Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dedicate Yourselves to Gratitude: Thoughts on the 2010 World Series Champions...

Watching the 2011 World Series is a little strange. The atmosphere, the hype, and the timing is remarkably familiar but it’s not exactly “déjà vu all over a again” (Yogi Berra). No, unfortunately for my Bay Area brethren and me, our beloved band of misfit toys, those San Francisco Giants ended their season in September. October baseball was not their fate.
To be honest, I dealt with it in late August. As baseball fans in a number of cities across the United States (sorry Canada!) supported their team in anticipation of the play-offs, I found myself in the City by the Bay still proclaiming one thing. I live and work in the home of the 2010 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.

I took advantage of any given opportunity to remind friends—near and far—of this great distinction. I delight in sharing that reminder in e-mails, letters and phone conversations. Nowhere has victory been sweeter than in owning that title. It’s never gotten old; it’s not something I take for granted. I will relish these words until the St. Louis Cardinals or Texas Rangers capture them for the 2011 season.
San Francisco is known for its aesthetic beauty. A Victorian city built upon high hills and sand dunes, it is surrounded on three sides by water. Its Golden Gate Bridge is truly an architectural wonder of the world. And yet, this past year its great beauty was no longer to be found in its iconic vistas or landmarks. For me, it was in a World Series banner. When I first saw this flag flying above the San Francisco Bay against a clear blue sky, I did a double take. I gazed at it in wonder and awe.

Fortunately for Giants fans, this banner is not something we surrender at the conclusion of the MLB season. No, as any banner does, it reminds us of what the Giants did; they won the last game of the season (the goal of A's General Manager, Billy Beane as stated in Moneyball).
Many years ago, I hung a homemade sign over my door that read: “Dedicate Yourselves to Gratitude.” I suppose it was my hope that I would live each day grateful for what God has given and will provide. Catholic Relief Services reminds us that “Gratitude is a gift from God. It gives us a way to respond to the Creator. With it, God gives us a way to respond to the brother who gives us a gift, to the sister who tends to a wound.”

In some small way, I think that World Series banner will remind me of Paul’s message to the Colossians. The 2010 San Francisco Giants gave this city a great gift last year. I have been grateful all year. And when I see another team later this week hold the Commissioner’s trophy, I will tip my hat to all those who can say they are from the city of the 2011 World Series Champions. Enjoy every minute of it.

Photo Credits

2011 World Series
Giants as Champions
Thing of Beauty

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blue Collar Mentality: Sandy, Sweaty & Muddy

I am hearing a lot about the “blue collar” mentality and work ethic these days. And the expression is manifesting itself in the form of some motivational gear. According to Steve DelVecchio of the San Jose Mercury News, 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh “has issued gas station work shirts with personalized name patches to each player on his roster. The message in handing out the blue-collar shirts is simple: Work hard. ‘It’s not real complicated what it stands for — a motivational symbol, if you will’.”

And at St. Ignatius College Prep, a select number of varsity athletes can be seen sporting a new long sleeve RED & BLUE COLLAR ATHLETE t-shirt. Why? The new leadership in the athletic department has implemented the “Red & Blue Collar Athlete Program.” Athletic director John Mulkerrins said “It’s an opportunity to honor a Varsity Wildcat Athlete whose ‘blue collar’ effort is recognized by his or her coach in practices, games, or during any strength and conditioning sessions over a period of two weeks.”

This athlete is recognized because when the tough get going, he or she is going. It’s almost paradoxical. As a coach, I recognize her because she demands little if any work on my behalf. This athlete does more than is required or expected and she does it well. Cutting corners is a foreign concept. When I say give me ten, she gives me twelve. When I’m not looking she is still working.Just today the SI girls’ cross country most recent "Red & Blue Collar Athlete" got a massive headache during her workout (running hill reps and sand stairs at Fort Funston); we advised her to take a break. Some athletes might be relieved by the respite, but not this Blue & Red Collar Athlete. She was disappointed that she couldn’t complete the given task or share the challenge in full with her team. I have no doubt this athlete sleeps well at night; she gives her sport physically and mentally her very best. The success of our team hinges on her example more than she knows.

And across town, as the Niners prove they are for real, it should not be taken for granted that success emanates from talent and new leadership, and a hard work ethic. It is no surprise that a successful team, by any definition, is a hard working team.
After the September 11 win over Seattle, Jim Harbaugh described the offense as “blue collar,” and tight end Delanie Walker went right along with the company line, “If he says we’re a blue-collar team, we’re a blue-collar team. At the end of the day we’re going to be dirty, muddy and stinky. It may not be pretty and it’s going to be ugly. That’s basically what he means by blue collar. We’re not trying to look pretty.”

Sure a shirt can honor a blue (and red) collar athlete but we know them by their headaches and sand or their mud and dirt. It may not be pretty, but these athletes wouldn’t have it any other way—they’re working too hard not to! They push me to work hard and to succeed—no time for anything less.

Photo Credits
Blue Collar Niner Shirt
SF Sand Stairs
Coach Harbaugh