Thursday, April 24, 2014

What We Wear and Why: Personal Not Private

Only problem here:
Ryan had this shirt long
before Martin came to town
I looked at my friend in his bright Tennessee Volunteer orange t-shirt and said "Are you wearing that shirt for Peyton Manning?" 

Of course I had the nerve to ask this midway through a set of reps at the 6:00 a.m. "Hour of Power" class. Slightly cruel on my part, I launched the inquiry while Ryan was on the burpee rotation; no one likes burpees. 

Ryan coughed out "No. I'm wearing it for the basketball coach."

Breathing much easier with a dead lift set, I responded "Oh. Pat Summit?" 

I thought this might be true. Ryan is the only man I know who has admitted to scalping tickets for an NCAA women's basketball game. When UConn came to town to play Stanford he took his three daughters to Maples Pavilion thinking he could make the purchase on site. Not true.

"No, in support the new coach at Cal. Cuonzo Martin came from Tennessee. I was hoping someone would ask me about that."
I looked at Ryan and his response confirmed what I already knew: here was a kindred spirit. That is totally my move. I wear shirts, sweatshirts and hats hoping that someone will ask a question that lets me launch into a story or anecdote about my allegiance. I love nothing more than the insider's guide to supporting one's school or team. This was a good one. Ryan is a indeed a Cal alum and a loyal Bear-backer. In response, I said the only appropriate thing to say, amidst the next set of push-ups. "Go Bears!" 

I wish I had picked up on his lead from the start. I already receive e-mails from the Cal Athletics department on a weekly basis. I wanted to know more about the 16th head coach of the men's basketball team. 

Martin has an impressive history as a coach and a former player. What I found most intriguing however is that "he returned to his alma mater where he earned his bachelor’s degree in restaurant, hotel, institutional and tourism management from Purdue in 2000." And let's be honest, it's a lot easier to wear a Tennessee shirt in support of Cuonzo Martin than it is to wear one for the former head coach Mike Montgomery, who came from Stanford. 
I left Ryan and others in class that morning by saying "Today is Good Friday. It's this big one. I don't know if you do anything on this day or celebrate Easter, but well....pause...a little silence....enjoy your weekend." A small part of me wished that conversation could have been as animated and natural as the one about a new coach, a college and our allegiance to it.

I try to live by the conviction that although personal, faith is not meant to be private. Providence Place Ministries says it well. "While our faith is a personal matter–a very personal matter–because it is about our personal relationship with God, it is not at all private, especially if we are Christians."

Why? because the Gospel is not something we are called to undertake by ourselves. No. Jesus said "where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there." Living the Gospel is indeed a challenge, but it is also one that bears great fruit in public witness and public action.

Archbishop Carlson said "We are baptized into a family of faith, the Church, and we live out our Christian discipleship in communion with all our sisters and brothers (living and deceased) who make up the one Body of Christ. The social, or communal, dimension of Catholic belief and practice is every bit as important as the individual, or personal, dimension of Christian life." 

Later that same day, I went into my bank and the teller who helped me was wearing a beautiful cross. I looked at her, knowing she must be a Christian. I also knew that she would understand the significance of Good Friday.

I wish I had said something to her about it. For some reason, I held back and kept our interaction strictly professional, but I wished I hadn't. When we wear the cross we bear public witness to what we are a part of yesterday, today and forever. After all, He is Risen!

Indeed, what we wear is often an invitation to a conversation about who we are, what we believe and what we value. It can help us understand those we live, work and play with. It reminds me that who we are isn't meant to be private but shared with others—even if we are different. In fact, that's what makes life so vibrant and interesting, in spite of our differences we share much more that we realize. 

Photo Credits
Cuonzo Martin
TN shirt

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Roll Tide...Eastertide

Almost as good as "Go Irish"
Only 53% of students at the University of Alabama are from "the Yellowhammer state." 42% are from elsewhere in the US. With their success on the football field, I understand why students who are sports fans are drawn to a big time college experience like "Bama." And that is why a number of my students will be studying in Tuscaloosa this fall (talk about culture shock). 

This is not typical. Cal Berkeley, another Jesuit University like BC, Gonzaga and Fordham seem to be a norm. I celebrate when I hear of a senior who is going to Notre Dame. This spring when three young men told me where they are going to college, there's only one thing I could say in response: "Roll Tide." And the reaction is always the same: a big smile.

Alabama's rally cry garners a lot of attention. What does it mean? Why is it so fun to say?

UA's athletics website explains both the history and meaning of its mascot and their slogan. 

In early newspaper accounts of Alabama football, the team was simply listed as the "varsity" or the "Crimson White" after the school colors.  
The first nickname to become popular and used by headline writers was the "Thin Red Line." The nickname was used until 1906.  
The name "Crimson Tide" is supposed to have first been used by Hugh Roberts, former sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald. He used "Crimson Tide" in describing an Alabama-Auburn game played in Birmingham in 1907, the last football contest between the two schools until 1948 when the series was resumed. The game was played in a sea of mud and Auburn was a heavy favorite to win. 
But, evidently, the "Thin Red Line" played a great game in the red mud and held Auburn to a 6-6 tie, thus gaining the name "Crimson Tide." Zipp Newman, former sports editor of the Birmingham News, probably popularized the name more than any other writer. 
According to Connor Adam Sheets,  "'Roll Tide' was said to illustrate the Alabama varsity running on the field. It was said the team looked like the tide was rolling in thus gaining the chant 'Roll Tide.'"

