Thursday, October 14, 2021

One Way to Discuss Spirituality of Sports.... Thank you, Brandon Crawford

This message is for all the teachers who are sports fans. Are you dying to talk to your students about last night's game but not sure how? Are you seeking a fun way to integrate your passion? Justify losing the curriculum you will not cover because it's Orange October (insert your team/their motto here). With a class like Sports and Spirituality, I may not share your struggle but I still want to make the conversation a valuable one. Here's a thought.

Many teachers begin class with a journal prompt, a starter activity or thought of the day. Without a doubt, a predictable, formatted, content-based beginning of class activity can be used to achieve one of several goals. For example, beginning of class activities have previously been used to gain student attention, provide accountability, review material, engage with new content, or establish routines. To gain students’ attention, many teachers use multi-media, hands-on activities, surprising events, humor, or stories to appeal to students’ emotions (Davis, 2009). I like to use a singular photograph and get those creative juices flowing. Here's a good one.

On Monday, October 11, with the series tied at one game a piece, the San Francisco Giants returned to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 of the National League Division Series Championship. My Giants prevailed by beating their rival of 130 years 1-0. That W did not happen without the stellar defense of All-Star first baseman Brandon Crawford.

With two runners aboard and two outs, Dodgers' right fielder Mookie Betts hit a liner that seemed destined for left field, which would have tied the game 1-1, but Craw "perfectly timed his leap and got all sorts of airtime to pull the ball out of the air." Call it instincts, call it hops, I called it magnificent.

After the game, the Giants posted this photo to their social media page. The moment was exhilarating. The video replay of it is incredible. And the photo? Stupendous. I put it into my keynote presentation and asked my students to partner up. Their task: write a caption for this snapshot.

Some photos speak for themselves. I wanted to let my students speak to this one. With a caption less is more. Brevity is not alway their friend.

Even though the majority of my kids knew the context—more than I thought actually watched it live—they struggled to put a quip, a pithy remark or adequate description from pen to paper. A few students took a stab. One or two prevailed! I'll let you guess which ones.

  • Reach for the Series
  • There's more than gold in that glove
  • Jump
  • Baller
  • Sometimes seeing IS believing
  • He should have been a Spartan (that's one of mine...DLS!)

I wrote "Transcendent." What would you say?

After this activity, I asked my students to open our text to the essay "For the Love of the Game." One of my students read for us the designated verse from the chapter "Celebrating the Body." In it, Richard Gaillardetz writes,

A healthy appreciation for the goodness of the body opens us reflection on how the athletes' experience of embodiment can become the occasion for the encounter with the divine. Many athletes will describe a heightened bodily awareness in sport that, precisely in its bodiliness, enables an experience of transcendence.
It's always a good day in the classroom when what we read can speak for what we love, experience, witness, and seek to understand. What is an experience of transcendence? What might it mean to encounter the divine? And what does it mean to have a heightened bodily awareness? Again, thank you, Brandon Crawford.

One of the many reasons I love post-season sports—especially baseball is because every game is so significant. Every at bat, every out—each one is worth paying attention to. I find that very act to be a spiritual discipline. So let's fire it up! Sports and Spirituality is taking the field at Oracle Park tonight. First pitch: 6:07 p.m. Go Giants!

Photo Credits
B-Craw and High Five

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Good News: The Importance of the Hall of Fame

You don't need to hear it from me, we all know we live in challenging times. If it's not the political division and polarization that is dividing our country or living with and through a pandemic, it's the rising costs of gas and food, the effects of social media on teenagers... We are tired. Many are weary. What to do? The answer is simple: share the good news of Sports and Spirituality.

The Gospel is the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is available to anyone and everyone— thanks be to God. In the spiritual life, it is important to hear, pray with and pay attention to the words of everlasting life. They are as relevant and important today as they were 2,000 years ago. I was reminded of that in today's second reading.

In sports, the good news extends far beyonds the wins and the lessons learned from the losses. Though it's been a joy to celebrate the success of the San Francisco Giants, I would like to share where I found an antidote to despair, a wellspring of inspiration that lifted my spirits and left me thinking more about the importance of community and the strife for excellence: The Hall of Fame Induction and Celebration at the Olympic Club.

I have attended this evening event since 2018, when Jill Costello—a former coxswain that I coached—was inducted, posthumously. I am very proud to have been one of many people who submitted her profile for induction. As an invested club member, sports fan and student of history I have always found this evening to be interesting and inspiring. Here's why.
As written in the program, 

The purpose of the Olympic Club's Hall of Fame is to recognize and to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves on behalf of The Olympic Club in at least one of the following categories: (1) athletic achievement, (2) coaching and development of Club athletes, or (3) significant distinguished service to the Club.

