Wednesday, February 27, 2019

What you can do at any age...

Based on my recent birthday, I can no longer tell myself I'm in my early 40s. I have to own up to the reality that I am officially "middle aged" Should I be preparing for an impending crisis? Please advise. I know I'm supposed to report that age is just a number. Yes and no, right? However, with age comes wisdom and as I age, I grow in wonder and in humility. Young or old, middle age or not—every year is a gift. Every stage in life affords its unique blessings and burdens. Some lives are long, and some are too short. Each one has meaning. 
Although I dreaded turning 40, since that time I have made an effort to connect my new age with a number in the world of Sports and Spirituality. As a lifelong Niners fan, turning 42 was made a little easier with Ronnie Lott on my side. Hitting 44 wasn't so bad as it connected me to one of baseball all time greats: Willie "Stretch McCovey." When a friend gave me Pop! Movies #699 Rudy, I could hardly believe what I saw: Rudy wore 45 for the Fightin' Irish. Turning 45 served as an invitation to revisit Rudy's story and what he did. 
As written on IMDB, "Rudy has always been told that he was too small to play college football. But he is determined to overcome the odds and fulfill his dream of playing for Notre Dame." That descriptor reminded me that we are all called to live with passion and purpose. Every one of us has dreams. Don't let the world stand in your way. People love Rudy because he didn't let that happen. Matthew Kelly's latest book "The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity" offers a similar message. I was so encouraged by his words, I shared them with my students. He writes
It is in the classroom of silence (prayer) that God illuminates our hearts and minds so that we can see clearly and answer passionately four questions: Who am I? What am I here for? What matters most? What matters least? With these answers and clarity, God sends us out into the world to live with passion and purpose.

So, it is time to stop making excuses....Most people really only have two excuses. They spend the first half of their lives telling themselves, "I am too young for those things," and the second half of their lives telling themselves, "I am too old for those things." And life passes by in the blink of an eye. Don't let these be your excuses. Whatever your age, I am absolutely convinced now is your time. Now is our time.
Dimitrion Yordanidis was 98 when he ran a marathon
Kelly concludes by listing a range of accomplishments great people in human history, starting with Amadeus Mozart. He writes "Mozart was eight years old when he wrote his first symphony." The list concludes with "Ichijirou Araya was 100 years old when he climbed Mount Fuji."

I took his list and kept those that feature a person from Sports or Spirituality. I added a few. I hope you can name others. The purpose of this list is NOT to make anyone feel as though they must accomplish something by a given age. Quite the contrary. The range in ages on the list ought to serve as a reminder that any number need not be considered too old or too young. I hope you will agree. Enjoy

  • Michelle Wie became the fourth female, and the youngest ever at 14, to play in an event on the PGA Tour at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
  • Joan of Arc was 18 when she led the French army to victory. (MK)
  • Joe DiMaggio was 26 when he hit safely in 56 consecutive games. (MK)
  • Jesus Christ was 33 when He took up his cross and died for our sins. Our salvation is complete through His sacrifice.
  • Pat Summitt was 34 when she coached the Tennessee Volunteers women's basketball team to their first of 8 NCAA Championships. Her record of 1,098-208 (.841) may have been cut short by her death in 2016 at the age of 64.
  • Roger Federer was 36 when he won the Australian Open—his 20th Grand Slam title. (MK)
  • Mother Teresa was 40 years old when she founded the Missionaries of Charity. (MK)
  • Tom Brady was 41 when he won Super Bowl LIII. He is not only the record holder for most Super Bowl wins by a player, but the oldest one to do so.
  • Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he shot 65 in the final round and 30 on the back nine to win the Masters in 1986.
  • Michelangelo was 72 when he designed the dome of St Peter's Basilica in Rome. (MK)
  • Dimitrion Yordanidis was 98 when he ran a marathon in Athens, Greece.

