Thursday, January 26, 2023

Jalen Hurts: What I Can't (And Should Not) Unknow

“Once you know some things, you can't unknow them. It's a burden that can never be given away.” —Alice Hoffman, Incarnation

I am seldom contrarian, but I believe the American playwright and author Alice Hoffman got it wrong. While I agree that once you know, you cannot not know and I concur—it is a burden—I would argue it can be given away. In fact, I have to give it away! Why? I don't know what else to do with it.

Let that serve as my warning 49er fans. If you want to keep the Eagles—the enemy in this Sunday's NFC Championship game at arms length—please stop reading here and now.

In preparation of the NFC Championship in the City of Brotherly love, here in the Bay Area, local sports talk radio can't help but debrief and dig up the dirt on our opponents. The Eagles are the divisional favorites and hoping to secure what would be their first NFC title since 2018. Philadelphia and San Francisco have only played one time against each other in the playoffs—and it was way back in 1996. The Eagles lost to the 49ers, 14-0, in the wild card round of the playoffs.

QB1 for the Birds, Jalen Hurts is one of five finalists for this season's MVP. Chosen as the 53rd player overall in the 2020 draft, the team is undefeated this season when Hurts has started the game. I listened to stat after stat about this offensive weapon for Philly and then something unexpected came my way: Hurts surrounds himself with an all-women team.

What? Did I hear that right? Last time I heard about an all woman team, it was from Coach Muffet McGraw. She was highly lauded and heavily criticized for pronouncing she would not hire another man on her coaching staff. 

As written in the New York Times, “When these girls are coming out, who are they looking up to to tell them that’s not the way it has to be?” McGraw continued. “Where better to do that than in sports? All these millions of girls that play sports across the country, we’re teaching them great things about life skills, but wouldn’t it be great if we could teach them to watch how women lead?”

"Enough of the declining percentage of women coaching women’s basketball teams. Enough of the limited female representation in Congress. Enough of confining gender roles. Enough of the gender pay gap." In short Muffet McGraw has had enough. 

For Hurts, the decision to hire women was born out of respect and admiration for the example set by his mom and sister AND a DM from Nicole Lynn, his agent.  

As written by Brandon Sneed in, Jalen Hurts Hopes to Inspire Change With His All-Women Team

Lynn went to OU law school and her husband played football there, years before Hurts. Before becoming a Sooner, Hurts won a national championship with Alabama; Lynn already represented about a dozen Crimson Tide alumni, including offensive tackle Quinnen Williams, the highest drafted player in the school’s history. Lynn also lives in Houston, where Hurts is from. 
“All this synergy,” she recalls now. So she fired off the DM on impulse. “I didn’t expect him to even see it.”  
Hurts saw it; he was still in the process of finding an agent. “I wanted to hear her out,” he says now.  
Hurts cared about her résumé, her experience and how he trusted her. He thought: What the hell else mattered? “People are going to doubt her because she’s a woman in this industry,” he says. “There was a sense of doubt. Why is she doing this? Can she represent a quarterback? What’s she going to do with him?”

That decision was the first of many others in what Eagles fans hope is a long, healthy and successful career.

The Sports Illustrated piece adds

As Hurts began laying the groundwork for his career, he hired women to run his life around football. Choosing Lynn as his agent was just the start. From media relations to marketing to brand client services support, women run things for him across the board. “I’ve put a lot of trust and faith in a female-driven team,” he says, pointing to Lynn and naming others such as Chantal Romain, Shakeemah Simmons-Winter and Jenna Malphrus on his media relations and client services management team, along with Rachel Everett, who handles some of his marketing.

Hurts doesn’t usually voice his opinions or engage in the discourse of the day; he prefers to focus on football. But seeing what he’s seen, and thinking about his sister coming up as an athlete, and simply growing up and becoming more aware of how many people in the world treat women—well, he wants to add his voice to that conversation. “My goal in speaking out on this is to advocate for and support the investment in women in sports,” he says.

Muffet McGraw happens to be from Philly. If there's something in the water, we need more of it. All I know is I heard the story. I read it. I have nothing on Hurts. I truly respect his principles and values; I cannot help but applaud the decisions he has made. Dang it. It's always easier when you dislike your opponent. 

