Sunday, April 25, 2021

To A Coach Dying Young: In Remembrance of Mark Halvorson of De La Salle Wrestling

A. E. Houseman wrote the elegiac poem "To An Athlete Dying Young." It's haunting. mysterious beautiful and tragic. It resonates with too many of us for sports has carried more than one story of the subject: Jill Costello. Hank Gathers. Jose Fernandez. Len Bias. The list looms long. But where is the elegy or the essay for the coach who dies young? Perhaps that will be the story of Mark Halvorson, the head coach of wrestling at De La Salle High School. He died of a fatal heart attack on February 15, 2021. 

Comparatively speaking, Halvorson was not young. Costello was 21; she had just gradated from Cal Berkeley. Gathers died at age 23 after collapsing for the second time that season during the semifinals of the WCC Tournament in 1990. I still remember my students who prayed for the family of Fernandez. He was but 24 years of age and a rising superstar. Bias never had the chance to prove his greatness. He died at the age of 22 two days after he was drafted by the Boston Celtics.

Mark Halvorson was 57 years young. I learned of his passing in The Union, the alumni magazine of De La Salle High School. I could hardly believe what I read.

I never met Coach Halvorson, but I taught about his in many of the presentations I give to coaches. I had a lengthy conversation with the coaches at Saint Francis, where I work about him and his program. I had to. Why? Wrestling is fascinating. As one of the original Olympic sports, I can't help but have respect for these athletes. Furthermore, I don't know a football coach in America who wouldn't want his players to participate in wrestling. George Kittle certified. Perhaps in this day and age of specialization the numbers are low, but I'm curious. One must wonder to what degree the success of De La Salle football is because of De La Salle wrestling. But it was Halvorson's outlook and philosophy that made me take notice. He said,

The early years at De La Salle were challenging, as the program was still very young. “We were just trying to teach the kids to like the sport of wrestling. That first year, there was no wrestling culture. My team goal was to finish 3rd place in league, and the kids thought I was out of my mind,” said Halvorson. “It was more about teaching than training, and we were constantly motivating the kids.”

I love that he named a realistic goal. DLS is dominant in so many sports. To enter into the community and set your eyes on third place? I have no doubt this athletes questioned his vision. Who wants the bronze?! But Halvorson's sight and his vision were in line. I ripped this page out and have kept it under my coaching file all these years. Good stuff.
As a cross country coach, I understand the challenge a coach is presented with in getting an athlete to like the sport. However, I find that challenge to be a worthy one.

"Teaching, training and motivating"—that's the stuff  that makes the impossible possible and that which is hard—well, not necessarily easy...but enjoyable in its own right. What a gift for a young person to discover, encounter and embrace.

The team culture that Halvorson is responsible for at De La Salle is but one part of his legacy. In the article "Colleagues stunned by death of De La Salle's Unforgettable Coach," Mitch Stephens writes, He "elevated the Spartans to unprecedented heights — 11 North Coast Section championships in the past 12 years — but he was also regarded as one of the nation’s most influential leaders within USA Wrestling’s national Greco-Roman program."
De La Salle Athletic Director, Leo Lopoz said  "He brought the attributes of just a living, caring person and always wanting to make himself available.

“Wrestling is a tireless sport for coaches. State wrestling is like five days. His unselfish behavior for others cannot be matched. He did things that other coaches just couldn’t or wouldn’t do and the sacrifices he made for others resulted in the love and admiration that is flowing from all of the student-athletes and coaches of the past couple of decades.It’s unfortunate that his career was shortened.”

And so it is— to a coach who died to young, we honor the late Mark Halvorson.

