.

Creative WorksA Course Called America: Fifty States, Five Thousand Fairways, and the Search for the Great American Golf Course, Tom Coyne ’97, ’99MFA (Simon & Schuster).

"Having traversed courses called Scotland and Ireland in previous bestsellers, Coyne covers even more ground in his latest." For a taste of this incredibly gifted writer's style, check out his features on Links Life and read on. "Coyne plays golf in all 50 states on a quest to determine the course that best exemplifies the game and the nation." The golfer and American Studies major in me is as excited about this book as all those in attendance at the 2021 Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits. USA!

Domers in the News: Monty Williams '93
In case you weren't inspired by Williams already: "Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams ’93 received the National Basketball Coaches Association’s 2021 Michael H. Goldberg Coach of the Year award. The honor, chosen by a vote of NBA coaches, recognizes success on the court and in community service. Williams led the Suns from a last-place finish in the Western Conference in 2019 to the No. 2 seed in the playoffs this year, an improvement over three seasons accomplished only twice before in the league in the previous 45 years. . ."

Does anyone else aspire to read your name in this section? Assuming for good reason, only! Maybe more in bold print and less so as a sketch?! Congratulations Coach!

In Conclusion
Fewer and fewer materials go to print each day, week and month. Unlike our ticket stubs, I hope ND Magazine remains accessible in the pulp...the flesh...the material world. Each issue is highlighted, dog-eared and well loved. I am grateful for the stories, poems, updates, Letters to the editor and the way that Sports and Spirituality is lived, celebrate and revealed. Until the Fall 2021 issue....

Photo Credits
All from ND Magazine

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A Pressing Question for Sports Fans: Nothing Spiritual About this....

I have attended two major sporting events in the past month. Lucky me! Both games have also sparked a realization. Perhaps it should not have taken me this long to come to terms with how I feel, given how long I've been a sports fan (i.e. my whole life). Regardless, allow me to put this insight into the form of a question. Here it is. To what degree does the quality of a game affect your enjoyment of the experience? A lot? Not at all? A little? Is there a "right answer?"

On Saturday, September 4, I went to Oracle Park for the second time this season to watch the league leading San Francisco Giants take on our talented nemesis—the Los Angeles Dodgers. With its 6:05 p.m. start, it was the hottest ticket in town. 

I could not have asked for better seats or a better companion at the game. Mike is a die hard, life long fan of the orange and black. In fact, he's my favorite type of person to watch a game with. Why? He knows the players, sees details that I do not and calculates standings/potential outcomes with ease (love those text messages!). Mike asks me questions. He knows Giants' history, baseball history and more. Mike is funny and we have a close friend in common who is a massive Dodger fans. We delight in beating the Dodgers because we should--that's what Giants fans do. But using it against our friend is potentially sick and twisted, but still ok. (See rivalry 101 for more information). 

Our game was the second game of the three game series. The Giants won game one, but never never got it going and lost 6-1. The winning pitcher Jose Urias was good, but he wasn't MadBum World Series 2014-like. The loaded Dodger line-up put the hurt on early, as Trea Turner started the game with a one-run home run. 

While the Giants did score one run in the first inning, they never got in a rhythm and we are still upset about the balk. 

While I was sincerely grateful for our time together, something felt off...or missing. When coworkers and friends asked me how my weekend was, knowing I had gone to the game. I should have been more ebullient but that's not how I felt. Does anyone else share my sentiment?

But two weeks later, I was in South Bend, IN for the Alumni Association's Fall Affinity Groups Meeting and stayed for the home opener of the of the 2021 Notre Dame football season. The Fightin' Irish hosted the University of Toledo Torpedos and won 32-29.

I went with a beloved friend, my former roommate. Erin and I have attended a game together, barring Covid, for the past six years. As Notre Dame alumni and fans know, returning to campus for a game is about so much more than what occurs on the gridiron. The pep rally, time at the Grotto, meeting with other friends, tailgating, mass and golf make game weekend and incredible weekend.

Erin is also a great sports fan. Her football IQ is strong and we always find a way to connect to the people around us. She loves to play call and even though I got mad at her for projecting a loss (it was WAY to close), I love her passion and commitment to ND football.

The seventh ranked Irish squeaked out a win on the final drive of the game. We locked arms for the alma mater, took a photo together and were thrilled to leave with another victory (the Irish are 6-0 in the games we have seen together). We also left exhausted, dehydrated and wondering how the rest of the season is going to be with a team that played so flat footed. The defense was no where to be found. I wasn't even sure who SHOULD get the game ball.

I returned home from an incredible trip to campus and yet, I couldn't pretend like the game wasn't something that it wasn't. It was confusing, nerve wracking and even with the win, it was underwhelming. 