Check out the video for yourself. Type in Jalen Hurts 600

I also learned he can squat 600 lbs. Amazing

I cannot say I will be cheering for him (or his team) this Sunday—but this is something I learned...something I cannot unknow....and for those of us involved in sports and fans of sports: it must be given away.

Photo Credits
Jalen et al
Female Team
Jalen Profile
600 Lbs

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Beyond Good Vibes: Prayers for Damar Hamlin

"Prayer works."

"Pray for Damar."

"Prayer is real. And it's powerful."

Perhaps you heard these words in the days following the Bills vs. Bengals game.

The Monday Night Football game for Week 17 of the NFL season changed the tenor around the water cooler. The Tuesday morning conversation did not entertain typical questions such as Who won? Did they cover the spread? Who is now on injured reserve? or How did the outcome affect rankings for the playoffs.? Oddly, strangely and beautifully, a lot of talk  focused on prayer—not good vibes or thoughts and prayers. Prayer. 

Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed January 2, 2023 after tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins during a routine play. According to a statement by the Bills, the 24-year-old athlete suffered cardiac arrest following the hit. Gina Christian – OSV News wrote, "Medics worked for 10 minutes to restore Hamlin’s heartbeat as Bills team and staff members knelt in a tight prayer circle around him. Hamlin was admitted to the University of Cincinnati (UC) Medical Center, initially sedated and on a ventilator."

Video circulated online of Bengals fans reciting the Lord’s Prayer in the stands. On ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky, a former N.F.L. quarterback, told his colleagues on the live broadcast that “it’s just on my heart that I want to pray.” Bowing his head and closing his eyes, he did so. 

While it's not uncommon for athletes to thank God or give credit to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I have never seen an analyst go off script in this way. What might be even more interesting is that those in the studio appeared to be equally engaged and ready to join him. 

Tre Tipton, CEO of a Pittsburgh-based mental health coaching firm and a former wide receiver for the University of Pittsburgh claimed “Damar got the whole world to pray. God allowed Damar to get the whole world to pray.” 

The whole world? Not sure about that? But millions of people? I think so.

In the past five to ten years I have noticed that the number of people who are comfortable using the word "prayer"has decreased. Many are hesitant to ask for prayers. Others are reluctant to offer prayers for someone or something. Whereas I once heard someone say "I will pray for you" before a surgery, a job interview, and travel, today I hear "I will be thinking good thoughts."

One reason for offering "thoughts and prayers" is the fear that we might offend someone. I would argue whether or not one is religious, spiritual or both, if YOU believe in God—if you are a person of prayer—to offer to pray for someone is a gift. When I have heard those words they have brought me comfort and connection in a way that sending "good vibes" does not. 

Prayer isn’t a magical formula for getting what we want, and it isn’t reserved for ‘holy’ people, people practicing a faith tradition or for special times or places. Prayer is talking to God.

What happened with Damar Hamlin got people talking to God. He changed the narrative. We continue to hear people praying for him and his ongoing recovery. We also hear society asking a lot of questions. We should. 

The good news is that a life of prayer, more than likely, reveals more questions than answers.  And prayer enables us to live with the questions.

In his memoir Night, Elie Wiesel writes,

And why do you pray, Moishe?  I asked him. 
I pray to God that he gives me the strength to ask Him the right questions.

A fair question is not "Did these prayers work? but "Why? "Why did Damar survive? How it is that he lived and others die?" Big questions. Honest questions? Are they the right ones? Another good question.

The book Praying with Thomas Aquinas, states

Aquinas argued that by God's design we do cause things to occur when we petition God in prayer, not because we change God's will, but because God has willed that if we pray, certain things will happen. If we do not pray, those things will not happen. In recognizing those things, we grow in recognizing our dependence on God and on the meaning of God's will for us.

Aquinas' conviction calls me to pray and to really give myself—my time and attention to prayer.

Bills tight end Dawson Knox, said “Prayer is real, and it’s powerful. Constantly praying for Damar and his family."  Aquinas would approve. I agree.

