Monday, May 29, 2023

Opinions...and the PGA Championship

Credit goes to Shaquille O'Neal who opined "Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one. I never knock a man for having one." I thought that cliche/quote was coined long before him! Regardless, I appreciate his generosity. How's that? 

From time to time, I grow weary of hearing opinions. Too often they are charged, entitled and condescending. I hear them quite often without asking for them. But the 2023 PGA Championship changed that narrative. From the second major of the year, I was reminded that sharing our opinions can be fun, playful and provide good insight into one's personality. Next time, members of your foursome weigh in too heavy on something, consider seeking their opinion on the following.

  1. Walk and. Talk—yes or no?!
    If you are a sports fan, it should come as no surprise that the interview space has now encroached upon the walk from the tee box to where a golfer's drive ends up. The days of waiting for the post game presser to hear from an athlete are long gone. 

    From inside the dugout to the sidelines and on the way into or out of the tunnel, coaches and athletes alike are grabbed for a quick conversation. 

    Golf fans call it "walk and talk." Although it has been part of other tourneys, the PGA is the first time I saw it underway. I noticed that Tony Finau put on wireless earbuds after his drive and I thought to myself "What is going on?" I quickly realized golf now shares the same space as other sports. 

    I didn't need to ask my trusted friend Charlie, a true student of the game what he thought of it. I knew. His principles for disapproval and disdain were grounded. Others love the insight they get from a golfer and to hear what is going on inside the mind of greatness.

    Questions loom large on how it affects a golfer's game. In the meantime, ask your playing partner what he/she thinks!

  2. Battle or Beautiful? What do you prefer?!
    The PGA Championship was once the fourth and final major of the year. Because scheduling around the NFL and the Olympic games, albeit every four year, this tourney falls between The Masters and The U.S. Open. That May time slot means that weather may present a real challenge at many a host site.

    Located in upstate New York, Oak Hill Golf Club in Rochester brought hearty wind and driving rain. While this is certainly possible under sunny skies—as seen at many a U.S. Open, it's just not a given that May equals warm weather. And truth be told, when I watch a golf tournament I just love seeing warm weather. Perhaps its my version of displacement but I want to see pristine skies, perfect conditions and the dream of what could be. Though I live in California, it just doesn't feel that way...

    My former colleague and friend Tom, is life long fan of the game who watches every major from start to finish (he's retired). He said "I absolutely love when a player has to battle the elements." He wants to see how they handle not only the pressure to win but the added challenge of hitting through long rough that is doused in rain, teeing off into strong gusts of wind." He certainly has a point, I just want to live vicariously through these golfers—their game, their ability and the warmest and sunniest of places to play.

  3. Amateur or Pro
    One novel aspect of the game of golf, and in particular the majors are the exemptions and the inclusion of amateurs in the competition.

    As seen at many a Masters or US Open, one of these qualifiers makes his or her mark. This year was no exception. The story of PGA club pro (Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club), Michael Block was incredible, inspiring and interesting.

    In "How did Michael Block qualify for the 2023 PGA Championship? Qualification criteria" Joseph McMahon writes, 
He has played in five PGA Championships, including this one. It’s his seventh major, but it’s his first time making the cut in one of them. In the final round of the PGA Championship he starts his day on Sunday T8 and is paired with Rory McIlroy. He is one of 20 club pros to be invited to the event, but he’s the only one that everyone is talking about. 
Block hasn’t won a PGA Championship or a Masters, US Open or British Open. He isn’t a Senior PGA Champion and he hasn’t won one of the last three Playes Championships. 
What Michael Block did do to qualify was finish T2 at the 2023 PGA Professional Championship.  
And in case it needed to get any better, Block recorded a hole-in-one on the 15th hole during his final round Sunday. According to The Athletic, this is what you need to know: 

  • Block entered Sunday at even par playing with Rory McIlroy.
  • Going to the 15th tee, Block was 2 over for the tournament.
  • Block’s hole-in-one brought him back to even par.
  • Block finished with a final-round 71. Because he finished T15, Block qualified for the 2024 PGA Championship. 

Block is both the best exemption and a notable exception but I don't usually cheer for amateurs in a major tourney. Call me Eeyore or "the Grinch," but as my friend Jimmy O'D said "I didn't pay to watch an amateur play." I agree. Golf is an unpredictable game. Part of its appeal is the story line that allows for us mortals to play with and against the greats....but this isn't what make a tourney great to me. You?!
Opinions are funny things. They can be kind and generous, cutting, critical and even obtuse.  They can also be important, helping us to understand what we think and why. Opinions can even be teachers—revealing important truths or insights into human nature, our beliefs and preferences, dreams and desires. As a teacher, I work hard to help students develop informed opinions, for young people believe "everyone has a right to an opinion." Sure, but a discerning one, a careful or creative one makes for a more thoughtful conversation or deeper dialogue. 

So maybe we start with asking opinions on matters of play and preference more from there and see where it takes us. Just a suggestion; not an opinion. 

Photo Credits
Brooks umbrella
Shaq Quote

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Lessons from Lunch Duty: Grunt Work and a Servant Mentality

Every job has its own version of "grunt work"—the task you don't want to do, but you must. I dare you to find a job without it. While some teachers enjoy grading, for me, I think of it as "grunt work." When I played school as a child, I loved this task. Today, I have to repeat to myself my aforementioned motto: "The only way is through" to get the job done. That being said, there's another job I dread even more: lunch duty.  And, at St. Ignatius it is a responsibility assigned to every person in the building—from the president and principal to counselors and teachers. I mean it when I say I'm so happy I finished my two point five week assignment this week. Hooray!