Photo Credits

Monday, February 25, 2019

A Good Kind of Crazy

At the Academy Awards ceremony, I looked twice when I saw Congressman John Lewis, introducing the nominee for Best Picture, “Green Book.” Given that the film addresses relationships between black and white Americans in the early 1960s, I should not have been surprised. 

The Civil Right icon said “I can bear witness that the portrait of that time and place in our history is very real. It is seared in my memory.” He added, “Our nation bears the scars of that time, as do I. 
As written on, His co-presenter was Amandla Stenberg, who starred in the film "The Hate U Give." She noted, “As this film demonstrates, any journey that opens someone’s eyes and softens their heart is one that is worth taking.” He concluded the presentation by stating, "Young or old, I encourage you to be an active participant in the journey,” 

This is not the first time Lewis' words have made an impression on me. I have heard his message of invitation and encouragement, of journey and a call to action before! On Ash Wednesday 2015, he spoke to the entire student body of St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco about Fifty Years Since Selma: The Civil Rights Movement Today. I can still recall several of the stories and life lessons he offered.

What I remember most is how important his message was for young people to hear. He was but 23 years of age he served as an architect and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963. However, in this address he shared what he did when he was their age. He said,

In 1957—17 years old—I met Rosa Parks. The next year, at the age of 18, I met Martin Luther King, Jr.  And I want to say to you young students if you see something that is not right, something that is not fair, not just—you need to speak up and speak out. You have to make some noise and get into trouble, good trouble...necessary trouble. That is exactly what another generation of our young people did.
Since that time, I have thought quite a bit about what it might mean to make "good trouble?"  I have wondered, What does "necessary trouble" look like? Can I support young people and help them get into trouble or would I see their action as teenage rebellion? What do you think? 
I believe I may have found one answer. A beloved student shared with me a Nike advertisement entitled "Dream Crazier." It is narrated by none other than Serena Williams and was debuted during the Oscars. (Good call, Nike!) This student recently completed a research project on Title IX for the Jan Term assignment in Ethics, Morality and Justice. It spoke to her as it did to me. I believe it addresses a Civil Rights issue of our time.

As women continue to work toward equality in the work place and beyond, we are all called to revisit and revise the expectations society has and holds. Are they fair? Are they limiting? Do they empower humanity? Or keep us down? 
Sports continues to offer a lens through which to evaluate and assess the strides women have made and where we still need to go. The audible message speaks to matters that female athletes face; the images suggest that the world may see and perceive things differently. As Williams states
  • a woman running a marathon was crazy!
  • a woman boxing was crazy!
  • a woman dunking? Crazy
  • Coaching in the NBA? crazy!
  • a woman competing in a hijab? crazy!
  • changing her sport....landing a double cork 1080....winning 23 Grand Slams, having a baby and then coming back for more..crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy and crazy!
She concluded the ad by stating "If they want to call you crazy? Fine! Show them what crazy can do." She's right. I think young women—female athletes in particular ought to go crazy...but let it be a good kind of crazy...a necessary crazy. Let's see what becomes of that.

More opportunity? Healthier minds and bodies? Broken records? National championships? New friendships? Big fun? Increased athleticism? Better salaries? Stronger leaders? The possibilities are limitless....

Go Crazy!

Photo Credits
John Lewis
Serena Williams Young

Thursday, February 21, 2019

What is really in our DNA...

For Christmas 2017, I gave my mom and kit. I joined in the fun, spit into the vial and sent our respective DNA samples in the mail with the good faith that family secrets would be revealed. For the next six weeks, my mom and I waited in anticipation for what we might learn. We checked e-mail and snail mail, we discussed and dreamed what could be. When the results finally arrived via gmail, we discovered a lot of what we already knew: my mom is nothing but Emerald Isle. I on the other hand, found some cultural flavor as my dad's family has some ethnic diversity. Who knew that Iberian Peninsula and Greco-Italian would come into my German/French/Swiss mix?! 
My brother, Dad and Uncle Tim sneak in a visit with my Aunt Dorothy before and after the Rose Bowl
I came to find out my mom took the picture. 
However, as excited as I was to receive this report, I felt somewhat disappointed when the results finally came. I stared at the screen and thought: Is this all there is? What did I really think it could tell me?  There is more to a person that the region from which their ancestors hail. Though spaces and places define us, I think there is much more that our DNA "carries" but won't be revealed from a saliva sample. This is where I have come to understand that the life and legacy of loved ones can offer just as much—if not more. 