Thus, I am left with the question I asked at the beginning of this post: 
To what degree does the quality of a game affect your enjoyment of the experience? A lot? Not at all? A little? Is there a "right answer?" One reason I ask is because I cannot find an analogy for this issue in the spiritual life. But the more important reason is because I believe sports are a gift. To participate and witness athletic contests and feats should enhance our lives, not compromise them. And yet being a fan of sport isn't without cost. If I didn't care—and care deeply about my teams, I could walk away unaffected. Though still grateful for the experience, I reminded myself that we say victory is sweet, but some much sweeter than others. 

And if there's a word in German or in Yiddish that captures this feeling: grateful to have been part of something but less than thrilled about the experience itself, please let me know. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

#Gameday2021: Reflections on Sports and Spirituality at Notre Dame

I posted a photo of the Golden Dome on  the first day I returned to the University of Notre Dame and wrote "No Caption Necessary." In response to this iconic shot, I got likes and hearts, questions and the message "Welcome Home" from several friends. This is something I hear quite often when I return to campus and it never gets old. That message, those words—they warm my heart. 

Notre Dame is a home for me. Like any home, it's a place we yearn for. We return with anticipation and expectation. It's not easy to get to Notre Dame and often times, I arrive home exhausted but excited. Weary and yet hopeful. My time at home always sparks a mix of emotions. Things aren't the same--Why would they be? In many ways, life on campus is so much better. In many others ways, it's not. I think I am too. 

My return home however prompts memories--new and old—and gives me the opportunity to reflect and pray. And, as readers of this blog know, my time and ND offers me a chance to think more about Sports and Spirituality. Here are but a few thoughts that I gained from the past weekend.

Saturday, September 11, 2021 at 8:46 on the South Quad 
My former roommate and good friend Erin and I went to the flag pole in the middle of South Quad, the same space that students gathered after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 for Mass. The celebrant then was the leading celebrant of this timely prayer service, President Emeritus Edward "Monk" Malloy.

As written on the Notre Dame website,

At 3 in the afternoon an estimated 7,000 people gathered on the South Quad for a Mass concelebrated by 75 Holy Cross priests, including Father Malloy and Daniel Jenky, CSC, ’70, ’73M.Th., auxiliary bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese. In contrast to the somber mood, it was a dazzling blue-sky day.

“On the altar today we will say prayers that Jesus will be present with us again,” Monk said to a mass of people that stretched from Alumni Hall nearly to Badin. “His words are emblazoned on the Sacred Heart statue not too far to my right: ‘Come to me all you who are afflicted with heavy burdens for I will be with you. My burden is easy and my comfort light.’ He is our source of comfort. He is the one who can give a perspective on the incomprehensible horror that we have experienced today."

Monk recalled how students were lost and clung to one another on that tragic day. They went to the South Quad because they did not know where else to go. When it was time to pray the Our Father, they didn't join hands—they locked arms. The sign of peace was shared by heartfelt and long lasting embraces. Father Malloy has mentioned that mass as one of the most memorable and meaningful events of his presidency (if not his priesthood) .

Twenty years later, we remember the members of the Notre Dame family who died on September 11.  The night before, I spent some time reading in Deaths in the Family: September 11 and Domers that Survived the World Trade Center attacks in Notre Dame Magazine. I carried the names of all to this prayer service.

The ND Club of New York offered a flag that once flew over Ground Zero. It was raised in silence and then lowered to half mast. Though I have seen many a flag fly at half mast, I'm not sure I have ever seen this ritual take place. I was amazed, humbled and inspired that a simple gesture could say so much. 

I am so grateful I was able to begin this tragic day in remembrance and in prayer. Thank you, Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Stadium
I posted another photo, this one from my seat in the North end zone. #Gameday Go Irish!

My friend and podcast partner Haley replied to it with a question many other people were asking. She wrote "Why isn't the stadium full?" As someone who comes from a city with the number one team in baseball and the best ballpark in MLB that has had very few sellouts all season, I have my own thoughts. Covid? 

The 20,000 empty seats, barely registered with me. Why? My seats was adjacent to the student section. I realized if I wasn't watching the game, I was watching them...and at times doing what they did. 

No, I did not stand the entire game. Nor did I volunteer to be hoisted or to hoist anyone else for push-ups after the Irish scored. But I did wear green as 97% of the student body did when they purchased THE SHIRT.  (97% is also the same percentage of students who are vaccinated). And, I lifted my hands to fist pump and clap in response to the marching band.

In my four years as an undergraduate, I attended every home game. While many people think of Touchdown Jesus, the Dome or the spire of Sacred Heart Basilica as the backdrop of Notre Dame Stadium, I realized this past weekend there is an audible backdrop, and it's timeless. 

This backdrop hasn't changed in the 25 years since I graduated. It's not just the whistle of the referee, or the clashing helmets. It's something other than the Notre Dame Victory March and the Alma Mater. I am talking about a score, a collection of ditties from the Band of the Fighting Irish. This rhythm comes from the drum line and the cheerleaders lead the way. This music and these cheers aren't something students think or talk about. I don't even know if each song has a name—but I know exactly what to do when the begin. And I love them! I always have. I will ask my friend Kristin, a former cheerleader more about this

This year, the band does not sit in the corner opposite the student section. Instead the are in front of their friends and roommates—their peers. I loved seeing the student body together and as one—especially as they join in those cheers.