Truth be told, I think about lunch duty a lot. It is a necessary good and a necessary evil. The good is I learn a whole lot about my students for they are in their natural domain. This is where their true personalities emerge. It is interesting to see who they hold as friends and how they interact with others. This is also where I see that many students are inconsiderate and lazy, sometimes even downright rude. They put their feet on top of tables and ignore the trash they leave on the floor. Some leave entire plates of uneaten food for someone else to throw away. That one crushes my soul. It could be different. It should be different. 

I have had lunch duty for 20 years now and my gripes today are the same as they were five, ten and twenty years ago. I wonder, Have we, the educators, failed? Why have we let young people get away with this? Or, What does it say that students are okay with leaving their trash on tables and on the floor? What type of person leaves a mess behind? Again, could it be different? Shouldn't it be different? 

I have all kinds of ideas and potential solutions. Most involve consequences. Other require doubling down on the discipline to get it right. But the one that appeals to me most—the urging, promoting and celebrating a servant mentality.

The entire football program heard about the servant mentality from 49er All Pro Safety, Talanoa Hufanga. He shared where it came from and what it looks like. I think he was as proud of this mentality as all the success he's had on the field.

As I wrote in "Inside an All-Pro Mindset: Thank you Talanoa Hufanga," he said, "I did yard work and I was a janitor. I was raised to have a servant mentality. That means you always keep a humble heart. You show up on time, and always show respect for your family." 

Upon reading that post, my colleague shared a social media post of another football player who has embraced a similar mentality. As tweeted by Dov Kleiman,

After a recent NFL rookie event, #Colts 20-year old QB Anthony Richardson, decided to stay behind after everyone else exited and clean up a big mess left by the players so the staff wouldn't have to.

Richardson explained that it was unfair to expect the staff to clean up the mess left by the draftees. He insisted on staying to help until the room was completely tidy, even though he was given the option to leave after NFL Executive Troy Vincent told him: "You don’t need to do this." 

Richardson told Vincent: ‘We left this room in an unacceptable condition, and it’s not right for us to expect the staff to clean it all up.”

I read this post and any uncertainty about what a servant mentality might mean was gone. Words that come to mind are responsible, humble, and honest. How Ignatian.

I have heard of athletes doing their part before. Back in 2015, I shared the story of the Mt. Vernon High school football team: Every athlete can be great because every athlete can serve: a new way to do so. In one respect, it is unfortunate that their servant mentality became the subject of a feature story...but in others, I'm grateful to read of the example they have set for others, and for me. A good reminder is never in vain.

My sense is that a servant mentality starts at home, but I think it can be cultivated at school as well. If both faculty and students model what this means and how it's done, on the most practical level our school be a lot cleaner. On another level, I believe we would have a stronger sense of pride and a deeper appreciation for what we have been given. We might even take better care of what we own and what belongs to others. 

Would we still need to do lunch duty? Sure. It's important to supervise young people but rather than engaging in frustration or disappointment, we might find more time to talk to them about what really matters. I'll leave that up for you to decide, but I have a feeling they may say their grade in your class. I guess we don't call it work for nothing.

Photo Credits

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Inside an All-Pro Mindset: Thank you Talanoa Hufanga

In need of my second cup of coffee, I walked into the faculty room and my eyes feasted on one of my favorite sites: a pink box. Donuts! Half of a blueberry cake donut caught my eye. Please and thank you.

It was so good that I leaned in for another (why not, I only had a half!). I would have picked up the the rainbow sprinkle varietal except the words of the San Francisco 49ers safety, Talanoa Hufanga were ringing in my ears. I want to give credit where credit is due. Thank you, #29.

"Huf" as he is known by his teammates, spoke to the football program at St. Ignatius College Prep on Thursday, May 2, 2023. His message has stayed with me and taken root. This post will share much more than the way his commitment to personal discipline has inspired me. I hope it will offer you a chance to consider many of the life lessons he has to share about building an all pro-mindset (which includes and a healthy diet!)

The all-pro safety grew up on a farm in Corvallis, Oregon. That upbringing indelibly shaped his work ethic, one that he is proud to describe and pass on to young people today.

He said, "I did yard work and I was a janitor. I was raised to have a servant mentality. That means you always keep a humble heart. You show up on time, and always show respect for your family." 

The head coach SI football, Lenny Vandermade—also a graduate of USC,  said "I have to admit, I was expecting you to show up on Poly time and you were actually five minutes early. That is not typical of Poly culture."

Hufanga responded "I am always reminding myself to keep that servant mentality. It is so important to me to show that as a sign of my respect for my family. They have given me everything: love, support and in the hard times or when things are uncomfortable—they have been there. I honor that by giving my best. And yes, an easy way to show that is to be respectful of other people's time." 

I looked around to see if the other teachers and coaches in the room were as ecstatic about this message as I was. 

Hufanga did not develop nor deepen this mindset in a vacuum. He credited another All-Pro safety— Troy Polamalu for serving as a mentor. A 2o21 inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame, Polamalu told him, "If you want to be great, you have to start with your character, first. Do the small things right. Do service. Feed the homeless. Say "hi" to someone you've never talked to in class."