I would like his former wrestlers, family and friends to know that I dedicated the prayer during my session: "Mission of Sports, Vision of Spirituality: Athletics in Holy Cross Education" at the Holy Cross Institute in his honor. Other coaches and ADs throughout the country will continue to learn about his philosophy and his story.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Numbers—The Color Palatte of Sports

Walking across campus —from one classroom to the next—my eyes feasted a sea of jerseys. Niners, Warriors and Giants. Sharks, old school Saint Francis brown and gold and even the silver and black—Go Raiders!—were on site. It's Spring Spirit Week at Saint Francis High School and the day's dress up theme invited everyone to wear Air Jordans and team jerseys. 

The first part of class allowed me to speak my language. I was able to decode each jersey—guessing the name based on their number and team color. Number 7 for the Brooklyn Nets? I'm not a fan. Number 85 for the Niners? Now we're talking! It's safe to say, I brought the spirit into this Spirit Day with my enthusiasm for what students were sporting.

At the conclusion of the class inventory, I admitted that I was always envious of athletes who play a sport that gives them a number. As a golfer, a tennis player, and a swimmer—I never got to choose my number. Sure, I had a number associated with my seat in the boat, but rowers don't dawn that number on their back. No one is ever cheering for 6-seat from near or far. 

Wearing a number and choosing one is yet another aspect of sports that make them special. But, as proven during this past week, numbers in sports are not limited to jerseys or rosters. They carry a story, they measure an accomplishment. They define and they can limit. They are surpassed and some are compromised. All in all, numbers are in many ways the color palatte for athletics.

Before class officially began, I decided to share three remarkable numbers with the class. I hope you enjoy.

30: To the young woman wearing Steph Curry's jersey, I said "49." Several kids gave an all-knowing nod. One did the talking for me. "49 is the number of points the Warriors' point guard had in last night's win over Philly." 

33: Steph Curry is 33-years young and this is relevant to 49 because no other player has scored more than 30-points in over 10 games straight at his age. Not Kobe Bryant, not LeBron James, not even Wilt Chamberlain. Is it safe to say Steph is the greatest shooter ever? Or is MVP safer?

1768: According to ESPN's Pablo Torre, "In terms of hockey immortals, there aren't many names that would go above Gordie Howe." That is, until his record of 1767—the number of games he played in a row—was broken by fellow Saskatchewan Patrick Marleau. 

23: That's the number of years it took Marleau who wears #12 for the San Jose to set this record of longevity, fitness, luck, determination, perseverance. Howe did it in 26. At the age of 41, one has to wonder how many more games, how many more year Marleau can play. One thing about numbers—we love to use them to forecast the future.

47: As mentioned in my previous post "You Can't Be What You Can't See: New Perspectives via Golf," 47 is both my age and the age of RBC Heritage Champion, Stewart Cink. Although I told my students about his age, I did not reveal why that had special meaning for me. He finished 72 holes of golf at 19 under. That's a total score of 265, and posted a 70 on Sunday (for one under). I could speak with many more numbers, but those speak for themselves.

My only regret on the day is that I didn't wear a sports jersey. The funny thing is, even as a massive sports fan, I only have one. That would be for my favorite male athlete, #22 of the San Francisco Giants, Will Clark. Always lots of #22 at Oracle. The connection is immediate. Sometimes a number can do that....

Photo Credits
with Howe
Steph shooting

Monday, April 19, 2021

You Can't Be What You Can't See: New Perspectives via Golf

"You can't be what you can't see."—Marian Wright Edelman

I was familiar with the words of American activist and founder of the Children's Defense Fund Marian Wright Edelman long before the Biden-Harris victory. But her message was celebrated by many as no other woman, or woman of color has been elected Vice President of the United States before. If Edelman is right—and I think she is— then the future should look much different in America. Time will tell.

Edelman's words, however, cannot be contained to the political sphere. Two recent events in the golf world have invited me to consider her message and what is means for a 47-year old like me.

I say that because on Sunday, April 18, 2021 Stewart Cink won the RBC Heritage Golf Classic that celebrates a crazy cool jacket for its victors, too. 

