Thursday, November 27, 2014

We Run Because We Can

Kayla runs with MS...because she can
The unofficial motto of girls' cross country at St. Ignatius College Prep is "We run because we can." 

I first placed these words on prayer cards that I make for the entire team at the beginning of each season. Those words resonate with me; I have a precarious relationship with the sport due to a heart condition. I've always thought the ability to put on a pair of shoes and hit the road was a gift. And I'm also aware it's not one that everyone enjoys, but I do. I still do—in spite of the limitations I now face. Indeed, "I run because I can" is something I am grateful to do.

Teachers and coaches share a whole lot of words and ideas with our students and athletes. And you never know what is going to speak to them. What sticks? Why?

Perhaps it was the viewing of "Running for Jim" and his visit that illuminated the truth that even the ability to run is a gift. It's sad, but it's often easier to appreciate someone or something when it's no longer with you. To look at Coach Jim in his motorized wheelchair sharing what he missed about running was more than humbling. It was eye-opening. It was transformative. It wasn't a pity party or a cry for help. It was...a moment of grace? a miracle? a kick in the butt? All of the above? Jim Tracy died on  April 6, 2014. We run because we can.
At this year's cross country banquet, I noticed just how many girls made note of this credo. As they said them, I wondered if people in the audience questioned those words. Running because you can? It's not overly inspirational or hard core. It's not asking anyone to dig deep. 

I feared that some would think our program isn't competitive or that we lack goals. But the more I heard my athletes talk about what running and cross country meant to them, it became very obvious that it's much more than a motto—it's a truth that they live.

So on Thanksgiving Day when we given thanks for freedom, for family and friends, for health and well-being, I add a "thank you" for the gift of running. 

If you are like me and thousands of other Americans, perhaps you started your day with a run—at a community Turkey Trot. At the 17th annual St. Ignatius Turkey Trot, over 150 students and their families, alumni and future Wildcats ran 4 miles around Lake Merced, while raising money for St. Anthony's. It's a great way to commence Thanksgiving.

And a wonderful way to conclude it is by viewing the story of Kayla Montgomery and her high school coach who helps her up at the conclusion of every race. The article "Coach Catches Teenage Runner with Multiple Sclerosis During Every Race" notes,
Given the impairments MS places on muscles and physical coordination, Kayla's running feats are truly miraculous. She serves as an inspiration to all those who feel limited by MS symptoms, proving that dreams are still achievable no matter what hand you've been dealt. What did you think of her story? Tell us in the comments below and make sure to share if you were as moved by her resilience as we were.
3 Special Girls, 3 Special Runners
I encourage you to do the same. Two of my runners sent me this article and video. And guess what they wrote beside it...

If you're able to run, do it. And in the spirit of my brother's high school cross country and track coach, the great Joe Stocking: Imua! and always ENJOY!

Photo Credits
Kayla Montgomery

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Pablo Sandoval Can't Take With Him....

MLB Fans couldn't help but take notice of "The Panda" on and off the field
We've heard it before: you can't take it with you. Typically, this pertains to money or material possessions in the afterlife. In this instance, however, I'm referring to something different. Something you can't put a price tag on. Something so special it only comes about every great once in a while...and that's a nickname. And for Pablo Sandoval, who signed an 5-year deal for $100 million with the Boston Red Sox, again, I'm not talking about more money than I can possibly imagine, I'm talking about being "the Panda." 

This playful moniker was coined by the "Spiritual Southpaw" Barry Zito. A friend and I once joked that if it hadn't been for the #RallyZito game, the only way "Z "would have earned any part of his 7-year $126-million dollar contract was for the simple fact that christened Sandoval as the "Kung Fun Panda." Teammates took notice that the 285-pound Venezuelan in his off white and black uniform looked the part. His playful spirit confirmed it and a marketing team in San Francisco ran with it. 

He was our Panda; our hot corner. His weight was never small, both literally and metaphorically. People look to Hunter Pence as the team's spiritual leader, but Panda did this in his own right. The 2012 World Series MVP, he hit .366 in this years Series. And one of my favorite images from the 7-game series features the Panda in the face of second baseman Joe Panik in the dugout having a few words "mono y mono." Perhaps he was telling the rookie that the double play he just turned was the best play many of us have ever seen. Maybe it was just "gracias."