It might be a sad reflection on our society, but even just a simple greeting, a "Good Morning" isn't something we can take for granted. I always notice those kids who offer a smile or a hello. And I remind the others "it costs nothing. Free-99." 

Hufanga added "an all pro-mindset can even be applied to how your handle your friendships. This is where our character is tested and revealed. My friendships mean a lot to me."

Undoubtedly, Huf has taken Polamalu's message to heart. But the athletes in the room admitted that one of his choices were not small —it was big. In high school, Hufanga gave up social media." One of my students said "it's impressive, but I don't think it's something I could ever do.: 

Huf addressed this reaction. "I didn't go cold turkey. I had took what I think were strategic steps to give it up. For example, I had to be on social media for recruiting purposes, but every night I gave my phone to my Dad at 9:00 p.m. That was big. Eventually, I  came to a point where I went for about three years without it. Now, I have someone handle my accounts and what I need to know. It's an important way for me to block out the noise."

Every single student athlete I asked about Hufanga's speech commented on this choice. I asked them "To what degree is developing the best version of yourself contingent on blocking out the noise?" It was a good conversation. 

We came to learn that Hufanga's choice to renounce something enticing did not stand in isolation. He said "I gave up drinking Monster and Red Bull and eventually soda. I came to find out that success in one area leveraged the likelihood of success in another."

I underlined and highlighted those words in my notebook. I realized his commitment to personal and self discipline is tremendous...but I wondered "Was it too much?" 
Yes, Hufanga has the "Mamba Mentality." He is proud to say he is "very competitive." But for the typical 15 year old sophomore in the room, were his words something that got them going or going home?

For me, I need all the reminders I can get. Hufanga was proud to talk about his Alkaline diet, commitment to hydration and adequate sleep. He believes these are the keys to maintaining the energy level he needs. Watch him on the field, and you'll see what I can only describe as high octane. 

He warms up for at least an hour before practice. He said "I do this by practicing other sports—like jujitsu, basketball or volleyball. This allows my body is get loose and get going." This is a good thing given that Hufanga gets extremely nervous and super serious during practice. He said "it's funny because you would think I would feel that way on game day. But I'm actually very calm when I have to compete."

Hufanga, a devout Christian said, "I do pray after every play, but my prayers have changed over time." He added, "I truly believe the prayers I offer have led to my success on the field. And yet, my goal is not to have the most interceptions, tackles and sacks.  My goal is not to be the best teammate I can be... to make my family proud in all that I do....and to honor God the Father." 

Such is the stuff of an all-pro mindset—lessons learned in the chapel at SI, applied in the faculty lounge, in the classroom, in our hearts and in our homes. Thank you Talanoa!

Photo Credits
Thank you David Arnott!
All Pro Action

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Four on Three: The Only Way Is Through.

If I see the neon light tunnel of Chicago's O'Hare airport when I leave this life and pass to the next, I may ask to turn around. In many ways, it has been my personal hell. I can't tell you how many times I have run through this passageway in a panic. 

It is a liminal space—a cold one. One that offers little to no auditory comfort. How many times must we hear, "the moving walkway is ending." Repeat, "the moving walkway is ending." And yet, one of my personal mottos was born from this very space. 

I believe: The only way is through. 

I say this to myself anytime I take on something difficult or demanding. Whether it is a physical, emotional, or spiritual challenge, I find comfort in this motto. 

Letting go. Moving on. Ending something. A medical procedure or treatment. Grading 100 papers. Running a race. A necessary conversation. The only way is through. 

We have to pass through places and spaces that are tough. We want short cuts, easy ways out, and even an alternative route. I am great at rationalizing the need for a another path. I can easily make an argument for an alternative method. But in my heart of hearts, eventually I come to accept: the only way is through.

Ted Lasso fans got a glimpse of this motto through the top player on the team, AFC Richmond's striker, Jamie Tartt. He said “If you want this to work, you have to stop going to me and start playing through me.” This scene might have been the climax of Episode 7; The Strings that Bind Us. 

At half time, Tartt stepped forward to share his realization in order for "Total Football" to work. After offending everyone in the locker room, he came to the drawing board to speak the truth. Upon centering himself in front of the diagram, his teammates and coaches stepped up and in. Tartt turned around to see them listening and shared his idea. It showed them the way. Not to....but through.

His insight was so moving that his teammate, Danny Rojas proclaimed "And there it is! Numero quatro! Sacrifice! Putting aside personal glory on behalf of the team." 

Without batting an eye, Ted said "
I like that, but it ain't number four."

While Jamie Tartt's speech speaks to selflessness—a necessity among individuals on a team sport—the motto of "through, not to" speaks to something different.

To me, to go through takes gumption and commitment. I think of putting my head down and grinding it out. This is not the time or space to seek an assist. It's about getting from point A to B....and not C, D or Z. Perhaps a motto is just one tool that can help.

I think there is a mystical truth to this motto that I don't have the words to express. Instead, they are something—like "Number Four" for Ted Lasso and AFC Richmond—that I will seek to uncover (not discover).

Hands in. Huddle Up. Four on Three: one! two! three! Together: four!

Photo credits
Light Tunnel

Monday, April 24, 2023

Self Knowledge and The Masters: Over or Under?