As written by the Associate Press on "He shot a steady, stress-free 70 to cap off a dominant, record-breaking week at an age -- 47 -- when many players are looking ahead to the PGA Tour Champions." Sunday’s win was the eighth of his PGA Tour career and second this season. Prior to last fall’s Safeway Open title, Cink experiences a twelve year drought; he hadn’t won on Tour since the 2009 Open Championship. 

With his win at Harbor Town, Cink, rose 71 spots, from No. 115 to No. 44, "cracking the top 50 for the first time since January 2011." He will turn 48 in May of this year. I was happy to read that he is not a grandfather...yet (his son Connor is engaged).

And if you've been following golf this year, you'll know England's Lee Westwood, ranked 23 in the world is also 47 years of age. 

I have not seen either athlete described as "middle aged." I would like to thank journalists and sports writers for the abstentia, for the last word I would use to describe myself is "middle-aged." From time to time I do feel that way, but to see both 47-year olds grind it out, compete on the highest level, maintain composure and strength has been inspiring. Thanks guys. I had no idea 47 has so much potential. And, to those who read this post with a cynical sneer....for anyone who is uttering under his or her breath "they're golfers!"—please play 72 holes/over four days and get back to me.

Meanwhile, if I hadn't been told he was 24 years of age, I would have believed Will Zalatoris—who finished second at the 2021 Masters—was a high school sophomore. Today at practice one of my players—who is a sophomore admitted that they have the same waist size: 28". She then lauded his strength and reach. A four-time All-American at Wake Forest University, one has to wonder in what world is a man that trim a professional athlete. In this one, is the only answer. 

Whether you look at Justin Thomas or Bryson DeChambeau, Michelle Wie-West (who's 6'1") or Lucy Li (who played in the USWO at the age of 11), no one should be discouraged by what they see in golf which on the professional level is only increasingly more diverse in ethnicity, age, shape and size.

The same golfer said she wished Edelman's quote stated "You can't become what you can't see." She prefers the notion of potential. We are more than just one profession, one way of living, one passion we follow, one role we play. I think that is inspiring, too.

Photo Credits
Stewart Cink
Helen and Lee
Will Z

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Matsuyma, Hideki: Honoring the Victory, Custom and Culture of the 2021 Masters Champion

Japanese culture places such emphasis on the family, that professional athletes are introduced and recognized by their last name first. It is with that spirit and custom in mind that we extend the warmest of congratulations to the winner of the 85th Masters: Matsuyma, Hideki. 

Matsuyma, the first Japanese golfer to win The Masters also earned his first major championship title by finishing the 2021 tourney at 10 under par. Here are but a few insights honoring and related to the 29-year old victor.

Why Matsuyma won: Moving Day 
As many of my readers now know, Moving Day is a colorful way to describe the third day of a tourney—usually Saturday—because it is the day where competitors try to set themselves up for the final push on Sunday.

Golf fans love to dial it in on Moving Day because certain players advance up the leaderboard by leaps and bounds. As written by Golf Digest, "Others collapse under the pressure and slide quickly, knowing that simply by making the cut, they've assured themselves a decent share of the purse." In short, moving day is  the day you can confidently move up or you can move back but you cannot lose sight of what that lead score is.

One could argue that a golfer wins a tournament because of how they play 72 holes of golf—but one look at Matsuyma's scorecard from Saturday: a 65 says a lot. With five birdies, one eagle and a bogey free round following his two prior rounds, (which were both under par), Matsuyama created distance between himself and second place. At the awards ceremony, he admitted that his nerves were driving the ball from the first tee on during the Final Round. However, thanks to truly making moves on Moving Day, Augusta National extended a green jacket to a new man.

On Saturday morning, before I headed up to play my own round of golf, an announcer proclaimed—"I don't buy into this Moving Day stuff. Today is like any other day in the tournament." I heard what he said and looked sideways. "That's no fun," I thought. I love the jargon. I love the spirit.  And as evidenced though Matsuyama, there IS something to it.