What questions did the events surrounding Damar Hamil raise for you? Did you bring any of those questions to prayer? Are you comfortable offering to pray for someone? How do you feel when someone offers to pray for you?

God's love and grace has worked through the most popular sport in America to heal and help us consider what we believe and why.

Sending Damar, his family, friends and teammates love and prayers.

Photo Credits
Family Note
prayer Circle

Sunday, January 15, 2023

One Way to Teach About Icons: Three Things You Might Not Know about MLK

When teaching about an icon, I have learned: don't assume anything. For example, before we read about Mohandas Gandhi as a Spiritual Hero, I asked the class "Is Gandhi alive or dead?" A good number of students did not know. 

While we grow weary of reviewing basic biographical facts and some statements feel like near platitudes, we have to teach and learn about the greats, such as —American heroes, past presidents, living legends, world leaders, religious figures and more. One way to do this is of course through an individual's interest in Sports and Spirituality but here's another path: three things you might not know about "z." Given the national holiday in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. there's no better time to start.

While football fans—the 49er Faithful in particular—need to actually LEARN something about starting quarterback, Brock Purdy, challenging my class to consider three things they do not know about MLK served as an effective hook. Each one became its own talking point. I would like to believe this activity can move students beyond a one or two dimensional understanding of a person's life. Each one of us is large, we contain multitudes. Thank you, Walt Whitman.

Take a look for yourself. The History Channel's website offers 110 Things You Might Not Know About Martin Luther King Jr. I took creative license with this information in order to create my three that reflect Sports and Spirituality. 

1. King's Birth Name Was Michael, Not Martin. Growing up, "Mike" played baseball, basketball and football with his sibling and friends. While King was not an athlete, but he understood the importance of athletics. In 1963, he told a reporter that he did not have adequate time to indulge in sports. He also told the same reporter that he wished black athletes supported King's non-violent movement on the field. 

2. King Entered College At the Age of 15. It's not surprising King was such a "
gifted student that he skipped grades nine and 12 before enrolling in 1944 at Morehouse College" but it is very impressive. MLK is this HBCU's most noteworthy alum, but the Olympic champion hurdler, Edwin Moses is mightily impressive, too. 

3. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Cesar Chavez are the Only Other Americans to Have Had Their Birthdays Observed as a National Holiday. And each one invites reflection on the person, their life's work, their mission, legacy and impact. I have a Sports and Spirituality connection for each. 

I begin Christology—the required Sophomore Religious Studies course I teach—with three things you might not know about Jesus. 

well, this is certainly a new way to think about Jesus...

1. Jesus probably spoke three languagesCan you guess which ones?
Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek

2. Jesus' 12 Apostles were probably in their late teens: In the first century, when a boy reached his early teens, he became a man. Women married at around age 13. Renowned scholar Craig Keener, argues that the twelve apostles were most likely in their late teens.

3. Jesus was tough. While some students argue that is not a surprise—He carried His cross and was crucified, I connect it to the home he grew up in. People know that Jesus' earthly father Joseph was a carpenter, but to call him a tekton is more accurate. 

Tekton means a general craftsman; some even translate it as "day laborer."A tekton would have made doors, tables, lamp stands and plows. But he probably also built stone walls and helped with house construction. In short, Jesus might have been yoked.

Following the examples of Jesus, I ask students to put on a notecard three things we might not know about them. I teach them a little bit about myself through this same exercise. For example, I have hole-in-one insurance. Or I find it oddly fitting that I grew up on Wimbledon Road at Ygnacio Valley Blvd. My first love in sports was tennis. Wimbledon is the crown jewel of the Grand Slams. Ygnacio is Ignatius....and Ignatius of Loyola, the saint has had an impact on my life. They offer some great fun facts/talking points of their own!

MLK is an icon, an American hero, and a religious figure worth discussing, learning from, teaching about and celebrating. To observe his birthday with a national holiday is but a starting point whereby all citizens can reflect upon his life and legacy. He left us too soon, but as I learned on the 10 Things You Don't Know About MLK list, he almost left us sooner.