Buster Olney reports that the Giants are hoping to sign left handed pitcher, Jon Lester. I'm trying to remain optimistic about the big picture and what the Giants will look like in the 2015 season, but it's hard to deny it. I will miss the Panda. The hot corner feels cold today.

At the World Series parade in 2012, each player rode in their own convertible down Market Street. As the MVP, as the player who hit 3 home runs in a single game, it was no surprise that the Panda would hold the trophy and be the "final out" of the parade. His driver, Lee Hammer told listeners on KNBR that the Panda kept repeating three words throughout the day: "No Lo Creo," I don't believe it. Overwhelmed by the love of fans, the elation in the air and the joy of the moment in the most unique and vibrant city in the US, something like that is hard to believe. And yet, part of me feels like that today.
No Lo Creo
Today, we woke up to see the Panda's first words as Boston Red Sox. On Instagram, he tweeted out a photo for Hanley Ramirez. He wants to know "Are you coming?" (side note, I hope Ramirez is going to Boston. I want him out of the NL and away from the Dodgers). If he does, I hope he knows dear Pablito, that his teammate is in search of a new name. 

You changed this team in San Francisco. You made it great. Not one, not two but three World Series were made possible because of your efforts. We cherish those titles and trophies; we cherish the memories. Boston will give you a new opportunity, new teammates and you will learn from new leadership, but it won't gave you what we did. You became great in SF, you became a WS Champion. You became "The Panda." Gracias....and Lo Viste (tambien).

Photo Credits

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What Pumps Up #81, Tim Brown

Every collegiate weight room has improved in the past 10 years
Go to any weight room and America and you are sure to hear one thing—loud music. And being that most weight rooms are dominated by men (women tend to gravitate toward classes at the gym) the music has a little more of an edge. The rock isn't so soft and the volume isn't so low. I have to admit, it can really fire me up.

At my "Hour of Power" circuit training class (90% male), the Spotify category must be "Guns and Roses"—if that is a category. I never knew I would like AC/DC so much. One Friday, Tom—the instructor, thought he would mix things up with a country selection. About 1/3 of the way through the class, one of men nearly lost it, he became so frustrated by what was filling the airwaves. "What is this crap?" he yelled as he broke the resistance band.

Indeed the music matters. It fires a cerebral fire that does more than pump us up. It can energize the soul and at its best, offer spiritual renewal. I was reminded of this truth by Fr. Chris Nguyen, SJ at this talk "How to Keep Prayers Relevant to Children and Young Adults" at a Faith Formation Conference hosted by the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of San Jose and Monterrey.

I knew that he would speak about "different types of prayers that are helpful and useful in relating to God for young people of different ages" and left with the desire to explore other types of prayer with my students and in my own life. 

Fr. Chris informed the audience of traditional types of prayer and the effects it has on us. He said "For example, the repetition of the Rosary calms us down allowing us to enter into Sacred Space. What are other ways of prayer that bring us into sacred space?"
What would JC prefer? Gospel? Rap or Hip Hop?
"And there are times our prayer life may grown stagnant and need regeneration. Prayers that offer spiritual renewal bring us into a space of gratitude. We are able to recognize God's great gifts. Christian rap has a way of doing this."

I loved this moment of his presentation. Here was a Vietnamese Jesuit, the head of novice formation for the California province of the Society of Jesus recommending Christian rap. There was a small chuckle from the audience. I know what they were thinking—Christian rap? Who is he kidding? I know this because I reacted that when we I first heard about this niche genre of music. Don't knock it until you've tried it.

This summer I read "The Making of a Man" by Heisman trophy winner, and one of the greatest wide-receivers to play in the NFL, Tim Brown. A devout Christian, Brown has never kept his faith hidden or private. He wrote this book as a guide for "how men and boys honor God and live with integrity." He admits where he struggled and what it has taken to right his path. He lives counter-culturally. In short, he is a true Christian.

Once small way he chooses to make this known is by the music he listens to. "When I"d arrive at the locker for practice or games, Charlie Gardner would yell out, "Turn that music off!" or "Hold up, Mr. Brown is coming through!" Though Charlie wasn't a believer himself, he saw that my words lined up with my actions. That was enough for him to give me VIP treatment."

"Once I got established in the league, and especially after Marcus Allen left the team, my teammates started showing me respect in other ways. Mondays and Thursdays were my days to lift weights, which everybody knew. Everybody also knew that I preferred gospel music. So whenever I showed up at the weight room on those days, gospel was all that played. I didn't ask the guys to do that, but it was something I appreciated."

