Sunday, October 31, 2010

WCAL Product: Pat Burrell

Sports Illustrated ran a humorous, albeit potentially sacrilegious piece prior to the 2002 World Series (yes, Game 6 still hurts). It featured a photo of a milk carton and on its side the Missing! campaign for kidnapped children. This one said: “Missing in the month of October” underneath two photos of Barry Bonds. In his prior post-season appearances, Bonds had performed so miserably in baseball’s sacred month, one could not help but wonder if the power hitting offensive machine was missing. Where did he go?
Unfortunately for the 2010 Giants, it seems that Pat Burrell could appear on our post-season milk carton. He is 0-for-9 in the World Series with eight strikeouts and has 19 strikeouts through the Giants' 13 postseason games. Much to his credit—enough that it became the focus of the article PAT BURRELL Struggling outfielder lost in sea of strikeouts. Jenkins writes, "Burrell was one of the first Giants to address reporters after the game. At times like this, a lot of players hide out interminably in the players' lounge, weight room or training quarters, but Burrell wanted to get it over with." I would like to think that Burrell took the higher road, because of what he learned as an athlete in the WCAL—Western Catholic Athletic League.

Burrell transferred from San Lorenzo High School to Bellarmine College Prep before his sophomore year. Bellarmine, an all boys Jesuit high school in San Jose was a member of the competitive WCAL, which he believed would give him the visibility he needed to be discovered by pro scouts and major college coaches.

A naturally gifted athlete, Burrell originally played football, basketball and baseball. As the Bells’ varsity starter at quarterback during his junior year, he competed against Tom Brady who played for Junipero Serra High School. Brady made headlines in January 2010 when he said "I think we're way overpaid as it is, all of us," Brady said Jan. 25 while making a Boston-based appearance for charity. "We get to go play football for a living. I love playing, and I'm very fortunate to play. … [The contract is] not really a concern." Did Brady have the guts to say this because of what he learned at Serra? That’s not for me to determine. However, I can say as much fun as its been to wear orange and black at school this past week, I know one religious studies class has undertaken serious conversations about the justice of athlete’s salaries and what it reveals about our society. I suppose a small part of us should delight in the fact that the two teams with the highest payrolls in Major League baseball are not in the Series. Rather, it’s the Giants at number 10 (with a payroll of $97,828,833) and the Rangers at number 27 (with a payroll of $55,250,545).

In “A Coveted Title, A Catholic League” I wrote about what makes this league unique. One may say all ten schools are “private” or their success lies in their indirect “open enrollment.” However, as a teacher and a coach at a flagship WCAL school, St. Ignatius, I am asked to model time and again the values we inculcate and to bear witness to the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You can cite Brady and Burrell's transgressions, call me idealistic, even "Pollyanna" but if we don't believe our student athletes are experiencing something different--something greater, than what are we doing? Why are we here?

Our student athletes, like Pat Burrell may initially seek a WCAL school because they are "higher profile" but my guess is they leave with a sense of the “magis”—something more, of speaking the truth when it may be difficult and to own up to responsibility when it might be easier to be missing. They will also find a community of concern and a tradition of excellence that is larger than their success or their salary. Pat Burrell is the third Bellarmine alum with a World Series Ring. Along with Marv Owen ’26, of the 1935 Detroit Tigers and Ed Giovanola ’87 of the 1995 Atlanta Braves in 1995; Burrell won his first ring with the Phillies in 2008. I just hope the next posting in the alumni magazine of Bellarmine College Prep will include the photo of a 2010 San Francisco Giants World Series ring.

Photo Credits
Missing! Logo
Pat Burrell: Orange Fridays
Bellarmine Crest
World Series Logo

Monday, October 4, 2010

One Lovable Team, One Lovable Saint

Saint Francis: the patron saint of the city by the bay—San Francisco. Today, October 4 is the feast day of Francis of Assisi, and if you are a San Francisco Giants fan, today is a feast day as well. For the first time since 2003, the Giants are the National League Western Division Champions.
I woke up this morning with a smile on my face, ready to read two important items 1) “These Lovable Giants” a posting on recommended by KNBR’s Murph and Mac and 2) "Fools For Christ: Francis of Assisi" by James Martin, SJ for class. As I read the excerpt from Martin’s popular book “My Life with the Saints” I was surprised to learn Francis is recognized as “the world’s most popular saint.” I hadn’t thought about who might hold this crown. It made sense and still Martin’s views resonated with me:
But as much as I found him a charming figure, my understanding of the world’s most popular saint was the rather sentimental one that is common today: as a sort dopey but well-meaning hippie who talked to birds. As Lawrence S. Cunningham notes in Francis of Assisi such a view is “most completely summed up the ubiquity of those concrete garden statues with a bird perched on the saint’s shoulder found in everyone’s garden center.” In this conception, Francis was cheerful no doubt, but also a little bland. “Such an understanding is coterminous with what I would call spirituality lite.” Francis of Assisi is a good example of why the legends should never overshadow the actual life. For within his life, many surprises await those willing to meet Francis...
What anyone who reads about St. Francis may be surprised to learn is just how tremendous was his love for Christ, for all of creation, for the poor and for life. His conversion, travels, preaching and writings are testimony of this love. His great ability to love and to be loved, as cited in the prayer of St. Francis, makes him, well, lovable.

And, the same is true of the 2010 San Francisco Giants.
Fans that have supported the Giants, even in July when they were in fourth place in the division, know about the numerous surprises that characterize this victory as particularly sweet. In “These Lovable Giants” Joe Posnanski writes, “here’s the thing that makes these San Francisco Giants different: They’re lovable.” Nothing demonstrated that quality more than when “the players and coaches and manager Bruce Bochy all made a full lap of the field, high-fiving all those fans leaning over the fence.”
Like St. Francis, The popularity of the 2010 Giants is for good reason; they played incredible baseball in September. Their pitching staff is to be feared—with or without the beard. I would love to see them play all the way into November! And it’s good to see that the popularity of St. Francis remains. In 2009, the Franciscans celebrated 800 years of ministry. Francis' teachings about creation as a manifestation of God have impacted the Church's theology about creation such that Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis the patron saint of ecology in 1980. My sister shared with me at this weekend’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival Patti Smith spoke to the crowd about St. Francis’ life and legacy. In fact, she read his prayer at about the same time the Giants clinched the pennant.

Today, however, is a feast day. We remember, we celebrate, we believe. Humm Baby!