There are currently 86 individuals and eight teams representing 20 sports in the Hall of Fame, as well as 23 charter members. Their stories emphasize not only the hard work and commitment necessary to hear greatness, but also the importance of the Club in their development. 

And those stories are exactly what we need—what I need to hear.

To hear the story of each inductee is to be reminded that no one achieves greatness alone. Whether the honoree was part of an individual or a team sport, they recognized family members, coaches, teammates and friends who supported them along the way. Each member of the Hall of Fame overcame adversity. No one was a stranger to failure or set backs. And yet, the Hall of Fame Class of 2021 triumphed in their own way. Their grit, determination, sense of humor, their memories and stories made victory, excellence and triumph a reality. They did it! I dare say we are all better for it.

The evening begins with a reception that is open to all members. At this reception, I was able to congratulate the inductees, many who I did not know. It didn't matter. I ran into friends who were happy to introduce me—what an honor. Each  one was gracious and welcoming. It must be humbling to be in that type of spotlight. I loved seeing just how many club members came out for each individual. This is community at its best.

The official program was hosted by Brian Murphy, of Murph and Mac, my morning sports talk radio show on KNBR—the Giants flagship station. When you spend an hour listening to a person every morning, it's hard not to feel like you know him or her very well. I thanked Murph for emceeing the event and for the excitement he gets in his voice when he talks about the 2021 SF Giants. He set the tone on this evening just as he does on 104.5/680. Thanks Murph!

As meaningful as it was to come together even during this phase of COVID, the good news is the story of each honoree. I will profile but three (as featured in the photo at the top)

Margery Meyer, inducted for swimming "did not start competitive swinnging until 1987 at the age of 64 at the encouragement of her daughter, Marguerite. She later remarked I found something lurking deep that gave birth to something in me... a potential I didn't know I had. I got a taste of it, and away I went!"

At 21, Al Sandoval "started playing handball at the historic courts in Golden Gate Park the Olympic club recruited him in 1980 his fellow Hambel players were mark on his legendary intensity on the court, where he lived “in the zone“ and intermittent hyper focused sometimes spiritual state of mind where anything is possible. Sandoval‘s intense focus is contagious, elevating his doubles partner‘s games above their school level he refuses to concede that a higher ranked player could beat him."

And, I have had the great pleasure of playing golf with the highly decorated, incredibly talented Patricia A. Cornett, MD. "She walked on to the Stanford University golf team and was eventually one of the first six women at Stanford to receive a scholarship. Cornett helped lead Stanford to conference titles in 1975 and 1976 and was a WGCA All-American first team selection in 1975. She competed in four national collegiate championships, with third and eighth place finishes. She then went on to earn her medical degree at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. Over the years, she has balanced her professional and golf careers admirably; she was once ranked number seven in Golf Digest's Top 100 golfer doctors in America, one of only two women recognized."

These are but three snapshots into the new faces that decorate the Olympic Club's Hall of Fame The others are Commodore Cochran, Track and Field, Russell A. Hafferkamp, Water Polo,  Peter Varellas, Water Polo, and the 2015 Women's Basketball Team

Schools and communities throughout the country have their own Hall of Fame ceremonies and events. Please don't lose the commitment to honoring our past through celebration today. It is Good News. Thanks be to God for these people and all those who have brought them to this ring of honor. The significance of this annual event is not lost on me or anyone who was able to attend. Congratulations to all!

Photo Credits: 
All photos are from @OlyClub

Saturday, October 9, 2021

The 2021 San Francisco Giants Remind to ask the Question: WHY?

The San Francisco Giants won the National League West for the first time since 2012. Go Giants! In the eight years since their last title, the Orange and Black's heated rival the Los Angeles Dodgers have emerged guessed it: eight times. And in that time, the Dodgers have won one World Series, three National League pennants and with one of the highest payrolls in all of MLB, endured my taunts such as "The Giants prove the West cannot be bought it must be won." Ah baseball. 

To have the Giants back in the post-season has brought a much needed energy and excitement to the City by the Bay. The autumn skies certainly have a hint of something new. Yes, it's Orange October and with a class like Sports and Spirituality I have an opportunity, if not an obligation to talk about it. But why? That is exactly the reason I can and do. The 2021 San Francisco Giants have reminded just how important and fun it is to ask "Why?"