I read this and wondered how gospel music could do what Springsteen or Journey has often done for me and my biceps. How could it possibly inspire me in the way that a loud Def Leppard song has a way of doing? Let me heed my own words here:don't knock it until you've tried it.

Driving a van full of students in Camden, NJ this past August, one student, tired of the unyielding requests from her classmates let the radio dial sit on a gospel music station. At first, students thought it was funny and interesting. Within about 5 minutes, they were bouncing...moving to the beat. Someone realized the message wasn't unfamiliar to them. They were words they had often heard, but in a new way. It was real, it was true gospel music and it was singing praise to our Lord and quoting from the Bible.

I told them about Tim Brown in the locker room. I shared with them my own love for music—which is sometimes deepened by selections from the locker room. They were open to this music. Why? Because good music is good music. Give it a beat and a strong rhythm and it just might stay with you.

Although we did not encounter any Christian rap, I could see how it might be something that could offer spiritual renewal. Rap isn't all that far from gospel music and with a Christian influence, it might be worth trying. Who knows, maybe the gym is sacred space for more people than we know....
Tim, you are all class. I hope you make it into the NFL HoF soon.

Photo Credits
Tim Brown
ND Weights
Making of a Man

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jeremy Affeldt: Sometimes Seeing Is Not Believing, Something Else is....

I'm not joking when I share that my days and weeks are punctuated by remembering a simple truth: the San Francisco Giants are World Series Champions. I will be chugging through my day and something will bring me to recall their feat; I can't help but smile when I do. I try to imagine how it must feel to the men (and women) who truly made it happen. Jeremy Affeldt, a devout Christian has given a glimpse, through a testimony of faith. It wasn't what I was expecting, but then again neither was a third World Series title in 5 years isn't either. In Understanding a World Series Victory he writes:
"Suppose I knew ahead of time that the Giants were going to win the World Series this year. Suppose God came to me in a dream and said, "Jeremy, here's what's going to happen. The Giants will win the Wild Card game. You'll go on to win the Division Series against the Nationals in four games, and then you'll win the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals in five games. Then you'll play the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, and it will take seven games, but the Giants will win. And Jeremy, you will be the winning pitcher in Game 7!" 
I wish! If God had done that, I would have walked out on that mound without a care in the world. I wouldn't have feared any of the teams we faced. I wouldn't have feared any of the batters I faced. I wouldn't have feared any situation. I wouldn't have been nervous. I would not have doubted. I wouldn't have felt the slightest need to take control. I would have already known the outcome! And I would have just let it happen.
Obviously, it wasn't like that at all. But in life, it kind of is! 
Think about it. Jesus died for us, and in shedding His blood for us, saved us. Then He resurrected, giving us the promise of eternal life. So Jesus says, "I've already won. It's finished. You are a part of me now. You are a part of my kingdom, and a part of my family. We are nothing but love and grace. That's who we are!" 
Even with victory declared, the story still has to play out. There are people out there that don't yet understand. As soon as they accept Jesus and become adopted into His family, they will share in the victory. 
But we share in the victory now. Because Jesus has won, we have won. We can play the game of life, joyful and worry-free, knowing that we have already won. 
I still get weak at times. Sometimes I get fearful, or nervous, or doubtful. I still try to control other people. I get weak sometimes because I am still a man of flesh. But the more I understand that Jesus has won, the calmer I become. I don't have to get angry at someone if they don't agree with me when I talk about Jesus. I don't have to try to control people who are angry or upset. That is not my play. My play is love. A lot of people have been wounded by the church, and when they express their anger and hurt to me, my play is to love on them. I share the truth. I tell them that Jesus loves them. But I'm not worried about how they might react to that truth. They can get mad; that's okay. I can just love. Love has already won."
I find some of his words more confusing than the message on a t-shirt I saw. It reads "Legalize Love." I didn't know it needed to be (and from what I could tell the shirt wasn't trying to promote marriage equality...who knows). 

Affeldt, who earned the "win" for Game 7 of the series says "My Play is Love" and that "My play is to love on them." He adds, "Love has already won." What might this mean?

The chapter "Risen" in "Jesus: A Pilgrimage" by James Martin gave me some insight. Martin writes, "According to the Gospel of John, early on the first day of the week Mary Magdelene comes to the tomb, alone, and sees that the stone has been removed. She races to see Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. Confused, Mary tells Peter that the body is gone. Peter and the other disciple race for the tomb."

