Friday, November 29, 2019

Our Shared Religion: More to Read...More for Feed

If you read but one section of Notre Dame Magazine, let it be "CrossCurrents." Formerly known as "Perspectives," these essays, often written in the first person, are is in the back of the publication. Written by alumni, CrossCurrents deal with a wide array of issues — some topical, some personal, some serious, some light. The writing is just so good. The voices are so strong. The lessons are valuable. One article, "Our National Religion" prompted me to write my last blog posting: Have a Good Read...And a Good Feed: Stories from ND Magazine. I meant to place it in the lead off position. Since I forgot, let's have it stand solo. It shouldn't get lost in the shuffle. 
In "Our National Religion" Father Jud Weiksnar, OFM addresses a truth we are already familiar with, but need to reconcile. He points no fingers, nor takes any names. Rather he raises some important questions that our society must consider; he owns his part. He writes
Growing up loving both sports and church, I’ve noted a seismic shift in how society prioritizes the two, measured in time, money and energy expended. As a youth, I tuned in to the Major League Baseball Game of the Week every Saturday afternoon on NBC. Now, with cable, satellite and the internet, I have access to more games in one day than I once would have watched in an entire summer. Technology drove part of that change, but so did our priorities. 
In the 1970s a Sports Illustrated essayist questioned how we could justify the average professional athlete’s salary being four times greater than a teacher’s. Today it’s 50 times greater. If you’re lucky enough to be Mike Trout, the multiplier jumps to 570. It’s impossible to imagine the trend in sports salaries and stadiums continuing at this rate. 
In 2069, will average athletes make 625 times as much as teachers? In 2119, will we be spending 150,000 times more on new stadiums than on new churches?
Weisknar invites the reader to consider issues of access, priorities, payment, values, and resources—in particular those precious two: time and money. I recommend reading the entire piece.

George Orwell wrote 
“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle." Weisknar offers this reminder in the context of Sports and Spirituality, for those who love both. 

The word "religion" comes from the root "religio" Latin for binding. To think of religion is to consider what we are bound to? What grounds us? What are your roots? I think it is important to consider our priorities in light of this term and all that comes with it.

  • What do believe are America's priorities? 
  • Coaches, how often do you speak about team, community, school and societal priorities? What do we want them to know?
  • How realistic is it for us to expect our priorities to change?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Have a good read...and a good feed: Stories from ND Magazine

The menus for Notre Dame's
Thanksgiving meals in 1939 and 1941
In "Philosophy that Feeds the Soul" Allan LaReau '70 (father of my classmate Renee!) recalls that the late Joseph Evans, Notre Dame professor of philosophy "commissioned us to return home for the holiday and have a good read...and a good feed." He adds, "It seemed like more than a clever farewell rather a reminder to nourish our minds, bodies and souls—the whole person." What a great message to give to students before the Thanksgiving break! I'd like to tuck this away for future use and in the meantime offer a morsels of food for thought, Sports and Spirituality style.

Notre Dame Magazine is fortified with stories, essays and updates that are full of fiber, high in Vitamin C and D and worth integrating into my literary diet. Occasionally it can be overwhelming to choose what to ingest and digest. Hoping that you might have time for a good read in the next few days, I would like to recommend the following updates from the magazine that serve as Chicken Soup for the Sports and Spirituality soul. Enjoy.

Ivey to Grow in Memphis: (good fun with that headline!) For Irish Women's basketball fans, Niele Ivey '00 is a Hall of Fame name. As a player on the 2001 National Championship team and as a coach for the 2015 National Championship team, Ivey has been a part of the program from 17 years combined. 

"Now she’s blazing a new trail, becoming the first female assistant coach for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies and just the ninth woman to coach in the league."

The Irish loss is the Grizzlies' gain. And yet, it's a win for both programs.

Pardon the Disruption. "The Athletic was born as many business ventures are: in an attempt to fill a void. In Hansmann’s and Mather’s case, that meant figuring out a way to monetize first-rate digital sports journalism — inside information and analysis from reporters who have the sources and insights that only come from experience on the beat."

When I first learned about this upstart sports news outlet, I was skeptical. As a sports fan, I hear and read ever more from "The Athletic" and others who reference it nearly every day. I had no idea the co-founder is a Notre Dame grad, but since he is I now know his story. It's a good one. 
First Steps to Fitness: Friendship "The most indicative facet of gauging a person’s overall well-being: relationships." Here's what happens when you combine THAT with fitness. 

Not sure I needed a professor of computer science and engineering to convince me otherwise, but it never hurts to get that reminder...oh, and back it with research. Good stuff.