Ben Franklin said "There are three things extremely hard: steel, diamonds and to know one's self." I'm sure you can add several more—like winning one of golf's majors. But, reflection upon the 2023 Masters offered me insight not only into myself but humanity, as well. Here's how.

On her podcast, Happier, Gretchen Rubin asks the question "Are You an Over-Buyer or an Under-Buyer? She writes, "this distinction encapsulates one of my very favorite (if not most weighty) personal insights into human nature." She adds, "It’s not particularly productive to be in too deep as an over- or under-buyer; both offer certain advantages but also some definite drawbacks." She follows up her claim with questions you can answer to help you self-identify. 

This paradigm for understanding ourself isn't limited to what we purchase or not. Rubin also asks "Are you an under-estimator or an over-estimator?" For example, Do you budget too much or too little? When you head out the door, do you allow enough time to arrive or are you always cutting it close? Realizing what I am has helped me to plan accordingly. Every one of us is a work in progress. This type of self knowledge has helped me pave a better path.

These questions also reveal preferences and style. Do you overstate or understate? Overshare (boo) or undershare? Are you a minimalist or a maximalist? Is less really more or is more, more?!

I came clean in my post A Case for Understatement—In Sports and Beyond. I realize I underestimate and I probably underbuy. As ethicists say, "all things in moderation, including moderation." The challenge with this principle is that the mean is relative. See earlier claim about "work in progress!"

As a sports fan, the week leading up to the first major of the year, The Masters is like Christmas. I love the predictions, recalling tourneys of the past, the promotion of unique traditions at Augusta National and more. And, I have to be honest—The Masters is a guilty pleasure. 

It is common knowledge that Augusta National plays by its own rules. They don't apologize for who they are, nor do they compromise. In short, they are who they are. The number of people who really know what that means is infinitesimal to those who want to know! And yet, the sheer amount of social media promoted by The Masters in 2023 led me to hit pause and reconcile an image I once had with what was unfolding before me.

Augusta National has buildings, rooms and events are that are private. My sense is that only members and the players (and maybe their coaches and/or families) were led into these inner sanctums. However, this year it was as if every sacred chamber was posted online. While I was already familiar with Butler's Cabin, thanks to Instagram I saw locker rooms, changing rooms, closets and walkways. While one would expect a golf glutton like me to delight in the 360 access, it was too much.

We live in a society that leans toward the overshare. Very little is left to the imagination anymore. I want Augusta National or at least my understanding of "The Masters" to follow suit—to be countercultural. In other words, I want their m.o. to be "While everyone else records, promotes and publishes any and every moment as it unfolds, we are going to offer something....but not everything." Understate it baby, you got this.

While I am not writing about a moral issue, I think considering our preferences, evaluating our reactions and checking in on what we prefer can help us to understand who we are and what we value. Not a bad or hard way to learn about thy-self.

Did you happen to notice the amount of social media and full access featured in this year's Masters? As a fan do you want even more? Was it too much? I welcome your input

Photo Credits 
Social Media
Members Only
Be Like Bill

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Seek and You Will Find: 5 Things Making Me Happy

In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus proclaims “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." If only it were that easy—says the cynic in me. But far be it from me to argue with Christ the Teacher. 

In my last post I wrote about 5 Things that made me happy from the 2023 Masters. I could have written 25. I have wondered if I should author my own 5 ways that sports and spirituality make me happy. However, I wasn't sure I could list or name five on a regular basis. Well, there's something to those words: seek and find. The master teacher had it right. Here are five from my spring break. 

1. More, more, more!
Travis Kelce the two time Super Bowl champion tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs  hosted Saturday Night Live (in early March) and killed it. Ever since he first played in the American Century Classic golf tourney in Tahoe—and I offered my friend money to play Black Jack next to him—I've been a fan. With his older brother Jason, center for the Philadelphia Eagles in the audience, #87 was a great host. 

The part that made me laugh is when he admitted he was nervous to give a monologue until he remembered, "I'm pretty good with words." He added "during games I give these super eloquent pump up speeches for my teammates." As he says, "please watch: here."

2. Don't Count Me Out
Maggie Eastland is the editor-in-chief of The Observer, the student run daily paper at the University of Notre Dame. In the latest issue of the alumni magazine she writes a piece on her Baraka Bouts debut (the female equivalent of Bengal Bouts) which offered new and unsuspecting insights into the virtues of boxing.

Women’s boxing strikes a balance between competition and collaboration, personal growth and charity.

She went so far as to connect it to her major. Curran finds the similarities between the ring and her finance major striking. She’s not a violent person, “yet people see the fire that I have for academics,” she says. “Finance is inherently risky. . . .  I like to think I am a person who is very much willing to take risks.”

She writes "For me, junior captain Nicole Lies captured the bouts’ spirit. “It’s about so much more than just boxing. It brings such empowerment, not only to people in it, but also through the mission of education,” she told me. “People have said it’s the most Notre Dame thing you can do, and I think that’s so true.”

I have to say, I agree. I'm so happy it's open to men and women—a range of weight classes, encouraged and accepted. I wonder if she tells herself what Kelce tells his teammates....

3. Wall of Clocks
During spring break, I took my mom to Carmel-by-the-Sea for the day. We had dinner and drinks at the Inn at Spanish Bay by the fireside pits (HIGHLY recommend this space). In the lobby, I noticed a wall of clocks telling the time of various golf destinations around the world: St. Andrew's, Augusta National, and of course Pebble Beach, California.