"Mary lingers outside of the tomb, weeping. She sees Jesus, but fails to recognize him."

"Not until Jesus speaks her name does Mary know him. At first, Mary couldn't recognize him, but she knew his distinctive voice with the Nazarean accent—the voice that called her into wholeness when it expelled whatever demons troubled her, the voice that welcomed her into his circle of friends, the voice that told her she was valued in the eyes of God, the voice that answered her questions, the voice that laughed over a meal, the voice that counseled her near the end of his earthly life, the voice that cried out in pain from the cross.  Mary knew that voice because it was a voice that had spoken to her in love. Then she recognized who it was . Because sometimes seeing is not believing. Loving is."

Suppose Mary and the disciples knew ahead of time that Christ would rise from the dead. Suppose God came to Mary in a dream and said, "Mary, here's what's going to happen. You will go to Jesus' tomb and he won't be there. You will hear his voice and at first you won't recognize him!" Life just doesn't work that way—does it. Thanks be to God for the gift of faith and for love, a theological virtue.
One of my favorite paintings: Peter and John Running to the Tomb by Eugene Burnand.
They go after Mary tells them the news
We love because God loved us first; God's love in me allows me to love others. Sometimes, that can be tremendously hard. Real love flows from the grace of God. I would not want to live in a world without love—it would be a cold, dark place. Rather, we are called to build the Kingdom of God. When we love others, not only do we help build the Kingdom, we help others to see for themselves who God is and where God is.

For Affeldt, loving Christ, loving the sport of baseball—a place where he can showcase and test his gifts and talents, and loving his teammates has allowed him to believe in who he is, what he is called to do and all that God wants him to be. Winning (or losing) doesn't validate the belief, loving the process, loving the work required to get there does. 

Believing in someone is one of the most important things we can do. Mentors, teachers, parents, and friends are but a few examples of those who believe in us. I now understand why—they love us. 

So let your play be love. Why? It has already won. It's worth believing!

Photo Credits
Peter and John
Stir a Movement

WS Win Understanding a World Series Victory

Monday, November 17, 2014

Here's to 60 Years—#66—Condeleeza Rice

I have taught at St. Ignatius College Prep for the past 12 years. In that time there have been great days, hard days, crazy days and tragic ones. Days when I have felt defeated by a secular culture and "affluenza" and days when I can't believe I get paid to do what I do. One of those days was Friday, October 10, when the 66th Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice spoke to our student body at the request of her God-son, who is also my student. He is a student I respect, admire and cherish. His peers do too. He introduced "Condi" to our student body, which set the context for a day I will never forget. 
As an avid football fan, it was quite appropriate that the SI football team presented the 66th Secretary of State with this jersey
My student, standing at the podium in front of 1500 of his peers (NOT an easy task when you are 17) said, "Dr. Rice was an accomplished ice skater, tennis player and today is an avid golfer As many people know she is one of two women who are members at Augusta National. She is a Cleveland Browns fan and sits on the committee to determine the ranking for the NCAA football playoffs. She is the author of two books and her father was a Presbyterian minister." 

She began her address by informing students why the type of education they are getting is so valuable. Why: It combines "Faith and Reason." She said, "God the creator gave us a mind and intended for us to use it. A school like SI aims to sharpen the mind but the heart as well. This goal is reflected in scripture which calls us to Love the Lord your God with your mind, heart, and soul. That is so important. What I will share with you today are a few thoughts I have collected on how to live a fulfilling life."
A great day in the history of SI.
Dr. Rice thanked her Godson for not revealing to the audience that she had been at Stanford University for 30 years now. She turned 60 on Friday, November 14, 2014, a milestone that family and friends celebrated together. This is a synopsis of what she shared.

1. Find your passion
Find your passion and your life will find a way of ordering itself...things will fall into place when you do. But please know it may find you!

For example, I learned music before I could read. I play piano and was a music major in college. One summer, I had the opportunity to play in the Aspen Music Festival. It was there that I realized, as talented as I may be (or thought I was) I was not nearly as skilled or talented as others were. I knew that a career in music would be very difficult.