with full knowledge that this little one's
parents are Seahawks fans, Tim is dressed
accordingly ;-)
On January 28, my Uncle Tim, my dad's second of four younger brothers died at the age of 73. I have no doubt that on this day he entered into eternal life. Tim lives on in my heart and forever with God. Since the time of his passing, I have read many tributes and fond memories of my God father. Every post reveals a consistent and common message: my Uncle Tim was a devout Catholic and a huge sports fan. Examples include:
  • Tim was a walking, talking dictionary on all things sports and we will miss talking to him as we walked by his condo to hit balls on the Brookdale Golf driving range. As a member of the Tacoma Athletic Commission,  Tim became a fixture at each monthly meeting and at many TAC events. The closing of the Brookdale Golf Course pretty much coincides with the ending of Tim's outstanding life. Tim will definitely be missed and we will always remember seeing him at High School games and tournament at the Tacoma Dome. God Bless Tim and all the Stricherz Family.
  • Tim's knowledge of sports, statistics, and memorable plays were great to listen to. I wonder if he got Jay involved to where he is now in sports plus being a great referee. Peace and love to be with you as a family.
  • Tim was the most loyal sports fan for Franklin Pierce and Washington High School that I ever knew, He will be remembered by many.
  • His exceptional interest in sports led him to become a member of Tacoma Athletic Commission (TAC). Most important in Tim’s life was his faith, family, and friends.
In his eulogy, I shared my own memories of my Uncle Tim coming to Notre Dame my freshman year for the Stanford game. The Irish lost; Tim made me...and my dad feel better. During my senior year, he flew me out to Seattle to see the Irish take on the Huskies. I don't remember who he cheered for that day—he was a UW fan!— but I remember how much I enjoyed being there with him. One of our final conversations was a debate about, what else? college football.

Tim's funeral was at of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in Spanaway, Washington. My Uncle Guy noted that he was a founding member of this parish and logged in what must have been at least two forty hour work weeks of mass time. My cousin Jackie said how much she will miss "seeing him in his spot at church." Even though I live over 1,000 miles away, I know exactly where that spot is and will always be.

Reading about my Uncle Tim, his life and his impact has taught me more about my own DNA that "23 and Me" or "" ever could. I also go to a lot of high school basketball games—I always have. I sit in the stands and realize it's just in my DNA. I too have a penchant for talking sports, especially trivia. I know from whence that came. I hope this post will inspire you to consider what else might be in your DNA.

My Uncle Tim had a brief battle with cancer. His friend Rick drove him to and from medical appointments as needed. He also read the First Reading at Tim's mass of Christian burial. At the reception following the service, I asked Rick how he knew my uncle. He told me "when I was a kid, I was in need of a gym to practice basketball and shoot around. Your Uncle Tim always let me in there to play. We reconnected many years later and went to hoops games together." No one was surprised to hear how a friendship with my uncle was born—from sports and in service. Great qualities, wonderful passions to have in your DNA.

Love you, Uncle Tim.
Very fitting that in your memory, people can make a donation to the Tacoma Athletic Commission.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

On Presidents Day: The American Presidency and Athletics

Presidents Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. My students thought the U.S. just decided to "split the difference" between Abraham Lincoln's birthday on February 12 and George Washington's on February 22. Not true! According to the History Channel, Presidents Day was "originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington. 

The holiday became popularly known as Presidents Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents, past and present." 