I once read that MLK's favorite prayer was the Serenity Prayer. Let those words guide you in your work for justice, equality and building the Kingdom of God here and now. Thank you, Dr. King!

Photo Credits
10 Things
Serenity Prayer
Yoked Jesus

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Sports Nourish Us: Reflections on Game 3 of the 2022-2023 Bruce Mahoney

Whether it be the table in a science lab or classroom, the Eucharistic table at mass or the table in the faculty dining room, Father Mike Gilson, SJ taught me that Jesuit education happens at tables. Tables bring us together; they are where we learn some of life's most valuable lessons. And at lunch the day after the Bruce Mahoney game, I was reminded of something so basic and obvious but important and true: sports nourish us.

Sports give us something to chew on and competition among student athletes provides plenty of sustenance. Whether you coach, attend or play in a game, sports spark conversation, elicit opinion and draw out debate. Athletic contests call us to question what is good coaching, the importance of discipline and sportsmanship, the gift of raw talent, playing up or missing the mark. The home opener, a rivalry game, and the post season provide a school community with a reason to come together. And every once in a while, what happens on the field, court, in the pool, or on the course is something to savor.

The St. Ignatius boys' basketball team secured the third win of the Bruce Mahoney rivalry with their 78-58 win over Sacred Heart Cathedral before 3,000 fans at USF’s War Memorial Gym. The quest for the trophy is decided by the best of five games: girls' volleyball, football, girls' and boys' basketball and baseball. This "W" gave SI students, faculty the nourishment we needed amidst our long, rainy days.

I sat down to a crowded lunch table and heard my colleagues asking Did you go to the game? Where were you sitting? Others offered remarks like "I thought the student section was well behaved" and "The deans did a great job." "The kids had a ton of spirit" reverberated from one table to another. #SIPride

Another commented on the smart use of the cheer "he's a freshman." As written in the San Francisco Standard, "If the St. Ignatius student section chanted “he’s a freshman” every time one of Caeden Hutcherson, Steele Labagh or Raymond Whitley scored, they would have never stopped." The A.D. leaned in and said "the future looks good."

Much to the delight of my colleague from Detroit, I admitted every time I heard Caeden's name, I thought of the Lions' first round draft choice, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. How old is he? asked another teacher. I said "Are you asking that because the quarterback from the University of Georgia is 25?"

Others were impressed by our colleague who just returned from maternity leave and attended the game. At lunch she was excited to share that when she realized one of her students, a freshman was a varsity starter she had to go. The teacher who covered her class last semester asked if he could come by class and congratulate him. "I want to tell him to keep his grades up, too. He can do it." As I listened, I was reminded that teaching after a big win is so much easier...and fun. Way to go 'Cats!

Though we sports fans prefer to win— I would argue that a win is not necessary for the nourishment that sports provides.

This past fall, my brother, niece and I attended the football home opener at Notre Dame. The morning after, my friend Father Paul Kollman, CSC hosted us for brunch at Corby Hall. Home to the priests and brothers of the Congregation of Holy Cross, we were the only people sitting in the dining room not dressed in clerics. 

My brother, Mark looked over his shoulder and said to me "that's Monk Malloy, right?" Monk was the University President from 1987—2005. I was hoping to get a chance to talk to him because Mark and his family just moved to the neighborhood in Washington DC where Monk grew up. Unfortunately, there was never a break in the conversation at his table. Why? He and the five other priests were talking about the game.

The Irish lost to the Thundering Herd of Marshall University 26-21. The Irish had a streak of 42 straight wins against unranked opponents home, no less! Tough one to swallow, but there was a whole lot to chew on. I noticed that campus celebrity, Father Pete McCormick, CSC was an animated over eggs as he is in every Fightin' Irish media video, pep rally and basketball game. I realized that  coming together the morning after at table, broke down the disappointment, discontent, and dissatisfaction of high hopes for a season that started 0-2.