People would tell me I should pursue x or y
I changed my major to English, but that didn't suit me. Fortunately, I took a class in International Politics by Josef Korbel, Madeline Albright's father. I fell in love with the curriculum and it led to my future studies. Why would a Black girl from Alabama be interested in Soviet politics? Your passions are as unique as you are. Don't let anyone determine what your passion is or ought to be.

Before I was Secretary of State, I was the national security advisor for George H. W. Bush. The concert celloist, Yo- Yo Ma called me to play piano with him on the stage at the Kennedy Center for the Arts. He wasn't calling me because I had made a name for myself in music. No, he was calling me because I had pursued my passion and that opened other doors for me. Again, follow you passion and things will fall into place when you do.
Now in the National Portrait Gallery...
2. Do Something Really Hard
Don't be afraid to work hard and challenge yourself. If you're good at Math or science, make a point of stretching yourself in literature or history. Don't give up. You'll find the process of stretching yourself is more fulfilling than simply undertaking what's easy.

3. Reach out for mentors and role models
Never underestimate the power of a good mentor. In college you will have professors—men and women—you look up to an admire. These folks have succeeded in their field and you can learn so much from them. But don't ask them to be your mentor. Read what they wrote and ask them about their ideas. We college professors have egos, it's ok to play to that. And if you do, you'll see a bond may form. After all, it's natural to take an interest in someone who is interested in you! 

Please know, your mentor does not need to look like you. If I was looking for one who did, I would still be looking. A person becomes a mentor because they care. You share a common passion and that lays the groundwork for the relationship.

4. Learn as much as you can about other cultures and study another language.
We often discuss how similar we are, but we are also very different. When you travel to new places you learn just how truly diverse this world is. When you can speak another language, doors open up for you, but so does your mind.

I attended this game back in 2007. My only regret is that she didn't mention in her talk that her mother taught the "Say Hey" Kid when he was in high school (near Birmingham, AL)
5. Keep Physically Fit
You must make this a priority. When I was Secretary of State, I would wake up at 4:30 a.m. so I could workout. I would much rather play sports as my way of staying fit, but the demands of life can make that difficult. Regardless, a commitment to eating right, staying active and self-care pays the best dividends possible; the return is a better, more energetic you.

6. Give Back
Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in what you don't have or what you are missing out on. It's very tempting to wonder when you are in this place "Why don't I have x?" But when you serve others it's impossible not to reframe the question. When you give back you suddenly realize "Why do I have so much?" In life we don't have control over the circumstances we confront, but we do have control over our response. Giving back and serving others puts much more of life into perspective. Christ himself was a servant leader. Who are you not to be?

Condi added some ideas on facing racism and how she was raised "if you look for it, you'll find it." Her parents sounded to me like true heroes. "They told me I would have to work twice as hard because of the color of my skin. They said there are things the world will me I can not due but they also told me I could be President of the United States." As the first female African-American Secretary of State, they weren't too far off the mark.

She answered questions from seniors enrolled in a US Government class and she was awarded a St. Ignatius football jersey with the number 66 on the back. She thanked my student and his brother as well as the Principal and President for welcoming her to our school. 
Two ND Grads ;-)
I joked with my students that after hearing her speak, I wanted to do less with my life. Ha! Quite the contrary. Her words struck a chord because of their simple truth. This is a woman who has followed her passion and it has led her to places unforeseen. She has given her life in public service and in the giving has received even more. She is multi-talented, yet she is multi-disciplined. She came to our school because her Godsons asked her to and she cares about them. Her 60-years have been packed with a lot of life and a lot of love. Here's to many more.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Profiles of a Veteran: From Yepremian to Tillman

His life touched my students' lives. We
watched "The Tillman Story" in class.
Sent by a former student...
I respect that governmental agencies, banks and many schools observe Veteran's Day on the actual day: November 11. It's not just the "second Tuesday in November" or the "last Monday in May." No, it's historical significance it worth remembering. As written on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
The men and women who serve in our armed forces are as diverse as the geography of our great country. And athletics has brought to my attention the profiles of two men who share common passions and pursuits but couldn't be more different. Both are veterans and both are worth remembering.

This past Saturday, as I watched Notre Dame play Arizona State, I could not help but notice the traces of Pat Tillman that color Sun Devil Stadium. For those unfamiliar with his story, states "Football player Pat Tillman enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002. He was killed in action in 2004, and the exact circumstances of his death are still in question." After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Tillman responded to a call of conscience to serve in the military. He convinced his younger brother Kevin to do the same.

