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