Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Explanation Necessary: Bryant and Colby Young

Earlier this week, I was tagged on a Facebook post by a former high school teammate. I was asked to paste the following information on to my personal page. It now reads: "I have been nominated to list the 10 athletes I have enjoyed watching the most. One athlete per day for 10 consecutive days. No explanations, no reviews, only pics." I'm sure there is a name for this Facebook phenomena; if there is, please let me know what it's called. I can't say I have ever participated in one of these lists, but this was one I did not want to miss. 

On Day One, I posted a picture of Bryant Young, a star defensive tackle for the San Francisco Forty Niners.  Young, aka "B.Y." an All American at Notre Dame was drafted in the first round, as the seventh overall pick. He is also one of my Dad's all time favorite Niners.The stats will help you understand why, but sports writer Gary Peterson paints a fuller picture. He writes 

He stood 6-foot-3 and weighed an immovable 291 pounds during his years as an awe-inspiring defensive lineman for the 49ers.

He was as pleasant as a summer breeze off the field. He quietly commanded total respect on the field.

For decades the 49ers’ most prestigious honor has been the Len Eshmont Award, which exemplifies the “inspiration and courageous play” of an original 49er who died before his time. B.Y. won the award. Eight times. In 12 years.

The Giants have the Willie Mac award. The Niners have Len Eshmont award. To think that B.Y. won the award 75% of the time he was with the organization makes me wonder—Should it be renamed? The Len Eshmont and Bryant Young Award?

I would be lying if I wrote that this award means more to my Dad than a Super Bowl title (B.Y. has one from the 1996 season!) but to him, it points out what is most valuable in a teammate and athlete.

When my Dad broke his femur in February, I was looking for words and ways to make him feel a little better. I reminded him that B.Y broke his right leg as well. He reminded me that B.Y. suffered a non-compound fracture of the tibia and fibula of his right leg when teammate Ken Norton's helmet crashed into him. I apologized to my Dad for conflating their injuries, but I did remind him that B.Y. came back to play nine more solid seasons in the Red and Gold. I think he liked the comparison. 

This Facebook activity says "no explanations, no reviews—only pics." When it comes to B.Y. I don't think an explanation is necessary; the reasons I am a fan are obvious (and how much do I love that he met his wife at Notre Dame?!). But part of the joy of sports / being a sports fan is the discovery and sharing of connections that aren't so obvious. For example, my admiration for B.Y. connects me to my Dad, the person who has instilled my love of sport more than anyone. He has been one of my greatest teachers when it comes to football, tennis, sports stats and fandom. What people might not know is that he often says the same about me. For example, i
n reading further about B.Y. I came to learn part of his story that my father did not know. I knew I could be the teacher, but I wasn't sure if he could handle the content.

On October 11, 2016 Bryant and Kristin Young's oldest son, Bryant Colby Young II died of pediatric cancer. Colby—as he was known—had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball. Though it was removed, the cancer was too far gone. His story is captured in this video here. I urge you to watch it.

This is one of the most tragic and yet beautiful tributes I have seen. The love of the Young family and their sincere, deep faith in Christ is what allowed them to endure his death and celebrate his life. Colby loved football and basketball, but his passion was cooking for his family. He carried a profound wisdom beyond his years. I have a feeling he was a good brother to his sisters and took some ribbing from his little brothers. He looked up to his father and it's apparent that his father looks up to him then and now. The Young family's willingness to carry this cross, to surrender and to offer their testimony is pure gift for all of us. I wish more people knew of BY and Kristin's story. Please share the video.

During COVID, I have found that I have needed a good cry around every four or five days. Inevitably, something will cause the storm to break and I'm able to let out disappointment, loss, sadness, fear and anxiety. If you are in need of a lightning bolt to get the flood to break, let it be Colby's story. He is  no doubt with God in heaven, doing all the things that he once loved to do. The video closes with these words from John's Gospel. Thank you Colby for your witness to the Gospel and the love of Christ. 

