Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Joy of Teaching and Coaching: Learning what students/athletes know and what they don't

On any given day, I'm simultaneously encouraged and discouraged, happy and sad, impressed and amazed, shocked and chagrined by what my students know and what they don't. 

While watching "In Search of Greatness," the legendary soccer player Pele admitted that he took up martial arts for two years because he needed to learn how to fall. As he spoke, the video aired clips from "Enter the Dragon." I was unsure if my students recognized either icon. When Bruce Lee came on the screen, I turned to my students and said "Do you know who that is?" They all did. I smiled.

Wondering when students learn about Bruce Lee. He was BORN in San Francisco ;-) 

I never assume. I always ask: Do you know...?!  This simple check-in is not to be underestimated. How? Why? Learning, education, the search for truth and the quest for knowledge is dynamic. It is an unfolding reality—both humbling and exciting. But it's not lightning in a bottle. 

For example, in his annual address to faculty, my friend Daniel McMahon, the principal of DeMatha High School said, "Indeed, all good teaching involves the imagination because good teaching begins with the twin tasks of assessing where a student is and then combining that with an imaginative sense of what they know and where you can begin." This is what makes teaching fun. I get to use my imagination, I plot a course, I anticipate the outcome—but what emerges in this shared journey is the tale of each class/each school year. No two are the same. Teachers and coaches know this, but reminders never hurt. Here's a fun one.

I teach Christology—the study of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. I use a variety of modalities to engage with Scripture. Given the complexity of the names in the Genealogy of Jesus (Chapter 1: 1-17), I told my class we would listen to the passage from a website, The Public Reading of Scripture. However, when I went to hit play it wasn't the same. What I had once used was no longer available and I didn't have the time to figure it out. Desperate for time (and not to read it), I typed in the passage of Matthew into YouTube search. One of the first choices available was a reading of Jesus' family tree by Johnny Cash. The man in black. Love his speaking voice. I hit play and thought "Let's do this."

Relieved to have the man in black in my pocket, I asked my students "Do you know who Johnny Cash was?" Crickets. "That's ok. I'm not totally surprised. There was a movie about his life. I Walk the Line. Does that ring a bell? Maybe one or two let on some familiarity. "Ok here we go." I pressed play.

Cash nailed it. What a powerful performance. Each name was given equal importance: Judah, Jehoshaphat, Boaz and Salmon, David, Solomon, Joseph and more. One begot the other, fourteen generations from 
Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. Amen.

Students were asked to choose a word or phrase to capture what they heard. I asked them to write their answer on the board; bloodline, generations, and ancestors stood out. As we were finishing up, I returned to YouTube and typed in "Ring of Fire." I told them "this is also Johnny Cash." Audible sounds of recognition took over the room. I let it play and went from student to student to check in on a different assignment. As I moved from one table to the next I realized something: everyone was singing. Boys and girls in perfect unison. I had no idea. 

Because that lesson took so many unexpected turns, I found the space to just go with the flow.  I was able to enjoy the moment for what it is...for what it was: Sophomores being sophomores. They were singing and working, proving me wrong and proving me right. Together we found a a place of true symbiosis—I teach and I learn. Students learn and in that noble, important task—they teach.

Fellow teachers and coaches, I invite you to be curious. Ask and assess where your students and athletes are with an open mind and heart. Create the space for things to go right and the space for your students and athletes to make them right when they go wrong.

Play the music. I hope they sing.

Photo Credits
Bruce Lee
Johnny Cash New Testament

Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Question that Haunts Every Sports Fan: Why Do I Care?

I ask myself some iteration of this question on a regular basis. Why do I care? As a sports fan, this question haunts me. Should I care? Why should I care?  Do I care? Do I know how to not care? Maybe this resonates with you, too.

It is so much easier not to care. Why? Caring asks something of us. It means we put our feelings on the line. It means we will have emotional highs and despondent lows. Caring means we take both the good with the bad. Still, I've lived long enough to know life isn't fair. Caring is an equal opportunity endeavor.

One could argue there are causes, people, and events worth caring about. Others, not so much. I don't disagree. Poverty, child abuse, a just immigration policy, the environment—all imminent, vital, real world problems, real time causes—each one worth caring about. Notre Dame's loss to Ohio State, Will Aaron Rodgers return to football? or Should the Giants fire both their manager and GM? No lives lost. No threats to world peace and yet these weigh in heavy on my care-o-meter. I don't know that I have enough in me to determine how much I should care about caring! However, I have found that caring about someone and something has served taught me quite a bit about myself, what I value and why. Keep caring. Here are a few thoughts on why...

Rodgers took flak for his old school headphones.

This past week, I started what I knew would be a very long work day with an early morning workout. I go to the gym from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. I hop on the treadmill for 10 minutes and then lift for 45. I try to stretch for five before I head out the door. However, within that 45 minutes of weight training, I know that usually 5 to 10 of them are accounted for by talking to friends and folks who are among the morning crew. These interactions buoy my spirits. I love checking in with others and getting their hot takes on last night's game, their progress on the no fat challenge and more. 