We left Corby and Mark said "I couldn't believe they kept talking about the game." I thought, I don't even know how many of those priests are big football fans, but in the strife, struggle, guts and glory it's hard to deny, sports nourish us.
In Sports and Spirituality, I ask my students to name what feeds their soul. For me, the answer is easy. My soul is nourished when I see people I care about reach their potential, use their talents, pursue their passion and achieve their dreams. Time and again, sports is a sacred space where this plight plays out. Not always, but time and again....yes.

Already looking forward to 
Game 4 in the Bruce Mahoney series as the Wildcats take on the Fightin' Irish. Same time, same place. Wednesday, January 25. Let's Go!

Saturday, January 7, 2023

FIT—My One Word Theme of the Year: What's Yours?

I won't go so far as to write 22 highlights of 2022, but if I had to, one would be attending the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Spyglass Hill Golf Course (the tourney is played on three courses)I arrived late Friday afternoon and joined my friend who had just completed her volunteer shift. We ventured out to watch the remaining groups. We were so busy catching up and enjoying the gorgeous afternoon, I actually didn't pay attention to who we were following. As fate would have it, there was so much down time on the back nine that it was easy and natural for the celebrities and golfers to interact with the fans. I looked over and realized one of my favorite singers—Darius Rucker—was in the mix.

Too often known as Hootie. Rucker is an excellent golfer (I've read his handicap is as low as a 4 and as high as an 8). I could hardly believe he was so up close and personal, as his music had recently and unintentionally found its way into my playlist. He looked at me and said "have we met before?" I was so caught off guard, I didn't say much. If I were to press rewind, I would have told Rucker how much I love his music and in particular his voice. It is so pure. That is the word I use over and over to describe his voice.

Well, if I see him this year, I will let him know he is a big reason, pure became my one word theme for 2022.

Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Kraft of The Happiness Project taught me about the power of a one word theme. On their blog, Rubin has written,

At the beginning of a new year, many of us look for ways to make our lives happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative in the months ahead.

I love these kinds of exercises, so for 2022, I: made new year’s resolutions, joined the yearly challenge—this year, to “#Outisde23in23,” and made a “23 for 2023″ list

There’s another kind of exercise I love: identifying one idea, summarized in just one word or phase, as the overarching theme for the coming year. choose one word, or a short phrase, to sum up what we want to focus on for the new year. When we distill our aims into a single word or phrase, it’s easier to remember it — and to take action.

Though a loyal listener, I had never chosen a one-word theme. However, when I found myself saying the word "pure" more and more, I thought maybe I ought to do something with it. 

My missed opportunity at the AT&T led me to stay at talk to John Angotti, a talented liturgical musician who came to Saint Francis High School to sing and teach music students. A long time fan, I love his voice because it's so pure—unadulterated, unfiltered. Its sound is powerful—so potent. It's pure.

After class, I made a point of telling  John how much I love his voice. "It's so pure," I said, with both gusto and conviction. I mentioned "as a music fan, I love singer songwriters and in particular I am drawn to a pure voice, similar to those of Darius Rucker, Ronnie Milsap, Wynonna Judd and yours." He nodded in understanding. He said, "My ex-brother in law was in the band Hootie and the Blowfish. "Hold My Hand" inspired "I Send You Out (Mission of Love)." And then he sang  the opening lines of both songs...."With a little love, and some tenderness... pause to speak: That paved the way to I send you out, on a Mission of Love." I nearly lost it. AMAZING!!! Pure and more pure. I had my word; I was all in.

In my prayer life, I began to reflect upon  the purity of God's love. God's love for us is beautiful. It's powerful It's true. It's pure.

I came to realize what I sought in the game of golf was to hit my irons pure. There is no better feeling. The outcome or result of my shot was of less consequence if I hit the ball pure. (It still matters, don't get me wrong!)

I was not seeking approval or affirmation for my word of the year. However, when I read the meaning of my mother's maiden name, I knew I made a choice that will stay with me in 2023.

I went on a two week golf trip to Ireland with 13 other women. We all made many purchases and among my favorites is a keychain for my mom of her family crest and the meaning behind her name. The back side of it said "A personal name meaning bright or pure." My word for 2022—pure— is part of my family lineage.