Photo Credits
All B&W photos are from Kristin M. Young's website

Monday, August 24, 2020

Just One: A Great Approach in Sports and Spirituality

I don't know about you, but I have needed my faith now more than ever. In the Religion of Sport "Stephen vs. The Game: Season 2, Episode 5 on Faith" Curry says "I think my faith is more about the personal relationship rather than following a certain tradition or religious practice.” Though I know his words resonate with many, they are not true for me. One important way I practice my Catholic faith is through participation in Sunday Mass. Thanks to communal, public worship, I hear the word of God, I listen to how it speaks to us today, I receive the Eucharist, I pray and I sing. I imagine not much of this is resonating with anyone right now as most public church gatherings have been closed since March. However, I write with "just one" invitation..."just one" suggestion. My hope it that "just one" person will take it.

As soon as shelter in place took hold, I joined the Boles family in watching mass online. My dear friend Eileen had heard about Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD and their regular streaming service to worship online. Through even more technology—Facetime— together we watched Sunday liturgy in our respective homes. We each began by lighting a candle and I was able to see how their family brought the rituals of the Mass into their living room. It was a joy for me to see how much they dig the music and share in the sign of peace in a new way. Turning on and tuning in to mass has been a wonderful way to begin the Sabbath. Truly, we have been nourished by the outstanding homilies. Thank you Father Michael White! 

I went to this online service for two reasons. One, Eileen, Thomas and James invited me to join them. Second, I was curious about this Church of the Nativity. It is the subject of "Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter." Whereas so many Catholic parishes in the US are on life support, consolidating and closing, Nativity is ever growing and teaching other parishes how they have and continue to do it. The book is fantastic; it is honest, optimistic and surprising. I highly recommend this great read! 

If the Boles family had not asked me to join them, I'm not sure I would have started going to on-line mass. I hope I would have followed the direction of my local parish, but I don't know if I would have stayed with it. An invitation always makes a significant difference. It takes "Just one...."

This however, is where the story takes a new turn. Easter Sunday at Church of the Nativity brought a different schedule. A close friend from Notre Dame invited me to join him for mass, via Zoom, with our mutual friend Father Tom Doyle, C.S.C. I know Father Tom from my time in the Alliance for Catholic Education. We hold a number of friends in common, many of who are on the Sunday Zoom mass. Seeing everyone in their respective homes simply adds to the joy of what has become a true virtual community. Because of  Father Tom's beautiful spirituality, his story telling, his ability to make us laugh and give certain suspects a hard time, I honestly look forward to beginning my Sunday with my 8:00 a.m. mass. 

The core group of attendees are Father Tom's classmates and friends. The majority of these men swam for the Fighting Irish. Their coach, Tim Welsh is a frequent lector and weekly e-communicant. If this isn't an example of Sports and Spirituality, I don't know what is. I have thought many times that I hope we can one day have mass, in person together.

I gave a talk this last week entitled "Seven Things I Learned from online mass." Father Tom and Father White have modeled ways for me as a teacher to build community. I'm enriched. I am grateful. I am blessed. Every week, I have invited "Just One" person to log-in and attend with us. I do this because I believe in the movement. I think it's one for both sports and spirituality.

Adam Schupak, editor of NCGA magazine wrote:

Speaking of healthy, golf is one of the healthiest and safest ways to enjoy some fresh air and be active as we deal with the realities imposed by COVID-19, so get out and play!....While you're at it, why not bring a newbie to join you? My friend Bill Gierring offers his own solution to "growing the game." His grassroots solution calls for each golfer to introduce "Just One" new person to the game.

In a five year stretch, he introduced golf to five different people. Four of them became weekend warriors, one joined a country club and his niece started a local league for new women golfers. They all started playing for different reasons—health, the joy of competition, to meet new friends.

"I didn't share any magic message, because I don't have any," he said. "I was encouraging and I did share with them how much I love the game." 

We all start for different reasons, but we all continue because golf finds a way to fill a place in our hearts and souls."