ACC jumps into the revenue stream. A little more context and insight for why we were prevented from seeing Notre Dame beat Duke 38-7.  Meh.
Read about Chris fromThe Observer here
Deaths in the Family: It is rare to see a current student profiled in this section. Though I did not know Chris Westdyk ’19, the photograph used in the magazine (not available online) captures a his spirit and makes me feel like I do. 

Throughout the month of November, we remember those who have died. I am grateful for the Catholic tradition, the Communion of saints. As Ginny Kubitz Moyer writes "it’s the belief that there’s a family bond, a communion, between all believers in Christ – those who have died, as well as those of us who are still alive." Such bonds are strengthened when we share the stories—the life and legacy of those we love and have lost. Here is one worth reading (in full, below) and sharing.

"Chris Westdyk ’19 suffered from melanoma in high school and college, battling the disease with quiet dignity while pursuing his passions with unstinting enthusiasm. He devoted himself to Stanford Hall, where he spent his senior year as a resident assistant, had served as a Welcome Weekend ambassador and designed the dorm flag.

The pre-med and economics double major, who received his degree in a South Bend hospital room during a special ceremony with University President Rev. John I. Jenkins ’76, ’78M.A., was also active in the Alliance for Catholic Education and the Center for Social Concerns’ Appalachia program.

An avid runner, Westdyk completed the New York City Marathon in November 2018, running to raise money for research and treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. His friend Lydia Piendel ’18 recalled in The Observer how he urged her on during their runs together.

“It felt like it should have been the other way around, like I should be the one encouraging him,” Piendel said, “but it didn’t go that way.”

To those in the Notre Dame community who knew Westdyk best, such inspiration will be his enduring legacy. He died June 3 at age 22."

Happy Thanksgiving to all. To give thanks is a privilege. Notre Dame, the Notre Dame family and all the nourishment it has and continues to offer me are among my greatest blessings.

Photo Credits
All from ND Magazine

Sunday, November 24, 2019

One Approach Toward Meeting Your Favorite Athletes: Thank You, Chris Mullin

Like most sports fans, there are athletes I respect, admire and adore. I have my own Mount Rushmore, my favorite male and female athletes, those who are my heroes and my G.O.A.T.s I have had the opportunity to meet a few of them—Will Clark and Joe Montana and coaches such as Muffet McGraw and Brian Kelly. With each encounter, I offer a warm smile and what I think is a good lead—either a personalized question or insider's connection. I am happy to share that this preparation has paid off. Last week, however, I was proven otherwise. Here's the story. 
I attended KNBR's Evening with a Legend with my good friend Kevin at the San Francisco City Club. The honoree was none other than the Golden State Warriors' Hall of Fame shooting guard,  Chris Mullin. I have known Mully since I was in grade school. My Dad, like many other sports fans loved Big East basketball in its prime. And Chris one of its leading men, a shining star, not to mention an Irish Catholic emerged as my Dad's favorite. Needless to say, in 1985 when the Dubs selected this Irish Catholic as the seventh overall pick in the draft, my dad and I— could hardly believe our fate. The lefty out of St. John's was coming to the Bay Area? Lucky us. I can say with confidence that thousands of other sports fans felt no differently.

In the years after, I saw Chris play many times. At one game, he saw me sitting a few rows behind him, wearing a red St. John's University sweatshirt. My Dad said "Anne, look!" Chris gave me a thumbs up. I have seen him with his wife Liz and their kids at Christmas Mass.  And, on January 12, 2012, I was at Oracle Arena with my dad for the retirement of his jersey. In theory, I had so many angles from which to launch a question or share a story. However, his hour plus Q &A with Tom Tolbert filled my cup. He told so many personal stories, he spoke with such authenticity that I wasn't sure I needed to make a personal connection beyond what has already transpired. That upshot from that evening is my next post.

However, at the end of the night, I turned to Kevin and said "let's go up and shake his hand." Again, I had no nervous energy or anticipation. I had no need to find an angle or seek a story. I guess I just wanted to say "thank you."

We waited in a short line and when the time came, I asked Mully for a photo. I noticed that his shirt remained untucked. I turned to him and said "Do you still go to Valley Medlyn's for breakfast?" I have no idea why I said that other than I love one of their egg specials and had read years ago he was a regular. I don't know where one expects the conversation to go from there....but it did. 

I told Chris that I have taught about Manute Bol for years. He had spent a good portion of the evening talking about their friendship, so I was happy to share the impact Bol's life story has on young people. Kevin told him that I teach a course called Sports and Spirituality and he said "Where? That sounds great!." I then asked him if people really call him "Chalk." He said emphatically "that's what Manute called me!" I wanted to tell him that I thought it was hilarious that Mark Jackson once said "he is the whitest black man in the NBA" but others were waiting. To write about our conversation here feels disjointed and strange. However, I left it feeling like I had spent time with an old friend.