Tine is so valuable. Time is precious. A clock keeps time and tells time—the same minute, but a different hour in a different part of the world. Based on the world clock, I could see that no one would be on the Old Course for but a few hours...

I regret not taking a photo of this wall. Next time! Pun intended. 

4. How Great Thou Art
I have already made the argument for an American cannon of literature. In order to gain a stronger sense of what it means to be an American, I believe elementary, middle and high school students should have a "shared reading experience." This cannon includes 
but a few great works of American literature; it can change over time. We can agree and disagree on what is and should be in this cannon. But let's share something....anything! I feel this way about poetry and music, t00. How I wish we al knew but a few folk songs and dare I say it—spirituals.

One of the songs I would include in that cannon is "How Great Thou Art." This song does not resonate with me personally. I would be lying if I told you it moves me spiritually. But on Easter Sunday Mass, I must admit it was very powerful to hear the entire congregation gathered in song. 

This realization prompted me to play this spiritual in class. I said to my sophomores, "if we're going to do this, it might as well be sung by one of America's greats: Elvis Presley."

5. PBJ con cariño
My friend Jimmy and I now have an unfolding story about the significance of a sandwich—a PBJ no less. Low and behold, he packed one for me and offered to do the same for the others in our foursome. It was made with cariño—loving care. How do I know this? For one, sandwiches made with this secret sauce always taste better. Second, it was wrapped in this awesome packaging. The little things really do make life better....or in the case of the PBJ, savory and sweet.

What are 5 that made you happy this week? Seek and ye will find....

Photo Credits
How Great Thou Art
Wall of Clocks
Inn at Spanish
Travis and Pat

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

5 Things That Made Me Happy from the 2023 Masters

Gretchen Rubin is a New York Times best selling author and host of the award-winning podcast, Happier. She has inspired me more than she will ever know. I have followed many of her suggestions and strategies for building healthy, happy habits such as a "23 for 23 List," the one word theme of the year and since 2021, I have read for 21 minutes everyday—her personal challenge. Her weekly newsletter "5 Things Making Me Happy" is something I look forward to reading every Friday. 

I have given a lot of thought to integrating this habit into the world of Sports and Spirituality. I have wondered, Should I list 5 spiritual moments in sports this week? Or should I author a 5 for 5: Sports and Spirituality in review? The ideas are still cooking. In the meantime, I will offer "5 Things that made me happy from the 2023 Masters." Here goes.

1. Easter Sunday with The Masters
I am a religious person. Easter Sunday the highest of holy days for Christians. Does sharing this sacred day with a sporting event seem sacrilegious? For me, the answer is "no." 

The Masters evokes tradition and ritual, which is celebrated in profound ways at Easter Mass. I have just never found it too difficult to move from the sacred to the secular; I respect both.

I am already with my family and to watch an event with them that hails the season of spring—set amidst such natural beauty is a great way to spend part of the day. 

I still remember watching the 2012 Easter Sunday Masters when Bubba Watson earned his first green jacket. My brother and I were eating Easter dinner with a friend—so the volume was on low—and I kept thinking "this man is crying. He's really crying." A few years later, I celebrated the best Easter basket of all time, when Notre Dame women defeated Mississippi State for the NCAA title. Thank you, Arike! 

Easter is a feast day of great joy. The joy of sports the equivalent of a bonus egg!!

2. Basque Connection    
John Rahm is the fourth Spaniard to earn a green jacket. However, when people hear his last name, invariably they ask about it. They say, "Rahm doesn't sound like a Spanish name." That's because it is not. 

Rahm's surname originates from a Swiss ancestor who moved to Spain in the 1780s; his father is Biscayan, while his mother is from Madrid. His full name is Jon Rahm Rodriguez.

His two sons are Kepa and  Eneko which are traditional Basque names. Why Basque? Because Jon was born in Barrika, Basque Country. He is a keen supporter of the Basque football team Athletic Club Bilbao and fellow golfer Jose Maria shares that allegiance for he too is from this northeast area of ESP. 

This has significance to me and to anyone who has been touched by the Society of Jesus. Why? Ignatius of Loyola was Basque too. In 2018 when I partook in the Camino de Ignacio we went to the birthplace of Iñigo. We ate traditional Basque foods, I saw the language with its distinctive alphabet and unique terrain. I hope they celebrated the success of their native son today. I would say "¡Vamos!" but that's Spanish. How do you say "Let's Go!" in Basque?!

3. Poetic Justice 
Another reason I was happy to see Jon Rahm win is because he is associated with the PGA Tour. I have not written much about the LIV tour—an issue I would have listed as one of seven  most partisan issues in America last summer.
While some people view players from the Saudi-backed tour as independent contractors, I found myself rooting against them. I would rather cheer FOR someone than against someone else, but the reality of LIV has made this difficult.

For example, one could identify a LIV player but their "team name" or logo on their hat and shirt. This concept of "team" that LIV has tried to embrace is based on literally one thing: money. At the VERY least, most teams in professional sports represent a city, a community or country. These teams are completely artificial. No coach or captain "drafts" or "signs" their athlete. They ring completely hollow. 

If you want to know more about the LIV tour, this summary from 60 Minutes: April 9 (sportswashing accusations in Saudi Arabia), the Netflix series "Full Swing" or my post LIV Golf, Temptation and The Masters are a few helpful resources. However, what is most interesting isn't the amount of money players make but how much they must pay if they want to leave. Brings a new perspective to golden handcuffs. 