The message and philosophy of "Just One" as it relates to golf resonates with me and my faith. I don't have a magic message. I have loved being a part of two virtual faith communities. I will continue to invite "Just One" person a week to log in at a 8:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Growing the faith has never been up to me—that is God's work....but one of my favorite sports stats is the assist. So here is the information for Church of the Nativity. Give it a shot OR share with me your own story of online worship during this time.

Photo Credits.
Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter
Father Tom
ND Swimming
Boles Family Peace!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

An Open Letter to the University of Notre Dame Student Body re: COVID-19

At noon today, a friend informed me that Father Jenkins, President at the University of Notre Dame was hosting a press conference. I expected an announcement about football and instead I came to learn the following. 

Father John said

"We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in your first weeks back on campus. After a .03% positive rate for our testing before students returned to campus, just 33 positives for nearly 12,000 tests, we've now had 147 positive cases at our testing site on campus. The spike in cases is very serious, and we must take serious steps to address it," said Jenkins Tuesday evening. "Upon receiving recent results, we began to make plans to send you home and continue instruction online as we did last spring. However, with the advice and encouragement of Dr. Mark Fox, we have decided to take steps short of sending students home, at least for the time being, while protecting the health and safety of the campus community. For at least the next two weeks, we will move undergraduate classes to remote instruction, close public space on campus, and restrict residence halls to residents only. Off-campus students should remain in your residences off-campus, associate with housemates only, and not come to campus for this period. We must be diligent in wearing masks, keeping distance, washing hands and completing the daily health check. We previously set a limit for any gathering at 20 people. The limit now will be 10 people, always wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. The objective of these temporary restrictions is to contain the spread of the virus so that we can get back to in-person instruction. If these steps are not successful, we will have to send students home, as we did last spring. 

Please take care of yourself and others by carefully following our health protocols and challenge friends and classmates to do the same. The virus is a formidable foe. For the past week, it has been winning. Let us, as the Fighting Irish, join together to contain it. We ask as always, for the intercession of Notre Dame, Our Lady, and for God's help. 

Many people have said  "it was just a matter of time" and that it was "bound to happen." My sentiments, however, are different.  You and I might not agree, but based on what I have learned, I believe this is what the student body must do. And so I write this post as an open letter to the student body—the men and women who say "we are ND."

Yes, I am disappointed. No, I do not think the University was arrogant or "dumb" to have students return to campus in early August for in-person classes. Indeed, I am angry at the students who ignored norms and protocols that we all must follow. Truly, sadness filled my heart for over 11,000+ students who remain healthy and hopeful for a semester on campus. But, if I believe in Notre Dame and its student body in the way I say that I do—or at least want to—I can't sit with cynicism. Pointing fingers leaves me nowhere. Now is not the time to assume anything. I reviewed the decisions of the University and I stand behind the leadership. AND I want Notre Dame to live up to its name. Yes we are the Fighting Irish, but the motto of the Alumni Association speaks even louder to me. And as an alumna, I want students to know what we have been challenged to be: A Force for Good.

As an educational institution and a community of faith, students are called to make great sacrifices in the days and weeks ahead. As a Christian, this task is not unfamiliar to me. For the sake of the common good, the greater good—and at this point me own good!—I am willing to put the needs of others before mine. I must die to self so that others may live. The leadership at the University has made this call loud and clear, it is for the students to shoulder and share the same burden. 

Most people I know do not think this is remotely possible. While it may be unlikely for young men and women to forgo social events, people and places that require self-discipline and intentionality, this two-week window has been offered as an opportunity to demonstrate that what you have been afforded is worth fighting for. I have always believed if you ask little of young people, you will get it. While you never want to set the bar impossibly high, when we set it low...the results speak for themselves. Maybe we need to be very specific. Continuing to engage in the hook-up culture, binge drinking, and partying can and will lead to a semester in San Francisco and not South Bend. 

Truth be told, South Bend is a reason you have been able to return to classes and campus, period. Matt Fortuna of The Athletic said, "Here's the thing about Notre Dame: For the most part, it's been proactive with everything related to COVID-19.Small campus. Smart people. Brought students back early. Transparent (see the dashboard). It's the closest thing to a bubble that exists among FBS schools. And yet... " that bubble isn't totally impenetrable. 