Diversity Has Many Faces
In the sixteen years I taught at Saint Ignatius the school grew increasingly more diverse. It was not the same community it was when I started working there in the Fall of 2003. People too often made assumptions about who comprised that community. Their perception was not reality. S.I. should be very proud of the efforts it made for the student body and faculty to reflect the diversity of the Bay Area--a diversity that has many faces and looks different than what one might expect.

I speak of this truth because I find similar assumptions made about the game of golf. While there is certainly much to question in terms of access, equity, inclusion and the need for diversity, I would like to suggest the face of the PGA and the LPGA is not what you think. 

Of those who finished in the top 10 at the 2021 Masters nearly half are international. You have the winner from Japan, two Aussies, one Englishman one Spaniard, and one Canadian. Of the five Americans—one is biracial, another is Samoan/Tongan. There is really only one jerk and one with a waist size 26 on a good day. Again diversity comes in many forms.

My Favorite Moment
I could not help but appreciate the composure exhibited by the champion as he secured the win and extended thanks and congratulations around him. After a warm embrace, Matsuyama's caddy started to walk the flag back to the 18th hole. But,  before he placed the pin in, he took a bow. He bowed to the crowd, to the course and the game of golf. 

Having traveled to Japan in 2015 and attending a baseball game in Seibu, I know just a bit about Japanese culture and traditions. They are a people who honor the sacred and show respect with the simplest of gestures: a bow. I don't think I've ever seen a caddy do that before. It was a special moment.

The Champions Dinner 2022
I don't want to make any assumptions but I have a strong suspicion that a lot of golfers are already looking forward to the 2022 Champions Dinner. As mentioned in Big Night: The Champion's Dinner, the previous year's winner sets the menu. Given how many people are mad about many of my friends enjoy Saki, or for me—love Kobe steak! that menu is not one they will want to miss.

In Closing
I am always sad when The Masters comes to a close. Given COVID restrictions, none of us had to wait a full year for the 2021 tournament to commence. But, as we progress toward a healthier and reopened society, we live in the hope of what next year will bring. 

This Masters brought a limited number of patrons. Though they didn't litter the fairways or fill grandstands, they did what fans ought to do. They cheered loudly, giving away what was happening on another hole before we could get the report from CBS. They stood to clap and acknowledge the great golf by the players in the hunt and most especially to this year's victor: Matsuyama, Hideki. 

Thanks to the members of Augusta National for hosting my favorite sports week of the year.

Photo Credits
Xander and Hideki

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sight and Vision: The Green is Sacred Space

It is no secret that I have long believed that sports and golf in particular serve as a worthy analog for understanding the spiritual life. I love playing with ideas—and teasing out the correlations, limitations and seeing what sticks. What do I want to pass on? What "works?" It's not only fun, it's necessary for the continued growth and vitality of my own spiritual life. 

As we move into the final round of the 2021 Masters, I would like to share one analogy that I have returned to many times in the past year. The green is sacred ground and to read it properly requires both sigh and vision. The purpose of this post is to explain what that means and why it's important far beyond golf.

First, how do we know it is sacred ground? When I asked my golf team about the green as a sacred space, they answered without hesitation. They noted the obvious: golfers exhibit behaviors on the green unlike anywhere else on the golf course. For example, one would never leaves their bag or push cart on it. A golfer is expected to fix any divots and tend to any marks to keep the green intact. A good rule of thumb is to do your best to leave the space better than you found it (read: housekeeping!). 

Scripture tells us that we ought to take off our shoes when entering holy ground. I know many people would love to do this on the golf course but thanks to athlete's foot, golfing without shoes is forbidden (believe me, I've seen people try....doesn't go over well). However, a golfer is ever mindful of where and how she walks on the green. For example, you are not to step on a person's line. More often than not, golfers tread lightly on the green. Sacred spaces ask us to do the same.