Three LIV Tour players finished in the Top 10, but the definitive winner was Jon Rahm at 12 under par.

4. The Life of Jimmy Dunne
Notre Dame alum and board member, Jimmy Dunne is in the right place at the right time. As harrowing as it is to admit, he is alive today because of that truth. 

I knew that Dunne, the former partner of Sandler O'Neill is a member of Augusta National. What. I didn't know is that he would be among the first to embrace Jon Rahm, the 2023 champion.

Following an abrazo muy fuerte with fellow Spaniard, José María Olazábal the next person that Rahm embraced was none other than Jimmy D. Their hug was legit. Dunne extended heartfelt congratulation's and the winner accepted his words with appreciation. I couldn't believe it and then I could—of all people who could be standing in that line, one of them is Irish legend Jimmy Dunne. 

5. Great day for gambling
PGA teaching professional Keith Stewart is the founder of In Episode 134 Handicapping the Masters of The Golfer's Journal Podcast, he shares with the host Tom Coyne that after the Super Bowl, the NFC and AFC championship games, The Masters is the fourth most popular sporting event for betting. I can't say I'm surprised. I also can't say "just do it."
To pick the winner from the field? It's just so risky, but yes, it's fun. Here's a a thought...

Rather than place your money on a long shot for a huge return, I recommend participating in a Masters Pool. If you are desperate for a money line bet, consider putting your shekels on the a player making a hole-in-one. This bet is even money, but when I went to The Masters in 2016, I saw not one, not two but three aces. If I ever meet Louis Oosthuizen,
 Davis Love III or Shane Lowry, I would tell them what I saw.

If your DNA for gambling needs activity, I love the competition hosted at my club. For a $25 buy-in, you pull a pro's name from a hat. This is your "playing partner" for the day. Although he went low on Sunday, I was very happy to have Jordan Spieth "with me" on "Moving Day." At the conclusion of your own round, the player with the lowest net score and their pro's actual score, win the prize money. Many public and private courses have unique and spirited games of their own. Comment on the ones you know below.

In Conclusion
Even before the green jacket is placed on the champion's shoulder inside Butler's Cabin, a certain sadness starts to take hold. Another Masters has come and gone. The anticipation and the four day journey, leave me wishing it need not come to an end. There must a word for this sentiment. Anyone speak German? I feel grateful and gratified but aware that the time together is up.

Does The Masters make me happy? There are many more than five reasons it does. I hope you enjoyed those I named for 2023. 

Photo Credits
Long walk Spoiled
Rahm and family

Reed: Aces
Bubba Watson in tears
Rahm and Scheffler and Victory

Saturday, April 8, 2023

LIV Golf, Temptation and The Masters

It's not often a person has their day is made by 0600, but it's possible. I arrived at my weekly Hour of Power group fitness class to hear my friend share a story about his daughter, who happens to be my student. As we were warming up, he told me,  I asked her if she knew what this weekend was. She said, "Dad! Yes! It's Easter." I replied "of course." Before I could reframe the question, she said "well, it's also The Masters." I asked her, "How did you know that?" She replied "Anne talked about it in class and integrated it into a couple of our lessons too." I told him "this so awesome. You made my day."

Cheers to that! Day made at 6:00 on Day 2 of The Masters

It's true. There will be no "forgive me Father for I have sinned" on this one. I won't even apologize. In fact, I'm proud of the fact my sophomores are already picking up on Spirituality and Sports. My friend added, "see, she's listening." 

In the event I need to defend my curriculum to the Vice Principal of Academics, parents or student for that matter, here' but one example of Sports and Spirituality: Case Study—The Masters is relevant in RS 201: Sophomore Scripture.

In Matthew's Gospel, before Jesus begins His public ministry, He is baptized by John the Baptist. In the very next chapter he is tempted by Satan. We spend time with the same question: Why? Why does Jesus get baptized? Why is He tempted? In both actions, Jesus stands in solidarity with us. His baptism is a radical act of humility. Furthermore, every human faces temptation. Jesus understood the challenge of not giving in to sin. 

We discuss what the scripture reveals. In what particular ways was Jesus tempted? How did he avoid it? What does he do after the moral battle is finished? 

Following an assessment of the unit, my students said they would have like talk more about ways that we can overcome temptation. I was glad to read their input. I decided to spend a little more time with the topic, so I asked them to list three tactics for avoiding temptation on their own, We listed these on the board. 
I did the same....for multiple reasons. One, I taught ethics for close to twenty years and two, this afforded me the chance to talk about The Masters.

One of the hot topics at this year's Masters is the inclusion of players from the LIV tour.  I was amazed to see how many students were familiar with what it is and what it's about. For those who don't follow golf, I had a student explain to their peers what LIV is and why it's controversial. NB: I have a good number of enthusiastic golf fans in every section. They were happy to teach this topic! #lovethem!