It's not surprising to me that their catchphrase is as ubiquitous as it is. My student informed me that "every letter I get from the University is signed with the closure Roll Tide." ESPN capitalized on this truth with one of my favorite commercials. I think the best humor is born from observation—observing humanity, our quirks and quibbles, our experiences and delights. Certainly, Roll Tide (and the love for one's school) is no exception.

So this Easter Monday, I couldn't help but notice when a colleague signed a letter "Enjoy Eastertide." This was a new phrase to me. Eastertide? I like it!

Eastertide is the Easter Season—the 50 days of celebration of the Lord's resurrection. It concludes with Pentecost. And I think it's important to note that this liturgical season of 50 days trumps the sacrifice and discipline of the 40 days of Lent. A victory in Jesus Christ.

The notion of "tide" has impelled me to think of the enthusiasm by which I should say "Happy Easter." Living in a secular city like San Francisco, I have noticed I held back from saying "Happy Easter." I even said "Happy Easter...or er..Happy Spring." 

But for those with whom I share a common faith tradition, it's time to say it loud and clear. "He is Risen! Alleluia!" We ought to let our lives and our words reveal that death hath no victory. The joy of the season is in the Risen Lord." Eastertide. 

Photo Credits
Roll Tide


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why I Was Not Cheering Against Bubba Watson...

There are a few Mondays of the year I actually look forward to going to work. Perhaps you know what I am talking about—they are usually sports related. When a great game or tournament has transpired over the weekend, I relish the drive to work because my AM sports radio show relives the memories—replete with soundbites, biased analysis and more. By the time I hit the faculty work room, I am so amped up that I should forewarn the first fellow fan I run into. 

This past Monday however was a little different. I don't know how many times I must have said "it was very hard to cheer against the 20-year old golf phenom, Jordan Spieth" on the final round of the 2014 Masters. So difficult that it put many golf fans in an unusual predicament. They found themselves asking: "Was I really cheering against Bubba Watson?" Maybe. Was I? No. Here's why.

To me, Watson represents all we want to be and don't want to be on the golf course.
No one is more tightly wound up on the course that Gerry Lester "Bubba" Watson, Jr. I was not surprised in the least when I heard him say "I don't remember the last five holes " at Augusta on Sunday. The man was hanging on for dear life, doing what he could to maintain par. He is quiet and serious because he is nervous and knows that nerves get in the way of good golf. Every golfer knows that is true.
Bubba, Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane & Hunter Mahan: Golf Boys 2.0

And yet we expect the (now) number four golfer in the world to be goofy and silly and fun. Between the name, the strong Southern drawl and the Golf Boys music videos, we hold this impression that he is "easy like Sunday morning." That persona, the one who owns and drives the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard is not on the links. He is not even in the club house. We've seen him at his best and his worst (which I contend isn't that bad). 

NB: Some people don't like Bubba because he barks at his caddy. One incident in particular got a lot of press. It's worth reviewing so you can decide for yourself. Bubba was on the 16th hole and he had a 5-stroke lead on the day. It was quickly diminishing. I'm okay with him losing it in that moment. I know I've lost it before.

And yet we want to drive the ball with the sheer power that he has and the accuracy to keep it in the same state, let alone dead middle of the fairway. Maybe we want to rock a pink driver. Even the female golfers I know and love have a hard time supporting pink gear on the links. Still the way he plays the game leads me to point number two....
It's very hard for a man or woman to rock the pink driver. Props to Bubba
Although he did not adorn the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, I enjoyed the 5-page spread on the Masters: Bubba Golf 2.0" Ben Crenshaw said it best. "He is out of this world, I mean, that drive on 13, are you kidding me? What game is he playing?" I think we know the answer to this—it's called "Bubba-golf."

"It's not golf, it's different than that. It's like a symphony, a painting, sculpture. It's artistic expression. Bubba sees the course in big parabolas and arcs, not in straight lines. The power is one thing, but what makes him so unique is the creativity. Put those together, and he can play this course like nobody else."

Parabolas and arcs...symphony and sculpture. Math and science meet art and music. I should stop right there. But Bubba-golf wouldn't be possible without three very important people: his mother Molly, his late father Gerry and....

His wife Angie. 
What was particularly special about this Masters Championship for Bubba was that his wife and child were able to congratulate him in person. Two years ago, Angie had to stay at home because the "adoption of Caleb was being finalized and Florida law prevented him from leaving the state." (Sports Illustrated)
The Watson family on the 18th hole.
It was a tender moment interrupted by a colleague who referred to Angie Watson as an "Amazon." No matter how you spin it, that is a pejorative, derogatory comment. Perhaps if he knew more about her, he might have kept those words to himself.