I often associate sacred space with the notion of pilgrimage. While the purpose of pilgrimage is to reach a meaningful destination, pilgrims discover the journey itself is just as important. It is always physically and spirituality demanding. Pilgrims grow weary but find respite in unexpected people and places along the pathway.

In golf, the green is home to the flag or pin, and the objective of each hole is to get the ball there!. It goes without saying, it isn't always an easy place to get to, either. When approaching the green a golfer ought to implement both sight and vision. In other words, they are tasked with looking hole to part and part to whole. They ought to determine: What is happening here? They should look front to back, and right to left.  And as they look, they are asking What is the slope? Where are the breaks? What speed and distance do I need? This information ought to help a golfer make a good decision about how to play. 

I have been able to visit sacred sites—shrines and cities, churches and memorials. And, in these places I have asked myself similar questions. I have taken a personal inventory, I am seeking clarity. I am hoping for direction beyond here and now—but for where I am going next. 

The green is not a place where people rush, nor should they. Though a putt is but five, ten or twenty feet to the hole, each stroke counts the same. A golfer may get on in two and resents the game when they three-putt (speaking from a lot of experience here). Every golfer has his or her own pace and method. There's no one way to get the job done. A golfer must do what suits him or her.

I have always felt this same way about prayer. There is no shortage of methods and modalities for prayer. Each one puts us in touch with the Lord, others and ourselves. No need to rush it, either.

The reason I spent so much time thinking about this analog is because my colleagues and I took months to determine when would be the right time to have our coaches retreat. Due to COVID, high school athletics were on put on pause in March 2020. Whereas we would have had a coaches' retreat to kick off the new school year, this school year's gathering was slated for November, then December and finally occurred in February 2021.

Given my role in the Athletic Department, there is nothing that I wanted to do more than bring coaches together for formation in the mission of our school through conversations about sports. And yet, I wasn't sure how to do that, and when to do that. I asked questions like Do we need to acknowledge what we have lost? Is it ok to look ahead? Will this be meaningful? How can the message we want to offer be relevant? In short, I was looking for a way to "read the green."

In November 2020, Dustin Johnson set the course record at The Masters by finishing the tourney 20 under par. His win is attributed to being long and strong off the tee, hitting nearly every last green in regulation and reading the greens with excellent precision. But what was most noteworthy to me is how he did that.

Dustin's caddy—his younger brother Austin uses the aim point method of reading the green. This requires sight and vision. A golfer or in this case, a caddy must feel the green with his or her feet. Straddling the line to the hole—half way between the ball and the flag—a read requires feeling the balance of right and left. Is it equal? Is one side 2-1? 3-1? This read determines where the golfer then aims the ball. In short, feel, speed, sight and vision work together to execute the putt. Austin was excellent in advising his brother for what to do and where to aim, but ultimately Dustin had to decide and to execute. He said he couldn't have done it alone.

In my own life, I like to feel the green. As with the retreat, I wanted to get a sense of the balance. I realized I might be straddling two different places where people stand. I wanted to account for both, but lean into one more than the other. We erred on the side of hope, but not without naming what we had lost and what we had mourned.

A funny thing has happened since I learned more about the Johnson method of reading the greens. I see things SO much more clearly. There are times now when I play golf and I have the line and I know it. My putting has improved dramatically and with that, so has my confidence (this might not be saying a whole lot because there was big room for improvement). I enjoy the time I spend on the green. I like paying better attention and seeing the part to whole and whole to part. I love feeling it with my feet and firing away. My hope is that this same comfort and enjoyment of reading the green will carry over to how I live my own faith. I can use the boost.

Sight and and precision....taking time and  doing your best...sounds like a good way to life the spiritual life, too.