For years, I have heard alumni speak of what it means to be a Notre Dame man. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The rash of cases has been linked to at least two off-campus parties, and the majority of students testing positive are senior undergraduates, mostly male, said school spokesman Paul Browne." I am certain when Father Hesburgh referred to an alum as a Notre Dame man, he was not referring to an individual who put others are risk. A Notre Dame man does not recklessly pursue his own whims and desires above the needs of others. I encourage the men of Notre Dame to wear that mantle and honor the legacy of the Notre Dame men who have gone before you. Step it up and make better decisions.

As a member of the Notre Dame Women Connect board, I would like to give more thought and promote what it means to be a Notre Dame woman. I have a strong sense that this ideal means that we look to Our Lady. She exhibited great strength of mind and heart to carry her Son, Our Lord amidst controversy and confusion. She stood by him even as he carried his cross. She was the first disciple; she is the greatest of all saints. I urge the women of Notre Dame to look to Mary as a model of strength and courage in the days and weeks ahead.

I am a high school teacher and an athletic director. I want nothing more than to be with students and to have them be with one another for their educational, spiritual, social and emotional well being. Wearing a mask, keeping socially distant, regularly washing hands and forgoing (college) norms are a small price to pay for the alternative, which we do not have this quarter and most likely this semester at St. Francis High School, where I work. Furthermore, as an educator, I am always in need of examples and exemplars. My message, belief and hopes have efficacy when I can point to those who have been a Force for Good by making the right decisions. We need you; I need you to show the world we can be different....and not because of empty promises or self-ordained prophecies...but rather because of thoughtful and careful choices.

In two weeks time, I might be wrong. This might be too idealistic. I have learned to let go and trust the powers that decide was is best for all. That being said, whether or not you identify as a Catholic Christian, or understand what it means to be a Notre Dame man or a Notre Dame woman, you have been asked "What would you fight for?" You have cheered "We are ND!" Now is the time to model the mission of the University you will one day call alma mater. I hope and pray you and your teachers stay healthy in body and spirit. You are in my prayers as is the leadership who has hope we truly might be a Force for Good in a world that needs it.

Post Script: It might be selfish on my part, but I needed to write this letter as much as I want students to read it. I stand behind my belief in the administration and in my hope for students. Someone has to believe in them, and so let it be me. Perhaps that is what it means to be a Notre Dame Woman....

I realize that no part of me wanting to change the virus can or does change it. And yet, this community showed up to campus testing 99.7% negative (yes, we are people of privilege!). That was inspiring to me.

Students already make high risk decisions all the time. I shudder when I think of my own irresponsible behavior with alcohol as an undergrad. Furthermore, the number of asymptomatic cases (Fauci has said between 20% to high as 45%) makes this a tough part of the equation. What is at stake has not changed, it’s just that much more pressing... And to a large degree, though not entirely, it is in the hands of students now. In the meantime, my hands are held in prayer for the administration who has done more work than anyone will ever realize to get this semester off the ground and for students to help one another. Thank you. Anne Stricherz '96, Farley Hall

Photo Credits
Students on campus
ND Women Connect
Force for Good

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Shared Read Discussion Guide: Things That Make White People Uncomfortable

As mentioned in my last post, The Right (and Wrong) Summer Reading, I now present a discussion guide for "Things that Make White People Uncomfortable." About four weeks ago, I posted the photo you see here of the book—its poignant cover shot and the tabs I use to lead me to talking points. I was hoping someone I know and trust had already read it for there are but a few book reviews and as I wrote before, the title lives up to its name. Though I don't know anyone who had read it. I was impressed by the number of people I know who indicated they would like to....and they would be open to a virtual sharing, etc. 

From what I could determine, this is the only resource of its kind. I have done what I can to make this a helpful tool for unpacking the theme of each chapter and for addressing specific calls and claims put forth by Michael Bennett. Furthermore, I added links to articles, a video and a prayer that relate to his messages. 

