Monday, August 9, 2010

The WCAL: A coveted title, a Catholic league

Many high school coaches and athletes in the West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) will agree--winning the WCAL title is a bigger deal than winning the Central Coast Section (CCS) division title. This should seem illogical. Whereas the CCS of California is comprised of over 100 schools --in a geographic region stretching from San Francisco in the north to King City in the south, the WCAL consists of just ten schools that compete in a boys and girls league. All ten schools are Christian, and nine out of ten are Catholic, several are diocesan schools and others are run by a variety of religious orders. Loyalty to these schools runs deep; rivalries among Catholic schools can be fierce. Consequently, becoming the WCAL champion is a coveted distinction. Victory tastes very, very sweet.There is something special about being part of the WCAL. Perhaps I recognize this because I attended Carondelet, a Catholic girls’ school in Concord, CA-- the only Catholic secondary school in both Contra Costa County and in the Bay Valley Athletic league. Because other schools in the BVAL do not have an open enrollment policy, our competitors often felt they were at a disadvantage. No doubt, we drew from a broad area. Coaching in the WCAL, this distinction is of no significance. We compete against other schools that are supposed to be a lot like ours—only they’re not.

Some schools in the WCAL are true “city schools.” Others are located in the suburbs. Some have populations that are more racially and religiously diverse. Despite many differences, what unites us is so much more than what separates and divides us: it is our common faith. Our foundation is to educate our students and coach our athletes with the love of the Lord. Even though we often fail, we strive to represent something more than ourselves. Our athletes are quite often the public face of what many people refer to as a “private” school. I don’t. I always say a “Catholic school.” And that means a great many things.Being a Catholic school is demonstrated in a number of ways in the WCAL. Before competitions, not only do we salute the flag, we bow our heads in prayer. There is an on-going and vibrant concern for the spiritual formation of our athletes. When Ć’coaches gather for informational meetings, at the beginning of each season, this is often considered. League policy mandates that we do not hold practice on Sundays. In an increasingly busy world, it becomes that much more difficult to observe the Sabbath. I am grateful that the WCAL is committed to at least one day of rest per week! The WCAL was created in 1967; generations of Catholics have had the honor of competing, coaching, officiating and watching athletes with heart, hunger and faith.

I am curious to know how many other Catholic leagues exist in the United States. What are their distinctions, traditions, triumphs and struggles? How does winning the title in their league compare with the pride and honor of winning the WCAL. Fortunately the advent of CatholicSportsNet: “a website that will serve as a national showcase for on and off the field achievements of male and female Catholic high school, collegiate, and professional student-athletes, teams, coaches, and administrators” may provide me with some answers. Evidently, it is the only media outlet in the sports industry that can lay claim to the reporting solely of Catholic sports. According to their website, will “serving nearly 1,200 high schools, 220-plus colleges, and over 70 million Catholic Americans around the country, CSN will provide up-to-date news, feature articles, student-athlete spotlights, national rankings, recruitment information, and a comprehensive multimedia unit that will include weekly newscasts, interviews, and streaming video.”

This fall as students return to practice and to competition, I look forward to using CatholicSportsNet to determine how those in the WCAL compare with others both locally and nationally. And of course, who will earn the WCAL title.

Photo Credits
Serra Padres: WCAL Champs
WCAL Logo: The Medley
XC: WCAL Championship

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Via Negativa: Steve Nash is not God.

Negative theology or Via Negativa (Latin for "Negative Way")—is a theology that helps one to understand what God is, by what God is not. To me, it’s quite simple--a square is not a circle, it’s not a triangle either. It may be a rectangle but it does not have unequal sides. Because not all matters in theology are objective, however, this theology is practical and especially helpful. Essentially we are attempting to describe the indescribable. For example, literature makes great efforts to outline and identify what is beauty—a subjective matter. Beauty may indeed be “in the eye of the beholder,” but beauty is certainly not rape, it is not napalm and it is not bullying.
I hope we can all agree, objectively speaking that the Summer 2010 alumni magazine of Santa Clara University is a handsome cover. It features Steve Nash ‘96, a native of Vancouver BC, holding the Olympic torch. I was hoping to read a thoughtful piece about Nash’s athletic endeavors since his success at SCU; during his senior year his team made it to the “Sweet 16” round of the NCAA basketball tourney. Perhaps he had a special role in the 2010 Winter Olympics, I thought. Instead, information about Steve Nash was limited to the “Letters” section. This surprised me for three reasons. One, it seems unlikely, at least to me, that a “letter to the editor” would drive the content for the cover. Second, the author, Brian Doyle is the only non-alum to submit a letter that was published (although the author of this blog and reader of the magazine is not an alum either). He is the editor of Portland Magazine, the alumni publication from the University of Portland. Third, Doyle’s letter is entitled “Thesis: Steve Nash is God.” Steve Nash is a great many things, but Steve Nash is not God.

Make no mistake about it—Steve Nash is an incredible athlete and basketball player. Doyle points out that he “was named the most valuable player not once, but twice.” He adds “He’s actually better with age, and how often can you say that?” Steve Nash may “arguably the best point guard in the world, a remarkable statement considering that he’s older than Chris Paul…etc.” but he’s not God. He is not the Alpha and the Omega, the unmoved mover, or the primary source. I know Brian Doyle was trying to make a point, and employed humor to emphasize his point. Point is taken, but this point has also provided grounds by which to apply the Via Negativa.

Doyle reports that Steve Nash “eats no sugar, just like God.” In my 12 years of teaching theology I have yet to come across a proof for God that speaks of God’s dietary preferences. “He lives in a place filled with light, just like God.” I don’t care how many days of sun they have a year in Phoenix. Considering the recent immigration laws passed in Arizona, this is quite a stretch. And “He went to a Jesuit university—just like God.” God is all knowing, omniscient, but God did not go to college. It may be difficult for negative theology to lead us to a perfect understanding of God, but the goal is that it will get us close. And in that spirit, I concede that Doyle some analogies work even if they are limited. He writes “Steve Nash has children, just like God.” Many people relate to God as father (or mother ), and many people are fathers and mothers; they have children. Considering some of the sacrifices my parents have made for me, I concur—they too are like God. “He has a sense of humor and can write his name, just like God.” In a game where men take themselves far too seriously, it’s good to read Nash has kept his humor. And in a world that is often difficult and trying, it’s just as important for us to remember that God has a sense of humor as it is for us to know that God writes God’s name. He does this not on stone, but in our hearts.

Perhaps that would have been a better title for this letter to the editor--Steve Nash: A man of humor and heart, just like God.