In Athletics, we ask "The why" on a regular basis. As a department, we have a list of reasons why students ought to play high school sports. We invite our student athletes to know their "why" and share it with their teammates. We ask coaches to consider why they coach; there are many reasons not to. Thank you, coaches! But this isn't the why of which I speak. This why is a different one.

I just love this photo of the Giants, on the field, inside Oracle Park. I included it in my presentation and shared it with my class. "What do you think? I asked? Pretty exciting, stuff huh?"

Rather than chaps or cheers, a spirited Go Giants! or even a "hell yeah," one student said "overrated!!" He said this not once but twice. Another student said "They suck!" I do have one Dodger fan in this particular class, but he wasn't the one who said it. I stood there totally confused.

To the student who yelled "overrated!" I said, "What team do you follow?" He told me "the Padres." "Interesting," I said. "Many picked them or the Dodgers to win the Division. So much for overrated." At that moment, I clicked to my next slide which had the stat from ESPN. I read it out loud. "Wow, ESPN picked them to win 70 games. If you put money on this team before the season, you would have an incredible payout right now." 

The next slide had the team with the number 107. I informed the student who thought the Giants suck that this is the most wins by any Giants team in the history of the organization. I looked to the lone Dodger fan and said "the Dodgers had 106 wins, which is impressive too. Both teams were 23-7 in their final 30 games. That's a winning percentage of .767. I mean this with sincerity, it must have been frustrating to be a Dodger fan. That's great baseball."

In order to not lose the entire class I added, "I know some of you are thinking of the Golden State Warriors. Yes, they won the most games in the history of the NBA but didn't win the Championship, so, you're right... nothing is a given. But, I don't think this team was overrated. They don't suck. Instead, I hope the question you are asking or that we should be asking is "WHY?!!! or How?! Why was this team so good? How did they do it? Now that's an exciting question!"

The answer to that question is the story of a season. I think it is what makes life interesting. It is certainly worth discussion because apples to apples the Giants are NOT like the Dodgers. While there are no gaps on the Dodger line-up, the G-men feature a lot of new names. I prefer to say that over "no -names." 

Thus, the lesson began. I shared but four reasons WHY this team is so good. Three of them were "intangibles" named by the manager, Gabe Kapler. The fourth is about him. 

As written on Yahoo! Sports, "Kapler credited his players for showing toughness and grit, and for having the vision for making the NL West title the goal when nobody around the game thought they could compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

"We all knew what the projections were and what the industry thought of us as a club. There were some intangibles that those viewpoints and those projections failed to take into consideration. The first intangible is just toughness. We had so many points during this season where it would have been easy for us to quit and we never did. We battled back.

Grit: "Another intangible it didn't account for is grit. A lot of people in this group got a little bit beat up this season. We had some injuries. We had some guys who were struggling for long periods of time, and they just got back to work every single day. They stuck with their process, they got stronger, and they came back better, and because of that we're standing where we are today. 

Vision: "The final intangible and probably the most important one is vision. At the outset of spring training I was thinking about setting expectations for this group, what we could come to expect for this season. I knew we had a lot of talent. But I wasn't sure. We have some veteran players who said we want to win the National League West. So at that point, this entire group surrounded that vision and made it a goal. We never came off that goal, and that's why I feel that pride today in this group. I'm so grateful to each and every one of you and everyone here who supported us this evening. Thank you."

Thank you, Coach!

A lot of fans were dubious of Farhan Zaidi's choice to hire Gabe Kapler. Bruce Bochy certainly left big shoes to fill and Kapler did not have success in Philadelphia. The success of this season however is inextricably tied to one hallmark of his managerial style: total and complete preparation. Kapler is known for over-preparation. From spring training through the post-season, no one is more prepared that Kap. The team, the fans are privy to its dividends. 

I told my students to think about their own coaches and teachers who are always prepared. Does that class? that season? each practice feel different? I think you can tell the difference. I then invited them and myself to think about toughness, grit and vision. Are those characteristics of their own teams? Would your teammate or coach identify that intangible in you?

There are many other reasons why the San Francisco Giants had a great season. I love hearing what other have to say in answer to that question "Why?" And it is a question—as a teacher—I don't want to stop asking of my students. In fact, I wish I had asked my students WHY they thought they were overrated....or WHY they think the Giants suck. I'm curious to know what they would have said. In the meantime, there is still work to be done for this team. I will look for evidence of those attributes along the way.