While they are not something that I ever considered "a given" these conversations aren't as organic or spontaneous as they once were.  Why? headphones. So many people are dialed into their music or podcast, that I have to make more effort to get another person's attention. Don't get me wrong, I know that many people workout to clear their head /enact some self care, but we share space. Are we not in this together...even when we are alone? I think I have to work on accepting an a new answer: clearly we are not. Furthermore,  instead of a simple exchange of words between reps, one must pause, pull out their ear pods, and listen. I feel like I am inconveniencing someone in just trying to connect. I think connection is important. It's the first step toward building a relationship, one that can become a friendship. We all need those!

Headphones are not and won't go away. I know that some people will remove them, but I do care about what's being lost. Should I?

Even after the loss, the team joins the student body in singing the Alma Mater.

I can't help but care because I fear how much more inside of ourselves we have become as a society. I don't know if I'm better by closing myself off to others. Again, I understand that some people need to be inside themselves in order to be present at other times, but at what cost?

Half way through that workout, one man was spotting his friend when he buckled and nearly dropped the weight. He yelled out "Jesus F***ing Christ!" It was a scary moment. I turned to make sure he was okay and saw that no one in the gym reacted. People around them didn't even flinch, and this didn't sit well with me. Again—Why? Why do I care? 

It's a bad habit and I'm not going to say I haven't done it—but taking the Lord's name in vain goes against God's commands. I value this commandment. I believe to honor someone or something is to respect their name. God's name is holy and worth reverence. The inclusion of the expletive is and was just too much...but that was coupled by the fact no one checked to see if this man was okay because they were dialed into their headphones. Something's off...

I left the gym and headed to work. On my way into the main building, I took note of just how many students were wearing headphones. I've always believed "Good Morning" is one of the easiest things to say to another person. To me, it's energizing. Even when I don't want to, when I acknowledge the presence of another person by greeting them with the day, I swear there's an endorphin release. Headphones or not, there are always people for whom the day is not good. But minus those ear buds, there's a much better chance we will catch what's worth hearing. Maybe I'm wrong.

This morning, I woke up with an emotional hangover. As a Notre Dame football fan, I have been here MANY times. I also know, I will be here again. And yet, none of this rational thinking lessens the blow. Nor does my question: Why do I care? Should I? How can I not care?

Caring for someone or something is a step toward love, real love. To care for another person takes time. It is rooted in relationship. We care most deeply for the people and places that matter to us, to whom we are connected. To live a life devoid of caring is safe and its secure. For some people and at sometimes, that might be necessary. However, for most of us who we are and what we value is revealed in moments like these.

SO for what it's worth: Thank you to the University of Notre Dame, Coach Freeman and the football team for putting up such a fight. Thank you for being a program that I am proud to support. You played SO tough (from the mouth of Coach Day). I wanted this win for the program and to continue what has already been a great season. It was an exciting game and we have other big ones yet to play. Thank you for giving me so much to care about.

Photo Credits
OSU Wins

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Coaches Calendar Part II: Four Reasons We Are Interested in NFL Head Coaches

At dinner the other night, a friend said "NASCAR is the most popular sport in America."

 "Noooo...." I said. I paused.

I wanted say "no amount of you not wanting football to be number one can or will change the numbers. Professional football is unequivocally the most popular sport in the U.S."

Instead, I kept it light.

"Football reigns supreme. While NASCAR is popular in certain places and to some demographics, think about it—football is on every Sunday, Monday night and now Thursday. College Game Day is where it's at. And as I wrote in my Caliente Coaches Calendar I believe Americans can name more head coaches than US Senators or Congressmen and women." Perhaps they are one significant reason we love the game so much. Thoughts?

Football has remained the country's most popular sport since 1972. As written in Football Still Most Popular Sport in America Despite Controversies

In 1960, 34 percent of Americans said baseball was their favorite sport, compared to 21 percent for football and 9 percent for basketball. Baseball has since lost ground to football and basketball. And now soccer is now almost as popular as baseball in America.

Despite its troubles, football remains the most popular sport in America. And the NFL is a mega-industry. In 2022, the combined value of the NFL's 32 teams was a whopping $142 billion, according to Forbes. If the NFL were a country, by virtue of the value of its teams alone, it would rank as the 56th largest economy — above countries like Croatia, Ecuador, and Kuwait.

I am confident extensive analysis and research has been done to explain "the why." Why we love this game, why it captures our time, attention and wallets. We can all probably name a few good reasons. Are coaches one of them?  Maybe. The purpose of this post is to take a deeper look at that. Why are we drawn to these leaders. We love them and we bemoan them. They are household names. Some people even create a passion project that profiles them! 

Before we begin, I do think it worth mentioning that noting the NFL's popularity does not mean it is above reproach. Greed and power, exploitation and violence associated with the game are frightening. I do not dismiss these problems. I believe critical analysis or concern is necessary. The game is not entirely tone deaf. Some changes have been made; other are barely even a work in progress. In spite of it all, I remain a fan.

Back to coaches....