It can be strange for sports fans to meet their heroes, their favorites for an imbalance naturally characterizes the encounter. We know about their passions and joys, their struggles and their faults. We know what gets them out of bed in the morning....and yet, we don't. 
To meet a person you've "known" your whole life can't help but be disappointing...that is, until it is not. And in this example, I give all the credit to Chris Mullin. His authenticity—a byproduct of the tremendous interior work he has done break the selfishness of addiction, to maintain sobriety and continually give it over to God—has allowed people like everyday fan, a teacher, a coach to share what we know with gratitude and the small hope that maybe we can give back just a tiny fraction of all the joy they have given to us. I'd like to think THAT is what made this evening so special.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Live Like Reid: Ohana and Notre Dame

"Ohana in the Hawaiian Culture means family. And family means nobody left behind or forgotten." —Myron Tagovailoa Amosa, Junior, Defensive Lineman, University of Notre Dame

I've often wondered how a student from Hawaii could possibly choose Notre Dame. To travel over 5,000 miles from paradise to South Bend is undeniably a shock to the system--in more ways than one. However, learning about the life of Reid Nishizuka through "Live Like Reid" has helped me understand why young men and women from the 50th state come to the Golden Dome: Ohana.
I remember being welcomed into the Notre Dame family at my freshman orientation by the University President, Father Monk Malloy. Administrators, students and even Coach Holtz spoke about this family to which we were members. During my time as a student and long since, my appreciation for this wonderful, enthusiastic, emphatic and enduring family has only deepened. Indeed, the spirit of Notre Dame is "Ohana." 

Reid Nishizuka, a native Hawaiian and 2005 graduate left the Notre Dame family too soon. An aerospace engineer, he joined the Air Force, earning 15 awards across more than 200 missions. In 2013, he served in Operation Enduring Freedom. Tragically, he did not return to Hawaii or Notre Dame. However, his spirit lives on in both homes, today.

In 2019, a program known as Folds of Honor worked with the Irish women's golf team to honor Captain Nishizuka. Senior golfer, Mia Ayer was chosen to carry a red, white and blue golf bag bearing his name. "It looks pretty sharp," Ayer said. "I like it." The bag serves as a reminder and an opportunity for Ayer to speak to others about the program, the honoree and raise awareness.
To honor military families, Coca Cola sent Ricky and Norene Nishizuka to Notre Dame for a special weekend. During their visit they were able to see the Irish play Air Force at a hockey game and be on the field during the USC football game. Reid was honored and thanked for his service at both contests.

"When I see the crowd respond to our loss, it's an incredible experience," said Ricky.

During the national anthem a fly over took place. "We noticed it was the exact same plane that Reid piloted. It brought back so many memories because we had an experience of seeing Reid in the cockpit coming in for a landing. It brought me that image once again. I can never forget it," said Ricky.
Ricky and Norene will not be forgotten at Notre Dame either. They found Ohana in the relationships built on the field as they met three football players from Hawaii and as they stood with Mia between them during half time. I love that the Nishizukas brought gifts for all—blue and gold Hawaiian lei type necklaces. They embraced those a genuine warmth—or kindness—a characteristic of Reid.

When a golfer asked Ricky and Norene to tell them more about Reid, Ricky replied, "Reid's claim to fame was his belief: If you had to choose between being right and being kind, be kind." If only more people in our world would live like Reid.

Ricky Nishizuka reminds us that "in Hawaiian, Aloha means hello and goodbye." Though Reid has died, he lives on. From the shaka that was passed from one person to another to the signs and symbols that speak his name and illuminate his memory. Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ writes "—for Christ plays in ten thousand places." Indeed.

As the week of Veterans' Day comes to a close, I am reminded by the sacrifice so many people and their families make to defend our freedom. Thank you Reid, thank you Ricky and Norene. Thank you, Notre Dame.

Photo Credits
All from Live Like Reid

Sunday, November 10, 2019

On Veterans Day: Let Us Remember....

Veterans Day is a federal holiday that is celebrated and observed on November 11. It is a day to remember the fallen, recognize those who served in the United States Armed Forces and extend our gratitude to those who protect our freedom every day. While some may have friends or family members who are veterans, many do not. Today at Mass, the pastor of my parish asked those who were Veterans to stand for a blessing. To my surprise not even ten people rose. The small number, however, did not diminish the sense appreciation from the congregation. As I looked at the Veterans in my midst, I wanted to know where they had served. I was curious to know to which branch they once belonged. I thought about their families and their passions.