I would like the author to know that he challenged me and I am grateful that he is channeling his "superpower" in this way. I was impressed by his love for his family, teammates, and Coach Pete Carroll. I value his efforts that extend far beyond the gridiron. I can't wait to talk to other coaches about our summer shared read.

Enjoy! Please use for your own reference and/or share with others.

If you cannot access the PDF document, please contact me personally and I will share via Google Docs another version. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Right (and Wrong) Summer Reading

I never get summer reading right. That idyllic book on the beach, the one you pack for poolside leisure? Somehow I didn't get that memo. I can recall my trip to Puerto Rico when and where I read "Native Son" or my sojourn to Spring Lake, NJ when I read about the financial crisis of 2007-2008 in "The Big Short." Why didn't I just go with light reading? chic-lit? or even a dark mystery like "Gone Girl?!" This summer, the only trips I have taken are local ones, to different golf courses. I haven't spent time at the beach or anywhere that exotic, unless Sacramento counts. But, my reading habits are just the same. And, I am happy to report that has served me well in my new role as assistant athletic director and in the classroom.

I continue to undertake the hard stuff. I don't mean that what I read is dense, complex or uber challenging. Rather, the stories and their reports are both emotionally and spirituality taxing. I have always leaned toward non-fiction and these books reveal truths we all need to grapple with, discuss, debate and understand. They challenge my values and assumptions. They don't hold back.

For example, right now I am reading Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. It's fascinating. This text suggests that we treat men as the default human and women as atypical, skewing data and thus our decision-making and thought processing. This text cites research that reveals the root causes of inequity, the dangers of misrepresentative data, and how to combat the idea of a “default person.” For example, this anecdote gave me pause to think more about how women are represented (or not) in the wide world of sports. 
In 2013, British tennis player Andy Murray was lauded across the media for ending Britain's 77-year wait to win Wimbledon, when in fact Virginia Wade has one it in 1977. Three years later, Murray was informed by a sports reporter that he was 'the first person ever to win two Olympic golf medals' (Murray correctly replied that 'Venus and Serena have won about four each'). In the US it is a truth universally acknowledged that its soccer team has never won the World Cup or even reached the final—except that it has. Its women's team has won four times." 

Andy Murray got it right. So did the Williams sisters! This book was one of several offered by the Social Justice, Equity and Inclusion Book Club at St. Francis High School where I teach.

I finally finished Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother by Sonia Nazario. Based on the Los Angeles Times newspaper series that won two Pulitzer Prizes, Enrique’s Journey recounts the unforgettable quest of a Honduran boy looking for his mother, eleven years after she is forced to leave her starving family to find work in the United States. Braving unimaginable peril, often clinging to the sides and tops of freight trains, Enrique travels through hostile worlds full of thugs, bandits, and corrupt cops. 

I heard the author give a presentation on the book and I still cannot forget her testimonial. She admitted that after she wrote the book, she had to undergo extensive psychotherapy based on what she heard and learned. I am so glad she did; I would too. I found myself thinking about his struggle and the challenges of migrants throughout my day. 

Reading this book was not easy, primarily because I read it alone. If I were reading it for a class or with a book group or in my parish, I would have the mindset that others were carrying this burden too. Instead, I turned to prayer ... alot. I continue to think about the plight of migrants. 

That experience fueled my conviction that if I am to undertake a book that pertains to social justice, the strife for equality, the cries of the poor, the plight of the underserved—especially in my free time— then it needs to be with others. I need a "shared read" or book group. I thrive in a classroom (pretty sure that is why I teach), so I am in search of a virtual one, one with my colleagues, my parish, etc. 

The athletic director at St. Francis invited all coaches to read "Things that Make White People Uncomfortable" by Michael Bennett. I am leading what is to be a shared discussion and I'm looking forward to what other coaches have to say. 

Because I read it for the purpose of group discussion, my energy, my emotion and focus had a place to go. This was an asset because as far as I'm concerned the author, succeeded in what he aimed to do. As a rower, I was always told to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That motto sounds great. The ideal behind it is right. However, it's not easy. I know Bennett would agree.

So consider what other "tough" reads you want other coaches, colleagues and friends to share. 