Photo Credits
brown greens
Austin and DJ

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Big Night: The Champion's Dinner at The Masters

It's always fun to ask what if. What if you had your choice of playing golf on any course with any foursome—Where would you go and who would you include? What if you could visit one sporting event—What would it be and where? What if you could attend any dinner party—Where would that be and what would you eat? My question is a timely one. Why? Because the answers to those questions involve a singular location connected to a specific event. Welcome to Masters Week. And, tonight is the Champion's Dinner. It is a Big Night—a sacred meal in a sacred space. Here's why.

As written in Seven Days in Augusta, "It's one of the most exclusive dinner reservations on the planet, and it doesn't even take place on a Friday or Saturday night. It is, however, one night a year."

Tuesday night of Masters week, past champions gather in the Augusta National clubhouse for a dinner hosted by the defending champion. No coaches or caddies, WAGS or wannabes. No media either. To say its exclusive is short-sighted. It is men only. It's not a large crowed. It's not even subject to invitation. I don't think there's anything else like it—I can only imagine.

The Champions Dinner was first put into place during the 1952 tournament when defending champion Ben Hogan gave a dinner for the previous winners. Hogan proposed the formation of the Masters Club, with its membership limited to Masters champions. He wrote "my only stipulation is that you wear your green coat." 

Dustin Johnson, the 2020 champion posted the menu for tonight's gather via Instagram. Cannizzaro writes "the menu choices reveal something about the players and where he's from." For example, Scotland's Sandy Lyle served haggis and Germany's Bernhard Langer served Wiener Schnitzel. When I saw Dustin Johnson, the 2020 champion's menu posted via Instagram, I wasn't the least bit surprised. Though entertained by Pigs in a blanket as an appetizer, I pegged him for a fillet mignon all the way. Bubba Watson served the save menu in 2012 and 2014: caesar salad, grilled chicken breast with a side of green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese and cornbread. What more would you expect of a guy from Baghdad, Florida?!

And the greatest meals—the ones we remember and cherish—offer sustenance far beyond the food on our plate. We are nourished by the conversation, the stories and the word made flesh.

As creative and distinct as the menu may be, Phil Mickelson's favorite part of the night is of the Champions' Dinner is the conversation. He said "those dinners are usually the chance for the older guys to tell stories. Gary Player and Bob Goalby are great storytellers and they tell some fun ones. It's always fun when Jack Nicklaus and Tom Waton tell stories because they always have some good ones of players I watched growing up. Some of us will add things, but usually it's the older guys telling the stories. I like to listen that week."

Cannizzaro writes "Byron Nelson used to serve as the dinner's unofficial host for years before Sam Snead took over and then Ben Crenshaw. Mickelson credits Player with being a conversation starter who elicits stories from everyone.  It's always fun—lots of jokes and stories," Player said.

Thinking about the gathering that took place this evening—who is there and who is not—notably the five time champion Tiger Woods, I couldn't help but think of myself: Big Night. In the senior selective "Faith, Film and Fiction" students are tasked with watching this 1996 classic. They are invited to consider how this movie demonstrates a eucharistic celebration. My friend Chad, the teacher asks students to respond to the following. He writes

A “Catholic imagination” acknowledges a universe where sacred places and times can be experienced . What experiences/ memories do you have of sacramental meals? What about those meals helped you experience communion and the sacred? What made these meals different/ special?

I see these questions and I can only wonder: What if I were allowed to attend this dinner? 

I know my answer. I would teach this group about the spiritual event they are privy to. They are sharing a meal and sharing stories. What makes is meaningful and memorable is that the menu represents more than one man's personality or homeland. At this table, the elders are respected and revered. They share their wit and wisdom. Those gathered at table listen and learn and one day will have their chance to impart their own nourishment for the self and the soul. 

And in two days, competition will unfold on the greatest of golf courses. The players will make their mark. The crowds will respond. The beauty of Augusta National will shine. A new work of art awaits....

Photo Credits
DJ and flags, Champions Dinner and Table Setting
Menu: DJ's Instagram page!