Today, players at ASU emerge through the Tillman Tunnel. His number, 42 is retired and hangs with honor for all to see. I hope on Veteran's Day tomorrow, they will take an additional moment to pause and recognize what giving of ourselves in service might mean. For Pat, it was death; and death too soon. But his life reminds me death is not an end. His legacy lives on. I see this in Pat's Run, the Tillman Scholarship Fund and ever more movies, articles and books written about his life.
Sports fans love Pat Tillman because his story is unique (and tragic). But Garo Yepremian an Armenian-American placekicker who played from 1966-1981 in the National Football League is too. Born on June 2, 1944 in Lamaca Cyprus, Yepremian reminds me that one need not even be born in the United States to serve in the military.

According to a photo card given to a friend by Yepremian's son, "at the age of 16 he moved to London and later to Indianapolis, Indiana at the suggestion of his brother Krikor. He came not with thoughts of fame or fortune, but with the hope of a college scholarship by kicking something his brother called a "football."

"Garo's only experience had been in soccer and his knowledge of American football was practically non-existent. He began practicing but was disappointed to learn that his soccer background prevented him from collegiate competition as ruled by the NCAA. This did not stop Garo. He continued to practice kicking at Butler University. By good fortune, he was seen, discovered and signed by the NFL. He played for the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers."

"From 1966 through 1981 he only missed one season, 1969 when he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army. He remains the 9th leading scorer in NFL history and holds the third best percentage rating for field-goal kicking."

He accomplished great things on the field and in life. Renouncing a professional career to serve during the height of the Vietnam War is a selfless act. I wonder how many other men and women considered giving a little more as a result of his example.

And an additional part of his legacy are his "golden rules in the sport life." Check them out!
I'm grateful for these profiles in courage. Anyone who gives their life in service gives me pause to recognize where in my own life am I doing the same. Thank you to the men, women and their families who support them, past and present for protecting our freedoms and more.

Photo Credits
Tillman Tunnel

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Praying with a World Series Image

I must have watched the final out and following moments from Game 7 of the 2014 World Series 100 times. After robust cheers, celebratory pictures and a victory libation, I walked home holding two things, neither of which weigh anything. Sounds like some sort of riddle—but it's not. No, I carried with me two images. These two pictures were mesmerizing; I couldn't stop hitting the internal rewind button in my mind. And when that happens, I feel called to prayer.

The spiritual life demands that we pay attention to feelings, desires, whisperings, opportunities and more. When something captivates me, I bring it to prayer. Why am I drawn to x? What is it about "y" that it is staying with me? And in one of my favorite spiritual disciplines, when an image speaks to me—when I keep replaying it in my mind, I ask myself why it is speaking to me. I raise it to God in my prayer.

The first image became a popular one. So popular that is graced the front page of the San Francisco Examiner, in addition to many others. It features Buster Posey hugging Madison Bumgarner after the final out. They ran toward one another and embraced in a typical "bro hug"—the kind where strong arms interlock and beat on the back of the other man. I have heard that Bumgarner said, "I love you," the same words that many of us have also said to Buster (without him knowing it). But what was unique about this embrace is again, what I took to my prayer.

Before Posey lets go of Bumgarner, I noticed that he went back in for a second hug. It feels more intimate than the first. It's a near cuddle. He simply buries his face in Bumgarner's chest. I love it.

I repeatedly asked myself why I love this moment as much as I do. Fortunately, a friend caught sight of what I did and said "that gesture said to me that Buster found relief. He finally had someone he knew could shoulder the burden. That hug was a 'thank you' from a much deeper place. It's I trust you, I love you."

I knew he was right. Bumgarner's epic performance is not possible without Posey behind the plate. The catcher seldom gets credit for how they frame the pitcher's craft. Buster Posey caught all 18 innings of NLDS Game 2 in Washington DC not to mention the rest of the entire series. No complaints, no fan fare. One of the Giants announcer's said that his low batting average in the Series may have to do with the fact that he caught what became the longest baseball game in postseason history. Well...we'll never know because Posey won't offer an excuses. 

Above and beyond baseball, Posey has found in Bumgarner something I think we all want from a spouse or partner, a close friend and our God. We want a source of relief, someone who can shoulder the burden and tell us we are loved. In my realization, I thanked God for those people who have had the strength and ability to be that person for me.