The Discussion Guide will be posted tomorrow!

Photo Credits
Enrique's Journey
Invisible Women
Summer Reading

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Victories and Take Aways from the 2020 PGA Championship

The 102nd PGA Championship came to a close and golf has a new major champion. The 23 year old Collin Morikawa of Los Angeles, California bested a competitive field by posting a bogey free 64 on his final round to finish 13 strokes under par. Sports fans were thrilled to have live sports and golf fans in particular will take all we can. These are a few of the insights gained from watching the first and hopefully not the last major of the year.

Thank you, San Francisco
For the past week, I have felt as though I were hosting a party that I could not attend. Worse, I was unable to invite family or friends to join in the fun. It's not often that a major championship comes to the very place where you live; the last one took place in June 2012 when the Olympic Club was the site of the 112th US Open for men. The good news is we don't have to wait too long. The US Women's Open will be at Olympic in June 2021. God willing, we will have fans in the stands, along the fairways and beside the greens.

I'm not sure about you, but I don't like missing out. To think about what could have been is never a good idea. Instead, I delighted in the messages from friends and family members who reached out during the tourney. Thank you! I do not take your words for granted. I loved reading your thoughts on how fantastic the course looked. No doubt the cypress tress, the setting on Lake Merced, and the very fact this public course is located inside of San Francisco makes this venue stand out. Yes, the weather is insane. Here we call it "Fogust" because this entire month has been gray and gloomy. The play on the course and your appreciation of it, made it better.

When you live in the city, it's easy to look down instead of up and out. Everyday I see homeless folks in tents, holding up signs and in need. The streets are littered with shards of glass from the cars that get broken into. Boxes are strewn across sidewalks, left behind by person who has stolen a package from its rightful owner. Watching the PGA Championship however, provided a much different point of view. From the blimp, I saw the beauty of the west side of San Francisco, the majesty of downtown all but seven miles away, the glory of the Golden Gate bridge just north and four championship golf courses in a 5 mile radius. How many other American cities can stake this claim?

As much as I wish things were different, thank you San Francisco for serving as a wonderful host and offering all of your guests a week of beauty.

The Footprints of Fans
As a sports fan myself, we always want to believe we make a difference. COVID has only confirmed that we do.

For example, the English golfer Paul Casey said, "I've actually really struggled with not having fans out. I've really missed it, plain and simple. I've felt I've not been able to sort of just get the excitement going, lacking energy and all that goes with having fans at a sporting event at a golf tournament, I just genuinely miss it.” He wasn't the only one. In his closing interview, former PGA champion Jason Day noted the impact fans have, especially during the final round. Thank you!

Though golf is not the finest spectator sport, fans add more than psychological benefits. Their presence adds practical value, too! For one, golf fans help a player find their ball on the course. With the wind and tree lined fairways, both spotters, marshals, players and caddies all struggled to reclaim that 1.68 inch ball at Harding. Thousands of fans means thousands of eyes on a ball and where it lands. Second, fans leave footprints—and these help on a course known for its punitive rough. The weight of fans is a welcome thing—literally. 

But we fans are resilient. We found new places to watch—I was able to meet up with several of my golf gals in one friend's girl cave—and take in the action. And one group was christened, The Harding Park knothole gang. I wasn't surprised in the least when I heard fans gathered to peer through the chain link fence along Lake Merced Boulevard.

As written in the San Francisco Chronicle, "The only spot on the course where outsiders can peek in is from a 300-yard stretch of fence running along the sidewalk that is popular with strollers, joggers and cyclists.

And, at least some of the golfers noticed the strange gallery. Jason Day said, “On 12 tee, they’ve cut the tarp or the actual screen that we have up, and they’re watching through the actual fence. It is unfortunate that we can’t have fans.” People watching the streaming telecast might have been surprised to hear shouts of “Go Tiger!” from the rogue gallery off camera."

Yogi Berra once said "If the people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them." As evidenced by this crew, the knot hole gang, the PGA Championship has a much different story.

