Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What We Love and Miss in Sports: Thank you Jeff Samardzija

Every so often the sports stars align. Fans take inventory in the early hours of the morning and realize they were treated to a great sports night just hours earlier. Exciting games, spectacular feats, unique plays and web gems abound. I love going to work or to the gym the morning after one of those nights to hear what reports dominate the airwaves among my fellow sports' junkies. Though the Golden State Warriors playoff game against the Portland Trailblazers was exciting, I couldn't wait to show my students one thing: Jeff Samardzija channeling Bo Jackson. What he did reminds me that sports is a gift. Watching athletes we love perform and compete is never a given. When we see greatness, it's natural to think back upon other outstanding moments in sports history. It's easy to think ahead to what will be. But, we are always called to live in the moment. And as Mary Oliver writes,  "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." Hell yeah.
Although Samardzija's strike out wasn't particularly exciting or memorable his reaction was. Personally, I love that a pitcher, the baseball player who is quite often the least likely to get a hit was this upset by his performance at the plate. It's not as though he were batting clean up with the bases loaded. Doesn't matter to The Shark. #baller. But, I know his feat prompted one of two responses.
  1. I sure wish he still played football.
  2. I miss Bo Jackson.
More on that here.
Though Notre Dame fans know that Samardzija, a wide receiver for the Irish made the smart choice career wise to play in the MLB, every single one of them says the same thing to me: I miss seeing him catch touchdowns...I would love to see him play in the NFL....How great was it watching that guy pull down the pigskin ....great hands/great hops... We knew the Brady Quinn—Shark connection was special when it was happening on those Saturdays in the Fall from 2003-2006. When I think back on them, I can't help but smile. I don't miss Charlie Weis, but I miss wondering what the Notre Dame offense might do when Quinn was chumming the water.

Today, the Shark swims in new ones. And as last night demonstrated, it's still fun to watch him play. I took immense satisfaction in hearing that Giants' catcher Buster Posey say, 
“He has some of the most explosive stuff I’ve caught from start to finish. I can’t think of any guy from the first inning through the last with the kind of (velocity) and action he had tonight." 
Wow, wow, wow.  Irish fans, give thanks for the memories. Giants fans, enjoy the ride.
Perhaps it's more than coincidence that Samardzija posed for a poster that was a remake of a one that hung in thousands of college dorm rooms in the mid-80s. What he did in Cincinnati was something Bo Jackson did with ease. Jackson, one of my favorite athletes of all time treated the baseball bat as though it were a tooth pick, breaking it over his knee in more than one game and over HIS HEAD in another. In the "30 for 30: You Don't know Bo," one of Jackson's teammates said he once tried this maneuver and nearly broke his leg. 

Seeing Samardzija channel Bo Jackon made me wish for that time when you might see Bo mimic spiderman in the outfield, catching a well hit baseball, nailing a baserunner at homeplate...with his throw from..the outfield (not cut-off man required), or looking for him on the sidelines talking fellow Raider, Marcus Allen. Jackson made great athletes look good. A hip injury ended his career too early. Though he returned to baseball for a time, Bo knew retirement. 
The legend of Bo Jackson lives on...but we sure do miss him.

It's a funny time of year to think about missing those we love and wanting to hold on to them and their memory. During these 50 days of the Easter season, Christ appeared to his disciples. He broke bread and even ate fish with them. He let them touch his wounds. His mere presence set hearts on fire. I look for the Lord in an intentional way during Eastertide. I hope to catch a glimpse of Him and listen to what He has to say. It's not easy to see, but the heart gives it away. And though it may seem insignificant—in that same spirit—I try to make something more out of those great nights in sports. I believe there's something for all of us to feast on. Today, it was a realization to appreciate the here and now...we'll miss it later.

Photo Credits
Quinn and Samardzija

Samardzija Knows
Bo Breaks

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