The second image is as different as are the players involved: Hunter Pence and Michael Morse engage in their love fest. Giants fans have long teased these two high-intensity athletes about their "bromance." In short, these teammates have a deep respect and admiration for one another. Furthermore, they have good chemistry. This photo reveals the gift that a new-found friend, companion and teammate can be, especially when you accomplish something great together.

This past fall a new coach joined the girls cross country staff who surprised me with joy. In some ways, we aren't that much alike. She's 15 years and inches my junior, she loves to confront girls about dress code and attitude. But we make each other laugh, we work hard and believe that together we can make a difference in the culture of the team, the sport and the lives of our athletes. 

Although we did not experience the elation of Pence & Morse upon their victory, in this image I am reminded of those people I have worked with that have become friends. Men and women who I delight in. People who make it worth so much more. Thank you Lord for the gift of friendship. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A World Series Parade: How Could You NOT Go?

On Halloween, the City of San Francisco hosted a parade to honor the 2014 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. A day for orange and black celebrated what the men in orange and black completed in Kansas City just two days prior. Friends and neighbors for the past two days have asked the same question: Did you go? And there's really only one way I know to answer this question. It's with another question. How could I not go? And, if you love the Giants, I think you have to be prepared to answer this question too. 
This picture sums it up: Yes! Yes! Yes!
First, I want to acknowledge that there are valid reasons that some might not go. For one, the parade started at 12:00 noon. Not all places of employment are conveniently located along the parade route or and most will not close for business. For others, transportation is a legitimate challenge. I know that my brother who lives in Washington DC was unable to access one of the many forms of public transportation available to folks in the Bay Area. Had he gotten a ride, I know he would have positioned himself on Market Street well in advance of the parade's commencement. 

Fortunately for me, the school where I teach cancelled all classes on Friday. Our entire community had the honor and privilege of attending the public celebration of a great team. It was interesting for me to hear what people had to say about going to the parade...or not.
Dear Bruce Bochy, Please write a manual on leadership. You own this topic.
Some were disinterested because they don't like crowds. Others wanted to avoid the rain. One person even quipped, "it's not like it's the first one." To me, their reasons rang hollow. Stay away from City Hall if you want to avoid the masses. A true outdoorsman once told me: there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. Come prepared. As much as I wanted to say "your excuse is egregiously pathetic, some fans wait their entire lives for a World Series Championship and a victory parade," I think it's more important to point to why it's more than worth it to "just show up" and go. 

The sheer joy and elation that fills the air is incredible. To see the athletes that we have cheered for since April "up close and personal" is awesome. They are there because what they achieved "Giant Together" is legendary. Without a doubt, what we saw by Madison Bumgarner qualifies (The homily at today's mass even referenced his feat). To see him standing as a man, surrounded by family and friends in his own float was an honor. How could we not celebrate MadBum again?! And I believe he gets to say "thank you" back to us. Every player has a response and reaction that is as unique as they are. It's such a treat to see.
The Giants promo says "Champions Together." Can we put an * by this. With MadBum, we are....
And how often does one get to partake in a truly communal celebration. The parade is free—no ticket required. It's for the public—from the Croix de Candlestick crowd, to the bandwagon members, all are welcome! My friend brought his two sons. I had a great "hang" with two co-workers. Being there made me wish I could share the experience with all of those who have loved the Giants in the past and those who I know couldn't be there.

For Catholics, the sacramental life is rooted in community. When you love someone or something, you invest in how they are and what they do. This team captured our hearts. They had a lot of it.  Showing up to celebrate that community means I become much more than a fan. I am a witness. It means the person next to me is a witness. Indeed we are all witnesses. An orange October reigns supreme. How could I not go?
Personal Highlights:
  • The float that played Sly & the Family Stone's R&B song: "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)." When you're cold/ in the rain a little funk always helps. 
  • Thank you for putting Giants on the rooftop of buses. Two years ago, they were each in convertibles. This way, everyone was able to see the G-men!
  • Continuing to note what a good ride Steve Perry, former lead singer of the band Journey has had in all of this. Even he was in the parade.
  • Not going to lie here...Michael Morse is a handsome man in the WS tee. My friend said he looks like a Neanderthal. At 6'5" and the player who had an all important RBI in Game 7, call him what you want.
  • That Jeffrey Leonard, the Hackman, was celebrated. I support his work with the OneFlapDown foundation.
  • I hope you have your own!
Photo Credits