These students gave enough context that I didn't really need to say much more for how and why LIV relates to temptation. I mentioned that I had recently read an article from The New Yorker that offered a case study. In Will the Saudis and Donald Trump Save Golf—or Wreck It?, Zach Helfand writes

The enormous sums had a way of revealing priorities to the players themselves. Johnson told friends he had rebuffed LIV offers until he couldn't anymore. "A lot of guys say D.J. isn't smart—he's street smart," the golfer Davis Love III said. "He told me, 'I got to a number where I'm willing to take the consequences'." One day at East Lake, while practicing his chipping, Max Homa, a firm Tour loyalist, said that his strategy was to avoid temptation entirely. "I got an e-mail," he told me. He didn't read it. "I don't want to know. My wife told me if I got offered x she'd kill me if I said no."

I asked my students to analyze how both Dustin Johnson and Max Homa handled temptation. Both are real. Each man ends up on a different path in real time. How true in life. How true for all of us. I added, "you can follow each in The Masters. I love their games, respectively." This was an interesting way to further our discussion and understanding...and of course preach Masters.

Educators at Jesuit institutions are taught to use the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm. The IPP is a method that suggest that lessons begin with both context and experience. It is important that we meet young people where they are at. We ought to know their culture, their passions and priorities. In referencing that information and those experiences we can draw them in to engage, dialogue and learn. I would like to add that sometimes it's ok for the teacher to share their own. 

What I have found is that what I am enthusiastic about and what brings me joy doesn't alway go unnoticed. Especially when it comes to an event with history, culture, and beauty. Jim Nantz doesn't say it for nothing, "The Masters is a tradition unlike any other." I hope you're tempted to watch it.

Photo Credits
DJ and Phil
Max Homa

Sunday, April 2, 2023

A Feast Day for Peanut Butter & Jelly: What You Need to Know

Given the chilly temps outside, I've packed a wool beanie, a new sleeve of golf balls, and my precious game day snack: Peanut Butter and Jelly. Nary a round of golf is played without this sweet and savory sandwich. Turns out, I'm not the only one who feels this way about PB&J as food and fuel. It's a favorite from the NBA elite to folks in and around St. Anthony's soup kitchen. Today, April 2 is its national feast day. Here's what you need to know.

Let's start with the question: WHAT is it, exactly, about a PB&J? A few thoughts. This sandwich

  • is affordable.
  • is easy to transport.
  • offers protein and fiber (whole grains).
  • timeless and has a decent shelf life!
  • is ideal for Catholics who observe no meat on Fridays during Lent.

In the article The NBA's Secret Addiction, Baxter Holmes writes

In dozens of interviews with players, coaches, executives, nutritionists, trainers and others in and around the NBA, the most common explanation offered was the most obvious: PB&J is comfort food, and countless players, like countless other humans, grew up on it. "It's a soothing memory from childhood," Shanahan says. It's "peace of mind," says Brett Singer, a dietitian at the Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute, who adds: "You feel good, you play well." Brian St. Pierre, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition, who's consulted with the Spurs, says it's not so much a placebo effect but "almost more than that. They just simply believe." 
I get it. I won't go so far as to say I cannot play golf without it, but it is part of my routine and something I look forward to by the 7th hole. 

A good PB&J is hard to mess up. And yet, everyone has their druthers. For me, PB&J tastes best on Potato Bread, but I opt in for Dave's Killer bread (thanks, Costco) because it has more nutritional value. I am certified chunky, not creamy PB. This is not a moral issue, but is often contested as one. I am game for strawberry, raspberry or an occasional apricot jelly or jam. No concord grape, please. Slice it down the middle; crust is included.

There is however, one final ingredient that I highly recommend. I will go so far as to say PB&J doesn't taste the same without it. I call it "cariño," which is Spanish for love and affection. Should you make this sandwich for your spouse, child, significant other or even yourself,  don't forget it. I can always taste the difference. And the best part about cariño? It comes at no additional cost.

At St. Ignatius, where I teach, every Thursday a van of students and a teacher head to the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco to hand out sandwiches and juice. Known as the Comfort Run, this group gathers at 7:00 a.m., prays over the sandwiches that students have brought to school the day before and heads out for this morning ministry. As we all know, it's not really about the sandwich and yet it is. The Comfort Run is an opportunity to meet men and women on the margins and to stand there with them. It is a way to start the day with giving a PB&J or a Ham and Cheese to go and a smile. 

When I drove the van two weeks ago I was shocked by how many people asked specifically for PB&J. In fact, we ran out of it long before we ran out of our deli sandwiches. I shared this report with my classes and let them know we will double down on the PB&J. Cariño required.

To be honest, I'm somewhat surprised an artisanal PBJ shop has not popped up in San Francisco. A culinary citadel of a city, we have had houses of elite grilled cheese, mac and cheese and avocado toast. Given the varietals that PBJ can offer from jelly vs jam, a host of nut butters far beyond peanut butter to your choice of bread, the latest thing since a slice of it awaits. 

Maybe one will pop up in the future and can be a place to make donations to those who go hungry for food or cariño. Now there's a goal for April 2, 2024! In the meantime, please let me know what is your favorite rendition of PB&J.

Photo Credits
Wall of PB&J
April 2

Friday, March 31, 2023

Sister Jean: Worship, Work, Win and Why

March Madness has lived up to its name. It's the first time since 1979 that a number one, two or three seed failed to make it to the Big Dance. On a personal level a former student who wasn't even recruited out of high school has emerged a star—leading his team to their first Final Four appearance. Go Aztecs. As exhilarating and memorable as the 2023 NCAA basketball tournament has been, I've missed one person: Sister Jean. Perhaps you feel the same way. 