The Happier Project offers a list of words that you might consider for your one word theme. They included examples they have used in the past and why they are using their words today. While I did give it a glance, I prefer to let the word come to me. My sense is there is a word that is circling in the atmosphere for you to catch and capture. What is looming in your latitude?

For me the word for 2023 is fit. Who doesn't want to be more fit in the year ahead. I know I do. I think I will feel better if I am a little more fit. I enjoy going to the gym and I always feel more energized when I do—both personally and physically. This morning, I got my body fat measured. #fun. Therefore, 2023 is a year to get fit.

2023 is also a year for me to reclaim its power. I have been told "it's not a fit" personally and professionally. Fair enough....but I'm here to figure out how I can make it fit, or at least try to to do that. 

I'm excited to see other ways that being "fit," making things "fit" and a good "fit" will emerge in the year ahead. 

What is your word or phrase for 2023? What word or phrase can you use to serve and guide you in the days to come? Are you looking for one? Or will you let it come to you? Let me know what sticks...and fits. Happy 2023!

And one more good song...Pure Love by Ronnie Milsap

Photo Credits

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

23 for 2023: Sports AND Spirituality 2.0

Rest for 22 in 2022? No way! Play 22 new golf courses and attend mass at 22 new churches? Yes, please.

The annual challenge put forth by the Happier podcast last year did not appeal to me. Though I understand the benefits of napping and believe I too would be better if I were to slow down and make time for rest each day, I knew this was a goal I would not achieve. 

According to James Clear, the author of Atomic HabitsAn Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, the second and third laws of creating a good habit are: Make it Attractive and Make it Easy. As far as my 2022 challenge was concerned, neither law applied to me. I know myself, it would not be easy, nor was it overly appealing, either. Therefore, I took license to create my own yearly challenge: my Sports and Spirituality 22 for 2022. 

As written about in Reflections on My 22* for 2022, I found my way onto new golf courses and new churches 22 times in the past year. I loved this exercise so much, I figured Why should it end? James Clear would agree—the intention behind setting a good habit is to keep it and a goal is to reach it. Is not the point of creating a challenge is to master it?!

Therefore, my goal is 2023 is to attend 23 new sporting events and liturgical experiences. This challenge allows me to play a new golf course and/or go to mass at a new church but it also invites in other forms of both sport and spirituality. For example, I am HOPING to go to the French Open or Wimbledon. Either tennis tournament would be a significant rung in the ladder of 23 for 2023. I have been a long time fan of high school boys' volleyball. I would like got get to a men's collegiate game. While returning to Notre Dame for a football does not count in the 23, seeing the Irish in Dublin against Navy does. Unfortunately, I know that will not happen.

This new challenge might account for some new liturgical experiences, too. For example, going to Confession at a new church or attending service at a church like the one where my student goes is exciting to me. There are so many different ways to engage in the spiritual life of the Church, I wonder what I will find and with whom I will journey.

The first law of "How to Create a Good Habit" is "Make it Obvious." The number on the year sets the simple standard. Relating my habit to Sports and Spirituality is a no-brainer. James Clear adds that is should be "obvious and visible." With a blog, a newsletter and a Facebook page, I can check that box real quick.

About half way through 2022, I decided to modify my goal. Given that I was traveling to Ireland for a 14 day golf trip that included 12 rounds of golf, I thought 22 courses would be easy (Law Three). I was wrong. However, I came up with a positive solution and enjoyed the challenge just as much. I can only wonder how and if this year will be different.

Naming a yearly challenge has served as a fun, interesting and intriguing way to talk about my Sports and Spirituality. It's financial cost is a lot or a little—one for me to decide (flights to London aren't that bad! They aren't great either!).

The Happier Podcast named "Outside for 23 in 2023" as this year's goal. They wrote, 

Go Outside 23 in 23” which challenges participants to go outside for 23 minutes every day in 2023. Going outside can include anything from walking to bird watching; from yard work to enjoying your morning coffee on your porch — as long as the door closes behind you, it counts! 
I like it but I'm already outside a lot for golf and for walking. I'll take my Sports and Spirituality 2.0 instead. Maybe I'll see you outside for one of them... Happy New Year!

Photo Credits
French Open