In Defense of DJ
I am sure that Dustin Johnson has little to no need for me and my defense. I'm not sure any white man does either, as we learn more about racial injustice. However, far too often when people—especially golf fans—speak of DJ they never fail to mention how stupid he is. I won't mince works here because these people aren't either. Whereas I might say he does not give the most loquacious interview, others say "he can't string two words together." Or, "he's just dumb. Dumb as a rock."

Maybe it's the educator in me, but I would never describe another person that way. I see Dustin's intelligence every time he plays golf—his hand, eye coordinator and what he can do on the course requires incredible thought. I have read he is also a great basketball player. Though I did well in academically, I struggled mightily after school on the hardwood. I was never able to figure out the plays that my team was running or that we were running up against. My intelligence is different than his. I find value in both.

For some reason, people are very comfortable being derogatory about their perception of his IQ. You might not agree, but I believe if Dustin was a person of color, people would not speak of him the way that they do. I think this needs to change.

Sportsmanship at its finest
At one point, there were eight players tied at —10 under par. I was watching and wondering what type of playoff this major would have. And then Morikawa did the unthinkable, using a driver on 16, he drove the green and putted it in for eagle. With that bold, championship move, he pulled ahead to secure the W. But as this happened, a number of those players in contention finished their rounds. As they did, the smiled. The stood on 18 and looked relieved  and grateful. DJ, chipped in his shot on 16 for birdie, only to raise a finger to say "yes." He birdied again on 18 but it wasn't enough. Each interview—Johnson and Casey who tied for second, Finau and Day who tied for fourth were gracious and sincere. Paul Casey had respect for his own game, for the game of golf and especially for Collin Morikawa's stellar performance. When the players finish a tournament like they did today, one can only conclude that there were numerous champions today.

Thank you Harding Park and to the PGA, the players and their families for allowing the first major of the year to go on in a world that needs.....a victory.

Photo Credits
knot hole gang
Collin victory
Paul Casey

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

What Has Been Your Saving Grace?

In order to ensure a human, communal connection, I have noticed that most virtual meetings (aka Zoom meetings) begin with some sort of personal sharing. These check-ins vary in topic and last from three to twenty minutes! They usually ask low risk, as opposed to high risk questions. Some of us are more comfortable with this ritual than others. Welcome to the world of virtuality. 

At the first Religious Studies department meeting of the year, the chair did just this as he asked us to share our name, the subject we teach, how long we have worked at St. Francis High School, and what has been our saving in the time of COVID. 
Saving grace. Everyone has one. At least that has been my prayer for the past four months. As someone who has been able to golf—my saving grace—without much restriction during this quarantine, I have thought how different my life would be without it. 

I do not take this great game for granted or the opportunity to be outside, to play and compete with friends and others regularly. Rather I have only thought more about others' and what they love doing during these challenging times. Today's sharing gave me some answers.

Several people mentioned family and their spouse. This made every one of us smile. A mom of young children admitted her Disney+ subscription was a God-send. This made us smile too, especially when a colleague admitted to the same thing, adding "I know exactly how she feels, and I have a teenager."  But the majority of my colleagues named a physical activity: biking, yoga, lifting weights, hiking, walking, running, fishing and sports like softball and golf. All of that made me smile, big time.
These responses featured such varied exercises I could not help but pause and consider the gift of sport. Sports and exercise—play as physical activity—is also called "recreation" because in the doing we recreate. We make something again.....something new. Perhaps it is a shot you take in golf you've never hit before (different club, new place on the course, etc) . Maybe it is a shift in mindset thanks to yoga. We need rebirth and regeneration. Thank you recreation. And, an unintended outcome of beginning our meeting this way is that the personal sharing became a prayer.

To call something or someone a saving grace is actually redundant. Grace, in its very nature is salvific. Grace is God's free gift to us. No strings attached!! With God's grace, we become more like God—which is to say we become holy and loving. With grace we can be a light to others. Thus our saving grace—or really the grace we readily named and shared today—ought to be seen as that gift from God. Those people, those physical activities can help us to become our very best selves—the person God created us to be. So recreate. Make time each day to avail yourself to that saving grace and when you do, take a moment to offer thanks to the Creator for the gift.