Monday, April 5, 2021

We Are Easter People: Two Thoughts from Sports & Spirituality

Happy Easter. He is Risen. Alleluia! We are Easter people. I've heard it in the pews and from the pulpit. I say it to my students and serve myself the same reminder: we are Easter people. What does that mean? I have but two thoughts.

First are the words from the Holy Father. This man, whose lives up to the name of his Twitter handle @Pontifex—Bridge builder, the Jesuit who speaks and preaches about the culture of Encounter and models it, has offered an important reminder. He said:

“This is the first Easter message that I would offer you: it is always possible to begin anew,  because there is always a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures.  
Even from the rubble of our hearts -- each of us knows, knows the rubble of his own heart. From the rubble of our hearts, God can create a work of art; from the ruined remnants of our humanity, God can  prepare a new history. He never ceases to go ahead of us: in the cross of suffering, desolation and  death, and in the glory of a life that rises again, a history that changes, a hope that is reborn.” — Pope Francis, Easter Vigil 2021. 

What a timely reminder. In a year that has been rife with challenge, division and strife, let us seek to begin anew. Let us open our hearts so that this history can be born and this art can be seen. Thank you, Pope Francis.

Second is a realization and a reminder: we must spread Good News. We are hungry for it. Though we are enticed by negativity and gossip, it leaves us hollow. No, let us share our experiences of joy. Extend our stories of hope and delight. Bring light to others. To me, this is what it means to be an Easter person.

This realization on the most mysterious of Holy Days: Holy Saturday. I refer to the day after Jesus died as "no man's land." I can't  recall learning about how we are to approach this solemn day. To me, it feels like you're in a holding pattern. Do we make time for silence and more prayer? Ought we engage in some communal worship or preparation? My approach has always been to pay attention, to be mindful and intentional about my day. This isn't difficult for being an Easter person means we know how the story ends.

On Holy Saturday, I was at work, supervising a junior varsity girls' softball game. I don't know if I have ever attended a high school softball game (which is surprising to me). It's probably not most people's ideal way to spend a Saturday during Spring Break, especially when you don't know any of the girls on the team. I didn't mind.

With fans mindful of social distancing, I took advantage of one of the few open seats—directly behind home plate. I was immediately struck by the amount of clapping and cheering from both the crowd and the athletes on the field. I heard the parents next to me calling most batters by their number. "Let's go one-six! You got this!" and "way to hold off that pitch niner. Good eye niner." More clapping, more cheering, lots of girls being called "kid" by both the adults and the teens. This made me smile.

As a sports fan,  I love sitting next to fans who are engaged in the game. I am a glutton for good commentary or insight. To my surprise and delight, this game offered all of it. My ears were feasting on the language that was being spoken about the game unfolding on the field. 

One inning later, I found myself cheering and yelling myself. I clapped and even stood up at one point. I began to wonder: was it not attending live sports for nearly a year that prompted such enthusiasm and joy or was the culture of the game? Probably both.

But what does this have to do with being an Easter person. In the past year, things have been so divisive and challenging that I think we have all fallen into sharing our latest gripe. I am no exception. I dish them out and receive them willingly and regularly. But when asked about my Saturday at work, all I could do was the total opposite. 

I found myself sharing the story of softball. Surprised by the joy of what was happening on the field and received in the stands, I had good news to tell. 

It was interesting to see the body language of the people who received my report. They relaxed. They were armed for a complaint and met a compliment. My smile prompted their smile. It was fun to share.

Jesus came so that we might have life and have it abundantly. The chronicle of his life—the Gospels mean, "The Good News." Easter is the time to remember that even with the sacrifice, loss and tragedy of this life, faith, hope and love remain. Joy awaits. New life is possible. 

I encourage you to share the Holy Father's reminders and offer your own Good News. You might need to look for it or when it comes to you—pass it along. Happy Easter, people!

Photo Credits
Pope Francis
Thank you Jim for posting Pope Francis' message
Holy Saturday
Good News