Angie played basketball at the University of Georgia where she met Bubba. She continued to play professionally in the WNBA and yes, at 6'4" she is 1" taller than he is. No, she is not a former Phoenix Suns cheerleader or a Swedish nanny. She is an attractive, athletic mother and wife. She is the reason Bubba is a devout Christian. He speaks candidly about his faith and the unwavering support she gives him. Wow, a professional athlete who says all the time "it's a game and I get to do this for a living to support my family. Losing my dad and becoming a father myself remind me of that all the time. Angie has shared all of that with me."

Talkin' Trash.
Of no surprise Watson can talk a good game of trash (during the practice rounds). When paired with Tiger he once said "you wish you could drive it as far as me" to which Woods said "the only W you'll ever see is the one in your last name." Too bad Tiger wasn't at the tourney to change his retort.
Woods lacks a few of them is a sense of humor. But glad to see he finds it in Watson and can give it back.
In a press conference before the final round on Sunday, Jordan Spieth kept referring to Bubba as "Mr. Watson." Was this gamesmanship? Trash talk? When asked about it, Bubba simply said "Well, I'm going to be outdriving him all day, so he needs to call me that."

One of the criterion Bubba holds for Bubba-golf is that it's fun. Trash talk like that is fun...special bonus that he can back it up!

We complain ad nauseum about basketball and football players turning pro before earning their college degree. If you want to lodge said complaints, please include professional golfers in that group.

You will however, have to exclude Bubba from those ranks. Hardly anyone knows or hears about the fact that he returned to UGA to complete his bachelor's degree. 

It's fun for me to think of why we support certain athletes. Why are we drawn to them? What can they teach us? Who do we cheer against others? 
Blixt's caddy couldn't help but show his loyalty & support for his favorite band. Every day was a different Dead shirt.
Unless you are a Deadhead, I find it highly unlikely that you were pulling for the second place Swede, Jonas Blixt. Maybe you caught the Dead logo that his caddy sported all weekend on his t-shirt. Caddies must wear the Augusta National issued white uni. But this guy was as defiant as he could be—lowering the button to reveal that infamous "steal your face" logo. 

I suppose those in golf marketing long for a singular name and face to dominate the game and the ratings in the way that Tiger once did. Not me. The pros vary from youthful to experienced, American to South African. It's any man (or woman's) game right now and the US has a strong contingent. Two of good ones were tied for the lead on the final day of the 2014 Masters. I wasn't cheering against the winner. Quite the contrary, I only found more to appreciate, admire and well...share with others at the water cooler. Until Pinehurst...or maybe Golden State in the play-offs...!

Tightly Wound
With Family
Pink Driver

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Holy Week 2014: No Time to Taper

FaithND is a web-source that “invites you to deeply know, love, and serve God  a Notre Dame tradition rooted in the Congregation of Holy Cross.” It aims to serve the "Notre Dame family with shared reflection, learning, prayer, and service to those most in need."
Holy Week is underway! It officially begins with Palm Sunday, and Monday's Gospel reading affirms the journey is well underway. I was asked to share response to it (featured below) which FaithND ran on April 14, 2014

I have been humbled by the number of alumni who use the resource. I know because so many of them took a moment out of their busy day to share their gratitude, ideas and connection to it. 

FaithND is but one spiritual discipline available at our fingertips. It is encouraging for me to know we are hungry for the Word and its relevance in our lives, for a community of faith that can break that open for us and the promise of Christ—to be revealed and relived this coming Sunday. But not before the way of the Cross....Happy Holy Week.

Gospel JN 12:1-11
The spiritual discipline of Holy week is counterintuitive for me. As a coach and an athlete, tapering is a welcome and necessary practice before the championship game or meet. The physical and mental training developed over the course of the season is nearly complete. It is time to stay loose and rest. We run through but a few exercises, stretches and drills. We tell one another “we are ready.” However, today’s Gospel reminds us that preparation for Easter is different.

Our Lenten journey does not task us to abandon our sacrifices or rest as Holy Week begins. Quite the contrary, we are invited to go deeper and stay awake. The challenge will increase. The cross must be carried.  Jesus’ message in today’s Gospel reminds me how difficult that will be.

Jesus shares a meal with his beloved friend Lazarus whom he raised from the dead. They linger; the Word tells us they “reclined at the table.” I love to put image to that moment: full bellies and conversation that only close companions can share—surely the intimacy of the evening prompted Mary to do what she did.

How the Lord must have savored this time, only to have the sacramentality of it disrupted by one of his disciples. Judas challenges the anointing of The Anointed.  In response, Jesus proclaims what will be. He will die. He will be buried. He will leave us and many will suffer.

The crowd gathers and the plot thickens—to one of imminent danger and foreboding suspicion. This is not a time to taper; it is not time for resurrection. We must first undertake the way of the Cross.

Lord, give me the strength to walk with you this week.

Photo Credits
Holy Week