Though I have yet to see many Presidents Day celebrations or participate in such traditions, the website did note that, "A number of states also require that their public schools spend the days leading up to Presidents Day teaching students about the accomplishments of the presidents, often with a focus on the lives of Washington and Lincoln." I decided to join in the fun—in a way that speaks to Sports and Spirituality. Here's what I taught. I hope you enjoy.
At the George W. Bush Presidential museum in Dallas, TX
I learned 43's bicycle is known as Peloton One
Americans love sports. Make no mistake about it. We are a people that watch, play, monetize, import and export sports like no other. In "Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games," the late MLB commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote "It has long been my conviction that we can learn far more about the conditions, and values, of a society by contemplating how is chooses to play, to use its free time, to take its leisure, than by examining how it goes about its work." Such a belief led me to think about not the work of our Presidents—their politics and policies, political party or provisions—but rather about the sports they chose to play. How did these men use their free time and take leisure before, during and after their tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This is what I have learned!
There are a number of good websites that chronicle this topic! Here are but three of them

Oval Office Athletes: Presidents and the Sports They Played: In what is another History Channel resource, Patrick Kiger provides an excellent overview of the topic, replete with numerous links and images (in gallery). Ultimately it profiles eleven presidents and the sports that helped define them.

USA Today's The 10 most athletic presidents of all time ranks how each Commander in Chief (might) fare against the others. Though 44 played a different sport than 43, and in spite of the fact some might not consider bowlers great athletes, the competitive skill and success of each President is described! 
It's no secret that a number of Presidents are golfers and have strong ties to the game. The namesake of George H. W. Bush and the great-grandfather of George W. Bush was George Herbert Walker, who served as president of the United States Golf Association. The prestigious Walker Cup is named in his honor. Our current US President, Donald Trump owns 17 courses, the most famous of which is Trump Turnberry or Trump National in West Palm Beach. He has been criticized for the number of rounds he has played in office—a complaint that was extended to his predecessor, Barack Obama. Golf Digest suggests both grievances are warranted. Americans should know that George W. Bush did not play any golf after the events of 9/11. "I didn't like the message that would send to the American people," he told David Feherty, on his show. 

With such ties to golf, Golf Digest got in on the fun and wrote Which presidents were the best athletes? You might be surprised. I'd love to know who had the lowest handicap.
To compliment what I learned, I shared the videos interspersed in this posting with my students. I actually teared up when I revisited the clip 41 and 43 at the Ballpark in Arlington. It is hard for me to see how much change can take place in nine years time. The Saturday Night Sketch of Bill Clinton—the everyday jogger—had my students laughing so hard, they actually clapped at the end of Phil Hartman's impression. They loved Barack Obama's sense of humor and oratorical skills...and like so many of them, his love for the NBA.
I hope on this national holiday that you have the time to engage in sport, whether as a participant or a fan. It is a great day to give thanks for our freedoms, a great one which is the freedom to play and recreate. I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the Presidency and Athletics. BTW: The White House has a tennis court, putting green, swimming pool, bowling alley and basketball hoop. Some good sports! God Bless America.

Photo Credits

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Sports Art as Theology

Meetings at St. Ignatius College Prep begin with prayer. Sometimes our prayer is informal and brief. At other times, our prayer is well-constructed and creative. In the Religious Studies Department, our prayers are dynamic and deep, thoughtful and thorough. They should be—right? And yet, prayer reaches us in different ways. What lifts my heart and mind to God differs from the Theology teacher on my right and on my left. Still, I enjoy how each of my colleagues invite me to pray—and to pray with one another. 

Though divided on some topics, every one of my co-workers agrees that we ought to be more intentional about integrating art into our curriculum. I was reminded of our shared belief when Megan, my colleague shared this quote for prayer.

