I am sure that someone, somewhere has a list of the great terms, cliches, metaphors, and expressions used by athletes, coaches, broadcasters, and fans. I dare say, their words extend beyond hyperbole and alliteration. These expressions add color to the commentary and endear us even more to a certain team or sport. And the signing of Andrew McCutchen, one of my favorite athletes, from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the San Francisco Giants, reminded me of one of my favorite sayings. If I ever make it into the broadcast booth—though I can't take full credit, I hope I will gain some for this ingenious phrase.
Vince Tringali, a long time football coach at St. Ignatius High School was the first person I heard say "gift of the magi!" in the context of sports. In recent weeks, I have thought him and his words as I prepared my seniors for the second contest in the Bruce Mahoney rivalry, Through an NFL Film about Tringali's tenure of excellence in football, my students came to see that Tringali was a great many things—tough, demanding, and old school, and yet personally he was whimsical and witty.
Tringali coached the Wildcats to a 19-game winning streak from 1962-1963 seasons, earning a number one national ranking in the 1962 Imperial Sports Syndicate Poll. He captured four league championships, one of which was in no small part because of a student transfer from Marin Catholic High School. This future NFL Hall of Fame player wanted to live with his father, who resided on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. He enrolled at St. Ignatius as a junior and the Wildcats benefitted. After Tringali said his name: Dan Fouts, he added "Gift of the Magi."
And with that comment, one of my favorite expressions was born.
"The Gift of the Magi" is a wonderful phrase for reasons that resonate with both sports and spirituality. The Feast of the Epiphany, traditionally on January 6, This Christian feast day celebrates the "manifestation" of God in Christ Jesus. In the west, the Epiphany commemorates the visit of the Magi—the wise men—to the Christ child, and thus Jesus' Incarnation to the Gentiles. Now celebrated on the second Sunday after Christmas, I wish this feast day was remembered and revered as it once was. Wise men from the East traveled a great distance...following a star to bring gifts to Emmanuel. We don't know what the Holy Family did with the gifts they were given, but we know what they were: gold, frankincense, and myrrh and we know who gave them: Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia and Gaspar of India. Their gifts were unexpected. They were gratuitous, They were regal and they were royal.
Life today isn't always that different. We too receive gifts from near and from far. Some of my favorite gifts have been totally unexpected. They come without a price and have been given freely, They are often given in celebration and others are worth celebrating.
So, it makes sense that those same words: Gift of the Magi would characterize my response when I heard the Giants acquired outfielder Andrew McCutchen in the final year of his contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I have written about the Bucks' #22 three times and have always delighted in his success, even though he does not play for "my team." Though I had heard rumors for some time, I wasn't sure that we would land this former NL MVP. Confirmation of this move was unexpected....a true gift from the East. His skill set is varied; it is rich and it is regal. No need to look for a star in the night sky, Cutch offers his own vibrancy and shines brightly. Giants fans welcome him—this gift—with open arms.
So next time you receive a gift from the East....something unexpected....one worth talking about, you know what to say. And while you're at it, keep listening for other expressions. The sports world is full of good ones.
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