Sister Dolores Jean Schmidt, BVM has been the team chaplain of the men's basketball team at Loyola University of Chicago since 1994. She writes, "In 2018, I reached a level of notoriety that I never could have imagined when my Ramblers made a Cinderella run to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament." She caught our eye with her maroon and gold scarf and Nike trainers. She stole our hearts with her presence at the sidelines, offering sweaty hugs, and leading the team in prayer. Although the Ramblers did not make the 2023 tourney, she is still with us and going strong. So strong in fact, that she managed to write a book Wake Up With Purpose! What I’ve Learned During My First Hundred Years(co-authored by Seth Davis). 

There's no need for me to write a review of this book. There are many of them—she's a hot topic. However, I would like to share her motto and why she thinks she's a sensation. She is!

Her Motto: Worship, Work, Win
Although the book is entitled "Wake up with Purpose!" It easily could have been named "Worship, Work, Win." That motto reflects Sister Jean's philosophy on life and athletics. She writes 

As the school was making progress on our new practice facility, the Norville Center, Coach Porter suggested we build a “wall of culture” in the weight room. He asked the players, coaches, and others around the athletic department to come up with words and phrases that would be painted on the walls. The idea was to inspire the guys while they were pumping iron. I was asked to contribute a phrase. Three words popped into my head: “Worship, work, win.”

Her use of alliteration for a motto is smart; it helps us remember. The second "w," for "work" makes sense. No one gets to the Final Four without work, hard work. And Sister Jean's work ethic speaks for itself; she has yet to retire. Sister Jean believes work is a way for us to use our gifts and talents. Furthermore, she links work to purpose and adds, "I do think having a daily, consistent purpose has kept me not only alive but young and vibrant." Noted.

The third "w" for "win." A longtime coach and former player herself, Sister Jean says, 
"win is the payoff for all that effort. It’s a wonderful, joyful feeling. As the saying goes, there’s a reason they keep score. So long as there’s a winner and a loser, I’d much rather win." Amen. 

What I found interesting and inspiriting is that Sister Jean isn't afraid to pray for a win. In the book she shares the prayers she has offered with the team. They are specific, authentic and honest. Not a bad recipe for prayer.

“Good and gracious God, yes, we do want to win tonight, and we know that with Your help we can do it. But we understand that we must play as a team, play with our heads and our hearts, give our best every moment we are on the court. We plan to share the ball, direct it to the team member who is ‘hot’ tonight. We know that every shot from the charity line is important. If we can’t make the perimeter points, we must work under the basket. Jeff, be careful. Don’t foul the best shooter on the team. We ask You, God, to help us play well, to avoid accidents, and to win. Amen.
Sister Jean doesn't mention "worship" in the formal sense of going to Mass or to church for Adoration. That's not to say communal worship is unimportant. Rather, she reminds us worship begins with prayer. 

When asked if the prayers she offers as the team chaplain work, she answers the question with another question as well as her motto "Worship, work, win." She says,

That (question) suggested that somehow my prayers made that ball defy the laws of gravity and go in. Is that true? Who’s to say that it isn’t? That’s the beauty of God—we never really know what He’s doing, or why. We have to trust Him to do His part, and then it’s up to us to do ours. Those players worked hard for that victory.

Sister Jean's wise motto reminds me of an adage attributed to St. Ignatius. He said “pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you.” Sounds good!

When it comes to Sister Jean, once could easily ask 103 questions that begin with the same word: Why. Why did she join a religious community out of Dubuque, Iowa? Why does she love basketball? Why have we as a nation been so taken by her. According to an article in The Athletic entitled "Sister Jean has swag for days, and other lessons learned writing a book with her

The most common question asked of Sister Jean is why she thinks she has lived so long and so well. Clearly, she has been blessed with great DNA (many of her family members lived into their nineties) and a lot of good luck, but I also believe her longevity and mental acuity is a testament to the life-giving power of work.

Sister Jean technically retired from Loyola in the early 1990s, but she never stopped grinding. She rises each morning at 5 so she can meditate, recite her morning prayers, and prepare for a full day’s work. 

Besides regularly meeting with students in her office at the Damen Center, she attends many campus events, offering invocations, posing for pictures and altogether spreading good cheer. She spends her evenings at The Clare calling people, emailing, writing notes, and reading. And of course, she goes to all the basketball games.

The last thing she does when her head hits the pillow is try to think of all the good things she has done that day, so when morning comes she will wake up with purpose once more. “Everyone needs to pat themselves on the back once in a while,”she likes to say. 

My parents always say they grew up in simpler times. Reading Sister Jean’s book, it’s hard to disagree (and she's actually a generation older than they are). Certainly, times have always offered challenges, but her simplicity, clear values, strong work ethic, selflessness and love of God suggest we all might benefit from letting history—and this living legend—be our teacher. 

Perhaps her greatest lesson is one that she offers in light of her own success. When she was asked, Why do you think you have become an icon? she said, "I’d like to think people were interested in me because, whether they realized it or not, they wanted to be closer to God. They knew I had spent my whole life serving Him. We hear so much about the negative aspects of human nature, but my ride through the 2018 NCAA tournament revealed just how much goodness there is in people. I hope we never lose sight of that."

What a purpose. Thank you, Sister Jean for all you have given to the world, the Church, to basketball and beyond.

Photo Credits
Prayer partner and motto
March Madness
Sister Jean and Seth Davis
Book Cover