The purpose of theology, the purpose of any thinking about God, is to make the silences clearer and starker to us, to make the unmeaning — by which I mean those aspects of the divine that will not be reduced to human meanings — more irreducible and more terrible and thus ultimately more wonderful. This is why art is so often better at theology than theology is. –Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss 
Oil painting, sculpture, pottery and design. Illustration, silk screen, stained glass and watercolor: so many art forms integrate color and its absence—a nuanced kind of silence. Light and dark, shadow and symmetry. What a wonderful vehicle to consider the Divine. Wiman's words served as an invitation and a challenge to include art into my curriculum... OR as I was able to do this week: bring my students to art! Thanks to my colleague, this was an easy task. 
The Computer Science, Robotics and Design invited faculty to pay attention and take notice of some outstanding art. Via e-mail, he wrote, 
If you have a moment, please enjoy the artwork from the Multimedia Design students on display in the center hallway of the second floor in the academic building.  
Students were asked to create a composition featuring a pioneer or champion of social justice that has had an impact on them throughout their life experiences and/or cross-curricular experiences in their other courses at SI. 
If you would like to know who created a particular work of art, the students’ names and logos are in the bottom corner of each piece respectively.
People often profess, "the Lord provides." Well, the good Lord did so in abundance through this lesson plan. I teach Ethics: Morality and Justice to juniors and we have just begun our unit on Social Justice. I divided the class in two and half of my students went into the hallway to choose a profile and their quote that speaks to them; explain why.

About one fourth of the artistic profiles feature athletes—historical and active. I asked my Sports and Spirituality students to do the same. While the majority of them chose the athletes you see here, their choices were many. 

The OPENING LINE of my book "Pray and Practice with Purpose: A Playbook for the Spiritual Development of Athletes" states “Great art is important in the teaching of religion because it is not merely intellectual knowledge that we are gaining. Great art moves us; it touches us; it enables us to see.” —Michel Bettigole, O.S.F. and James D. Childs. I make the claim that I often see athletics as great art. The work of the students from St. Ignatius—inclusive of sports—has served as a poignant reminder for how I should not only teach the faith, but live it, too. ENJOY!

my only regret is that none of the athletes profiled are female.
never a given that Jesus will make the list of those who advocate for Social Justice.
Very happy to see Him included.

From the Hilltop, students need to know that Bill Russell also played for a Jesuit school:
The University of San Francisco

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Dear Steve Hartman...

Dear Steve Hartman,

I am scratching my head in wonder as I write this post. Bottom line: How do you do it? Just when I think I've seen and heard every "feel good" story to come out of a high school gym, swimming pool or in this case—from wresting mat—you find new ones. In fact, your work has me questioning the wisdom of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Chapter 1:9 proclaims What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun! Stories like Champion high school wrestler surrenders a match he could have won suggest otherwise. Each profile offers a new story; there is plenty that's new not only under the sun but "On the Road," too.
I would also like to extend my gratitude for sharing stories that portray young people in such a positive light. So many of your subjects are see a bigger picture; they often make choices that are profoundly countercultural. For this very reason, I have found their words and deeds put Christ's teachings to life. 

For example, Marek Bush, a sophomore from Central Valley Academy near Utica, New York illustrates vividly what St. Paul meant when he asked his congregation at Corinth to look around and see if they could find among themselves “the wise” and “the strong” of this world. Paul concluded, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor 1:27). Everything about Bush's decision would seem foolish. Though he was the "weaker" opponent in this contest, his choice revealed a different kind of strength. As Richard Clifford writes, "In moments of such “weakness,” when conventional structures fall away, the divine intention becomes visible in unexpected ways." They also reveal how and why Christ was a great teacher. 
I encourage you to watch the video for yourself. You will gain a better understanding of St Paul who said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;  for when I am weak, then I am strong."

No wrestler wants to be considered "weak." The sport demands an uncanny strength. This state championship however revealed a new strength. Just look at the crowd's reaction to the choice Bush made, and Logan accepted. The joy is palpable. The moment is worth holding...and sharing.

Please keep doing what you do, Mr. Hartman: seeking and finding new stories of triumph, heart, joy and inspiration. Thanks for letting us in on the lives of people who choose to be different...who show me what winning really is all about.

Oh, and I'll let you know if you ever stop making me cry.