Veterans are moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, cousins, and friends. Reviewing the life of Danielle Green, a US Army veteran, I was reminded that they are athletes and sports fans.
Green graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1999. She earned an athletic scholarship to play on the women's basketball for Coach Muffet McGraw and the Fightin' Irish. She battled through injuries and became a standout, earning the distinction as the 17th all time leading scorer. A crafty lefty and great ball handler, it still hurts me to know that she lost that very arm in combat. Green was recognized in 2015 as the ESPY Pat Tillman Award winner; she is one of my heroes.

Green's entire life, like many veterans has been a story of giving to others, seeking a greater purpose and overcoming adversity. Her advice in the midst of hard times is to be true to yourself and continue to ask the big questions: What's my purpose? What's my passion? What do I want my legacy to be? 

On this Veterans day, take a moment to thank the men and women in Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Their legacy is told in the story of our nation. Their purpose is to keep the world safe and free from tyranny. And their passion? Find out! It might be service...but it might also be their family....their sport....their hometown team.

As many students say to begin their prayer, Let us remember....

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Real G.O.A.T.: Our Lady

On the Feast of All Saints, Father Steve, a chaplain at St. Francis High School, asked students to raise their hands if they participate in a Fantasy Football league. After lamenting the fate of his top player Saquon Barkley, Father invited the student body to draft “Fantasy Saints” as a “top three” people to model our lives after.  He said, "find someone you relate to, someone who is different than you and a living person who knows you and inspires you." When he asked "Who are your top three?"  I went straight for the jugular. I named my number one; I'm not even sure I need two others. She is the greatest saint of all time: Our Lady, or as they say in French, Notre Dame.
Sports fans love to discuss who is the G.O.A.T. Nary a week goes by without a sports talk radio pundit dropping that acronym. Who is the greatest quarterback of all time? They opine, Serena Williams must win two more grand slams in order to be the greatest of all time. Others want to know, Does Tiger Woods need to surpass Jack Niklaus' total of 18 majors in order to be the G.O.A.T? Can't we just give him the honor right now?! Basketball fans struggle with this topic. Therefore, they frame their debate in the form of this question: Who is on your Mount Rushmore? Ask any hoopaholic! He or she will gladly discuss.

The enthusiasm that surrounds conversations about the G.O.A.T. and fantasy sports caused me to question: Why aren't Catholics talking about their own G.O.A.T. more often? Such a spirited conversation could motivate us to learn more about the lives of many saints. Like athletes, saints have fans and followers. They often have regional ties and strong traditions to honor and celebrate their lives, their contributions to the world and more. Indeed the saints are one of the greatest treasures in the spiritual life. 
The past summer when I walked the Camino Ignacio, the leader of our pilgrimage made every attempt to convince my group that Ignatius of Loyola of the G.O.A.T. As a Jesuit priest and a Spaniard, I understand his proclivity toward St. Ignatius. However, time and again, I challenged his assertion. 

I said to him, "Padre, Mary—the Mother of God, is the greatest of all saints. She is the first disciple and the original tabernacle. Her womb held Our Lord." He smiled. I added, "her fiat—let it be done unto me according to thy will— changed human history." I believe he has Saint Mary in his top three, but he remained unconvinced. I would like him to remind him that In her lowliness she is exalted; though she is the Immaculate Conception—conceived without sin, she was fully human. She must have been VERY upset with Jesus when he was lost in the Temple. The Blessed Virgin urged Christ to perform His first miracle. Did she enjoy the wine, too? I hope so. She raised Him to be a faithful Jew and stood at the foot of the Cross, knowing the power of His sacrifice. It says something to me that my Lord had a mom. Perhaps that realization alone is all the evidence we need.

Are you convinced? Is Our Lady the G.O.A.T.  Who are your three Fantasy Saints that you can "draft" this season? Would love to hear more. And don't forget, ask these holy men and women to...pray for us.

Photo Credits
Our Lady

Monday, November 4, 2019

Move Over Marie Kondo: Here's the Memo Method.

Since the release of  "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" Marie Kondo has been sparking joy. This best selling book, written in 2011, addresses a system for simplifying and organizing your home by getting rid of physical items. The minimalist approach has left people wanting less, not more.
As noted in the New York Times, KonMari may have a kindred spirit in Guillermo PiƱeda Morales, a.k.a. Memo. Morales is a talented runner who completed the New York City Marathon yesterday in 2 hours and 33 minutes. He's interesting for all sorts of reasons—he has only gotten faster with age, he was undocumented for many years—working in the United States as a bike messenger and as kitchen staff. He served time in prison and today he is a U.S. citizen who proclaimed on Twitter “Thank you everyone for your signs and cheers, I love this city and I love this country.”