Notre Dame Mass Hype Video
Yes, you read that right. Only at ND does a jumbotron feature an an advertisement, an invitation and a reminder for Mass. Check it out for yourself, but the celebrity priest, Father Pete McCormick is featured doing his work in much the same way the team and fans do theirs. Erin and I went on Sunday morning at the Basilica, but  I do love that all are welcome—easily and accessibly to a number of places on campus to remember "you are called, you are known and you are loved." Thanks be to God.

In Conclusion
My role as a Notre Dame Women Connect Regional Director brings me home for meetings in the Fall and in the Spring. It should be of no surprise that both dates are planned to include a football game (in the spring it's the Blue and Gold game...both of which are optional). These meetings are not for the weary. We meet and plan, discuss and debate ideas and input for better programming, meaningful experiences and new ways to live the mission of Notre Dame.
Even at home, there is work to be done. I am grateful for it.

As beautiful as Notre Dame is, was and will always be—it is home because of the people--the Notre Dame family.

Thank you all those who serve on ND Women Connect Board--you are colleagues and friends. To the NDAA for your tireless effort and leadership. We are a "Force for Good" because of your support and dedication. Special shout outs to the Sheehan family, Colleen Moore, Notre Dame Women's Golf coaches and players for the visit, the Kroha Clan, John Harris (one in a billion), the Rohr family (we connected!), Paul Kollman, CSC, Brian Levey (Sports in Ethics Prof and resident comedian), Don Smail (in spirit), the staff at Sacred Heart Parish Center and my dear, dear friend Erin who has joined me for the past 7? 8 years now?  Go Irish!

Photo Credits
Touchdown Jesus
All others--taken by me or Erin!

Friday, September 10, 2021

We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe: Welles Crowther and His Red Bandana.

I stood before all those in attendance at the Notre Dame Alumni Association's Fall Affinity Groups Meeting to lead our closing prayer but my mind and my heart wanted to share a message must different than the one I had prepared. I suddenly got choked up as I realized the gaiter around my neck is a red bandana.

Today, my Sports and Spirituality class at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, CA is learning about Welles Crowther. Welles was a lacrosse player at Boston College and dreamed of being a fireman. After graduation he worked as an equities trader at Sandler O'Neill and Partners. Tragically, he lost his life while making heroic efforts during the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. However, twelve men and women are alive today because he led them through the rubble of the 78th floor to the stairwell. 

Rather than descending all the way to the bottom of the south tower, Welles went back in and up. To me, this is why Springsteen's song and album "The Rising" is poignant and powerful. Through music he articulates what is nearly impossible to put into words—the total sacrifice, and heroism of people chose otherwise. Those he saved did not know his name, they simply knew that he wore a red bandana.

There is a book and a movie about this life. The video my students saw today is this one. I encourage you to watch it now and consider the questions I have posed for my own students.

  • Can an ordinary object ease agony?
  • Can an ordinary object create legacy?
  • How can someone be gone but still with us?
  • Have you ever played a game that honors another person? Have you ever dedicated one of your games in honor of a friend, family member or cause?
  • Identify a personal object of your own, maybe this is something that you wear or have at home. It might be something that was given to you, or something you got from someone you love—that is of personal significance to you. What is it? What is the story behind it? What is the lesson or reminder it offers

What they don't yet know, but will learn is the red bandana is a sacrament (lower case "s) and to be a Catholic is to celebrate the sacramental life.... one that we can understand and share through prayer.

A gift from his Dad, Welles wore a red bandana as a young boy.

The prayer I had written was one thanks for the Notre Dame family, one that is seeking unity in our diversity. I offered thanksgiving for the Notre Dame spirit—a force for good, guided by Mary, Our Mother. With gratitude for the hospitality that has been extended by leaders at the University, I asked for continued blessings in the work we all share and a prayer that we return renewed and recharged to our homes with "a warrior's heart, an immigrant's spirit and a servant's soul." We heard these words at our introductory session and they capture the life of Welles. The prayer I wanted to offer in that moment was in remembrance of him and all those who have given their life in service to others. I hope this post serves as its own prayer.

Tomorrow marks 20 years the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. I will begin the day with prayer at Notre Dame. As written in "Notre Dame News, "
30-minute prayer service on the South Quad to begin at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane was flown into 1 World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Notre Dame President Emeritus Rev. Edward A. “Monk” Malloy, C.S.C., will preside, as he did for a Mass of remembrance in the same location on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001. Mary Elizabeth Stern, director of faith and service in Student Government, will serve as emcee, and the Notre Dame Folk Choir will provide music." I will wear what I wore today: a red bandana. A sacrament for all to see.