In gratitude,

Anne Stricherz
Religious Studies Teacher, St. Ignatius College Prep

Saturday, February 2, 2019

How We Can Be of Service in Word and in Deed on Super Bowl Sunday

Ignatius of Loyola professed "love is shown more in deeds than in words." Francis of Assisi urged us to "preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary—use words." Messages like these are affirmed in secular circles, too. Ben Franklin stated "Well done is better than well said." He's not considered a Founding Father for nothing, right? Yes, I believe that "talk is cheap" BUT let's not throw the "baby out with the bathwater." Yes, our convictions must take action and they should not exist only in theory. But I also believe in the power of the pen. Words have meaning and I aim to use them wisely. As an author and a blogger, I write on a near daily basis. Thanks to words, I can share my ideas, support them and encourage others to do the same. And so it is with this "both/and approach" that I invite you to consider two such opportunities amidst Super Bowl LIII.
My Catholic faith is affirmed in the Word and in deeds. I wholeheartedly agree with James 2: 14-17 which states "Faith without works is dead." I am called to put faith into action, to help the poor and needy, to cloth the naked, to forgive, love and listen to the Lord. And yet, I need a passage of Scripture like this one. I need the Word of God, to lead me and guide me. As my former pastor would say: "Amen?" to which we would say "Amen!" AMEN.

So what does my "Amen" have to do with a game that will take place at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots? America's most-watched sporting event—with an expected 100 million people—is also an opportunity to include one's faith—in word and in deed.

The Word
A friend and colleague shared an article entitled Super Bowl 53: Four devout Christian Patriots and Rams players to watch Sunday. As I scrolled through the player profiles—two Rams and two Patriots, I was struck by how uniquely each man described his relationship with Christ. Some of their testimonials resonated with me; others were interesting to read.

I thought it might be fun to have students share if their faith statements resonate with their own views! To which my colleague said, "Often times the faith that players demonstrate, determines the level of support a fan may give them. I remember my mom loving the Arizona Cardinals during their Super Bowl run because of Kurt Warner's faith as well as that Larry Fitzgerald." His words make me think of how I will see those four players in a new light during the Super Bowl (and in the future!). 

I have been a Kurt Warner fan ever since I read what he told a reporter about being a devout Christian. He said "I cannot not talk about my faith. If you're going to interview me, please know what you will hear." Indeed those words took action!

If you're with football fans who have faith, share the good word about these athletes. Ask them, if they know about the faith life of any other athletes in the games.

In Deeds
As reported by USA Today, "An estimated 17.2 million adults employed in the U.S. are expected to miss work the day after the Super Bowl, according to a survey from The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated." Furthermore, on this Sunday alone, Americans eat more food than any other day of the year—except Thanksgiving. Knowing how many people go hungry everyday, and thinking of those who were affected by the government shutdown, I started to question how things could be different. The disparity between the haves and have-nots prompted me to make the most of this unofficial National Holiday.

Idea #1 In my workplace, we sell Super Bowl squares for $10 a piece. There is absolutely no strategy involved, but it keeps folks in the game—as a winner is deemed at the end of each quarter! A portion of all the proceeds goes to our local food bank.
From "Faith and Football" presentations!
Idea #2: In 2014, I created an assignment in my Sports & Spirituality class entitled: Faith and Football. Students choose what team they want to learn more about and present on the history of the organization, the team's connection to their city and charitable organizations / outreach. They must also identify and share the faith life of four players, profile the coaches and great plays from the season. On the day of the presentation, students are required to bring in a can of food for our local food bank. 

We can all do some gestures to remember that too many Americans go hungry on a regular basis. Each one of us can lend a hand. Food Banks get plenty of donations around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but Super Bowl Sunday is a full month after the holiday rush. Let's keep the donations flowing! And word hard on Monday ;-)

Taking a moment on a day like Super Bowl Sunday is the perfect place to start—in word and in deed.

Photo Credits
Ignatius Quote