Memo claims to be average, but he is anything but that. As noted by my students he is outstanding in virtue. Those they see in him are humility, gratitude, simplicity, frugality, industry and perseverance. 
There are many lessons we can learn from this story, but for the purpose of this posting, the one I find worth considering is "The Memo Method." It rests on two principles: hard work (industry) and never giving up (perseverance). We can get caught up in all the gear, gadget and accouterment in the world—but that never guarantees success. We have to put in the work. We must extend the effort. We get to hit the road, pound the pavement, and swim the sea.

His success doesn't even rest on his top 10 finishes or in the trophies and hardware he has won. Memo is free. Free from the clutter of false promises or expectations. Free from the rat race to pay for what we think we need. 

"Running is my life," he said. "It makes me feel free!"

Thank you for sharing your story and what I now know as "The Memo Method"—no book, no Ted Talk, to Netflix series required. By the way, your heart rate monitor—you gotta love the original!

Photo CreditsTweet

Friday, November 1, 2019

An Open Letter to Nats Fans/All Sports Fans: Why Attend a Victory Parade

Dear Nationals Fans,
Congratulations on your comeback win late in the NL Wildcard Game to survive and advance. And way to go in sweeping those ever-pesky St. Louis Cardinal to capture the NLCS. You beat the two best teams in baseball (Astros and Dodgers), and won four games on the road to earn the 2019 World Series title. Your motto "Stay in the Fight" proved to be a worthy one! Thanks for giving baseball fans a Game Seven and a wonderful close to another MLB season. 
I understand that your World Series parade will take place tomorrow, Saturday November 2, 2019. For those who are unsure if they should attend, indulge me. Here are a few thoughts...

First things: A victory parade is a marvelous thing, especially the first one for a team or organization. As you know, this is a first for your franchise and it's been 86 years since a World Series took place inside the Beltway. ENJOY it!

Those who can, should: In 2010, the baseball gods gave my brother the best 40th birthday gift he could possibly receive: a parade for the World Series Champions, his beloved San Francisco Giants. Mark had dreams of a victory parade as a child. I wish he could have gone when his dream came true, but living in Washington, DC made that impossible. However, I stood in solidarity with him as I spent that day coaching my team for their final league meet of the year at Crystal Springs Cross Country course. I did my best to contrive, co-opt and create way that we both could attend. The best solution, bilocation, wasn't an option. Instead, we watched the highlights and then the parade in its entirety on Christmas Day later that year. That says something: your local television station is willing to rebroadcast a World Series parade on Christmas Day #bestpresentever!
Don't Stop Believing: Fortunately the orange and black clinched another Commissioners' Trophy just two years later. Because the parade fell on another school day, in 2012 St. Ignatius College Prep cancelled school for the parade—one of the more generous and brilliant decisions they made in the sixteen years I taught there. Although some teachers are angry to this day about losing this class time, the opportunity to come together, to cheer, to honor and remember, celebrate and stand near, with, behind and in front of the team was remarkable. It cost nothing, except the price of a Muni bus ticket and a Bob's Apple Fritter. Thank you SI.

Who You Take With You: In both 2012 and 2014, I attended the World Series parades with friends who are loyal fans. I have a penchant for attending baseball games with people who know and love the game. I appreciate their knowledge and insight, stories, historical context—all of it. Some people are glory hounds, I'm an info hound. In this life, we have a lot of choices, some are limited. Where you go and who you take with you are important ones. They are also questions worth considering. For memorable events like the parade, bring good people, great fans.
The sweet taste of victory: I love a good apple fritter. I do not know how any person of any size or alleged athletic ability can justify eating an apple fritter in its entirety unless ....your team wins a World Series. A special day demands a special treat so I made it a personal tradition that I would go to Bob's Donuts, a San Francisco institution prior to the parade. I took that 2 pound ball of glazed dough with me to my spot along the parade route. I waved to players, cheered for my team while savoring every nook and cranny of that apple fritter. No wonder victory tastes sweet.
Lucky for you in, around and near our nation's, no school will be missed, no government needs to shut down to honor the boys in Walgreens' red, white and blue as they raise the World Series trophy and banner for all to see. I hope you will have the same reaction to the events, joy and spirit that Pablo Sandoval did in 2012. He kept saying over and over "No lo creo." I don't believe it. Sometimes when something that special, that great happens--it really is hard to believe. All the more reason to show up....

Photo Credits
Apple Fritter
Cable Car

Parade Route
W Flag