As an added bonus, this topic got me thinking about redundancies in Sports and Spirituality. In other words, think of how we describe something or someone. The adjective we use to describe said person or place is not necessary....for it is usually implied or understood. Redundancies can run the risk of falling into traps of insensitivity and stereotyping, but at its best redundancies can help us laugh at ourselves and our humanity. Give it some thought. I think it's fun. Here's my list.....I encourage you to add your own
  1. tall NBA player
  2. fast sprinter
  3. witty Irishman
  4. loyal Domer (c'mon....had to!)
  5. crazy tight end (football)
  6. Saint Mary
  7. quick short stop
  8. angry Eagles fan
  9. what else?!
Photo Credits

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Advice from the Dental Chair Sports and Spirituality Style

In the past week, two friends asked me to pray for them as they visited one of the more dreaded places humanity must go: the dentist's office. Having just been there myself for a crown filling, I said that of course I would pray for them AND that I have done some of my best praying in the dental chair. I hope my words offered some respite. In fact, they might apply in any place or situation that brings anxiety or distress. Here's more, in the context of both sport and spirituality. Give this some thought.
1. Have a go-to prayer

In the interview "A Big Heart Open to God" the Holy Father is asked about his preferred way to pray. He says
“I pray the breviary every morning. I like to pray with the psalms. Then, later, I celebrate Mass. I pray the Rosary. What I really prefer is adoration in the evening, even when I get distracted and think of other things, or even fall asleep praying. In the evening then, between seven and eight o’clock, I stay in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration. But I pray mentally even when I am waiting at the dentist or at other times of the day."
I love how practical Pope Francis makes prayer. He mentions resources, disciplines and examples of personal and communal prayer. He makes it relatable, too. I am sure every one of us has prayed while sitting in the waiting room, be it to visit the dentist, a doctor, and so forth. God wants to turn to Him when we are in need, when we are scared and afraid. If you have fear of the dental chair, you are not alone.

I have spent enough time in this space that my fear, over time, has slightly waned. I still hate the drilling and the initial "pinch" of that needle going in to numb my mouth, but I trust my dentist and am grateful I have a good one. In spite of that, when I take a seat, I always say a "Hail Mary." This prayer to Our Lady is my go-to prayer. I pray it in every possible circumstance as I trust Mary to look over me. What is your go-to prayer? Do you have one?
Offering this prayer centers me. I then ask God for peace of mind and heart. I pray for the success of whatever is before me—a crown filling, testing on my ICD, blood being drawn, etc. I pray for those who assist me in good health and I pray in thanksgiving for the health I have had. The Hail Mary is the prayer I begin with but I too pray mentally....I let my mind wander...and offer other prayers to God. It sure beats thinking about what is going on with my mouth. Give it a shot (pun not intended).

2. Sports Inventory

When I am finished with my prayers, I then commit to a mental exercise involving my favorite sports. In the past, I have often reviewed the NLCS and World Series MVPs for the 2010, 2012 and 2014 seasons. I keep these San Francisco Giant gems close to my heart. 

This past week, I decided to recall the host site of the US Open for men's golf since 2010. Some of my favorite courses, including my club have been fortunate enough to welcome championship play. I then moved to who won the tournament. I hate getting stuck, but when I can figure out the answer, I feel a mental victory from an unsuspecting place. This drill (again no pun intended) makes the time go by much faster. It is a welcome distraction and great follow up to prayer.
Future sites of the US Open.  New inventory to take!

Maybe you picture the 18 holes on your favorite course. Perhaps you remember the past 10 Super Bowls, the MVPs and host cities. I think my brother would recall the starting line-up of the San Francisco Giants from the 70s on to the 2020 season. Whatever you choose, I also recommend telling your dentist and his/her assistant what you were thinking about. They love when I bring my humanity to their work. I have a feeling we don't share our interests and passions because our fear grips us, but we are all better when we learn and share with one another.

This week ask others about their go-to prayer.
What fun mental inventories have you taken?