Sunday, December 19, 2021

Sports and Spirituality Review: ND Magazine, Fall 2021

The chilly temperature and the atmospheric river that has hit the San Francisco Bay Area make it hard to believe it's still Fall. And yet, winter and its solstice is still a week away. All of this allows me to "have a good read, and a good feed" on the Fall 2021 issue of Notre Dame Magazine. 

Per custom of this blog, I navigate through this great publication and point the way toward the essays, short stories, poems and photos that speak of Sports and Spirituality.  I hope this will help you to curl up with a good paper copy or your iPad and enjoy!

Rockne and the Four Horseman's last ride by Clayton Trutor
Each issue of ND Magazine begins with a section entitled "Notre Dame Avenue" and includes a column entitled "Echoes: A Look Back at campus past." The Fall reflection reports,

The last time Knute Rockne ever coached a Notre Dame football team was also the last time the Four Horsemen ever suited up for the Fighting Irish.

The five men came together for a December 14, 1930, exhibition game at New York City’s famed Polo Grounds. Six years earlier, that spacious haunt on the western shore of the Harlem River had been the site of the Horsemen’s legendary 13-7 victory over Army.

It was that 1924 game that prompted sportswriter Grantland Rice to pen his famous lead: “Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again.

In case the three opening lines don't lure you in, perhaps this fact will: "The New York team had just finished its season in second place in the 11-team NFL and drew the second-best gate receipts of any team in the league. Nevertheless, the contest against the Irish graduates overshadowed the other dates on their calendar."

"More than 50,000 fans gathered that Sunday in upper Manhattan to watch the “Notre Dame All-Stars.” Not the hometown Giants. According to contemporary accounts, the crowd greeted Rockne’s team with raucous applause while the Giants came out of the cavernous stadium’s first base dugouts to little notice."

Incredible. Go Irish!

Deaths in the Family: J. Eric Smithburn
I was always curious about the talents, interests and experiences of my beloved teachers. Reading about Law professor emeritus J. Eric Smithburn who died at age 76, I had to wonder if he ever spoke about his own success in sports. 

"Athletics were a central part of his life. Smithburn played basketball in high school and rugby as an adult, including a tour on a men’s team that competed internationally in the early 1980s. In 1969, he signed a contract to play for the Indianapolis Capitols, a team in the pro Continental Football League, but canceled it to go to law school." 

If you had Professor Smithburn, please weigh in. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen. 

Dog Days by John Rosengren
At the conclusion of each Sports and Spirituality class, I ask my students "What is a sport you would like to learn more about? or discuss?" Invariably, one senior lists "Iditarod." I never know if they are completely serious or if they are showing off their knowledge of a niche sport.

With my class concluding at the semester, I already know I have avoided this answer. Why? How? I shared an excerpt from "Dog Days: A veterinarian treks to America's final frontier to tend the huskies who mush 1,000 miles across Alaska in the grueling Iditarod."

The reason it was worth mentioning, aside from the fact it's fascinating is that we discussed the usage of Performance Enhancing Drugs quite a bit in class. This piece offers another perspective to that conversation--who uses them and why!

Novice Boxer by Patrick Griffin '87
If I were to teach Sports and Spirituality to adults, this article would be included in that cannon. Written by an alum who taught "Boxing in America" during the 2021 winter session—thanks COVID— Griffin decided in his early 50s that he would try to learn to box. He writes, "I had never done it before. Now I liken my time mastering this craft, and all the physical work, to a pilgrimage. I do my roadwork in the mornings, box in the afternoons and then — when Nate thinks I am ready — I fight. For real. Cue the Rocky training montage."

He adds, "Why would I ever do this? If I am honest, I have been searching for something more than just managing an MLC (Midlife Crisis). For starters, I am not the sort to “experience” — what an ugly, therapeutic word — such a thing. I may be many things, but a narcissist is not one of them."

"I didn’t really want to admit it, but maybe I am trying to find God. And this seemed to be the only way I had left." 

He had me at not being a narcissist. 

Great piece—rich in religious imagery and dripping in spiritual symbolism. 
The strength of sprinters Gail Devers and Gwen Torrence from the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, inspired Monique White '82 so much that she did more than start running. She set a goal—a big one: to run 50 marathons or half-marathons in 50 countries before she turned 50 — a pursuit she dubbed #MoniqueRuns50

From White, we can learn much more than the power and example of achieving a goal. Success requires flexibility and reassessment. And why not? a personal goal is one we set for ourselves. Staying true to that, can and does inspire others. 

White said, “Just like it says in the Bible: The race isn’t given to the swift, but to the one who endures. . . . Getting through the tough parts, getting over the hurdles, often encourages somebody else.” (~ Hebrews 12:11) And sometimes even yourself.

Thank you, Monique!
Alter Ego by Robert Schmul '70
Enjoy this double bio-piece. I'm not sure if I learned more about Ron Reagan or about George Gipp. For example, I had no idea The Gipp was "the first Notre Dame All-American, Gipp played on offense and defense, becoming a triple threat with the ball for his running, passing and kicking. In 1920, his senior season, he averaged 8.1 yards per carry, still a University record."

Furthermore, "Reagan “knew that playing Gipp could steal the show,” in the judgment of biographer Bob Spitz. “Never mind that George Gipp was a reprobate who drank, smoked, hustled pool, rarely practiced with the team, bet on Notre Dame games, and was expelled from the university for misconduct. In the movie version, he’d be a saint,” Spitz wrote in Reagan: An American Journey. Indeed, the Hollywood portrayal gave Gipp a status almost rivaling Rockne’s." 

I'll let you read it for yourself and tell me....
Domers in the News and Creative Works
A University-record nine athletes who have Notre Dame connections earned medals at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this past summer, more than doubling the previous best of four set at the Athens games in 2004 and repeated at Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. . . .You can read a little bit about each on them here. And the reason I didn't know how to cheer for in the 2021 NBA Finals.

ND Magazine winds down with Cross Currents. This issue features a number of short stories that respond to the prompt "What I learned at..."

....the concession stand 
....the golf course
are worth reading. I would love to see that oversized blue Cubs jacket.

Thank you Notre Dame Magazine for continuing to offer a great read, and a fantastic feed. My mind and my soul are nourished!

Photo Credits
All from ND Magazine

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