Last year, my own Dad said to me last year, "I realized at one point in the season, my favorite Forty Niner was actually a coach. I asked myself Is this okay?" My father was talking about  Niners' (former) defensive coordinator, DeMeco Ryans. I said, "Wow, that was a team with a ton of talent on both sides of the ball." And still, I replied "Dad, I get it. I love it. I can see why." 

Ryans, who is now with the Houston Texans, was one of five new head coaches for the 2023-2024 NFL season. A former player, he was selected with the first pick in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft; he was taken 33rd overall. In the role of the Niners D.C., he was relentlessly positive—smiling and communicating directly with his guys. He was excellent at his job, not to mention tremendously fit. It's no wonder he got promoted and made the calendar. 

My interest in people like Ryans, what it takes to become a head coach, and how they handle the spotlight (and press conferences) sparks intrigue. Coaching is an art and a science. How one leads and why they do are worth discussion and easy to debate. Who gets hired and why others get fired are not neutral matters. People are passionate about football. 

And speaking of passion, this summer I undertook my own passion project that centered around NFL coaches. Thanks something I did—just for the joy of it—I can name all 32 coaches and fun facts about 12 of them. I think and hope I could name 32 men or women in the House or Senate; however, that might be optimistic. 

So what gives? Why do we care? Why do we know about these men? Why are they household names Why are we fascinated by them. Here are a few thoughts.

The Headset
Let's start with the obvious. That headset is much more than an accessory. Is it a symbol of power? prestige? I'll let you answer it. However, it is part of the allure. When they put it on and rip it off are an extension of the game. In the same way we know a doctor via the stethoscope, we know high level football coaches by the headset. 

They're Young:
Unlike the two popular candidates for President and other high profile leaders in government, the majority of NFL coaches are young—quite young. Last year, when Tom Brady was still in the league, at the age of 44, he was older than 40% of the head coaches. In fact, he was older than four of the seven opposing head coaches remaining in the playoffs— including all three opposing NFC coaches.

This year, the average age of a head coach in the NFL is 48.5. For the seventh consecutive year, Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams—is the youngest coach in the league. You can do the math— yes, he was just 30 years and 11 months old when the Rams hired him. And, Pete Carroll is the elder statesman at 71. Everyone will admit: he looks fabulous. 

Youth is not wasted on the young in the NFL. While experience is important, a diagnostic of those in charge of each team points to the truth—owners believe that younger leaders are just as capable. They are ready to perform, to lead and to meet the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual demands of the game. They have to be...the financial stakes are just too high. For those of us who are fans, it's refreshing and it's inspiring to see newer, younger faces in the fold.

They Lead:
This has to be both the spoken and unspoken truth. I think we are intrigued by coaches because they do something many of us don't want to do: they lead. They take a stand. They call the shots. Their mistakes are very public but their victories are even more!

I will speak for myself. I know so many people who do not want to take on the responsibility that leadership demands of us—often times, including me. It's tough to be the fall guy or fall girl. We know that leaders are constantly criticized, both publicly and privately. How? Why? Because quite often we are the ones launching the critiques and complaints. I know a lot of very talented MMQBs! 

However, I think we want to see real leadership. We want someone who will stand up and take risks. I am certain that many coaches feel pressure to do things along their "party lines" (read: what a GM or owner dictates) but for a team to win, it takes more than pure talent. It takes a head coach. We have seen how often they can and do turn a program around. It's interesting. It's inspiring. It's important!

They're Interesting:
The personal lives of coaches are seldom boring. For example, this week my students leanred that Robert Saleh became a coach because of his brother's experience in the South Tower on 9/11. Upon his survival, Saleh decided to leave his own job and pursue his passion. We can all applaud the courage that took! Watch the video here.

Many coaches are role models of professional and personal discipline. Yes, a good percentage of  NFL head coaches were former great athletes, while others came to the game because of their passion for it. They are talented, charismatic, dynamic and more. These are but a few reasons why we find NFL coaches so attractive. And they are...

In Conclusion:
This year, I'm not convinced that my Dad's favorite member of the Notre Dame football team  isn't the head coach, Marcus Freeman. While Irish fans love our running back, Audric Estime and our 24 year old QB, Sam Hartman, I know my Dad cheers from "Coach Free" as much as anyone. 

A sport like NASCAR doesn't really have the position of head coach in its system. While it's certainly popular and a subculture worth exploring, it's not football....American football for your soccer fans. Personally, I'm encouraged by the growing popularity of football among women. 24% of women self describe at avid fans ad 35% as casual fans (vs. 51% of men who are avid fans and 30% who are casual fans). The numbers of women and men who follow the game—paying attention to it, the players, rivalries, coaches and more make for a great conversation around the water cooler...or whatever our gathering place and space is today.

Photo Credits
Grading Coaches

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Passion Project: Coaches' Calendar ~ Caliente

Many times when one of my favorite Catholic writers, Matthew Kelly, asks a question—I don't have an answer. However, when I read this treatise on joy, that inner dialogue between us was different. In his newsletter, he wrote

"What do you do just for the joy of it? When was the last time you did something just for the joy of it? It is one of the things I admire in people. Many of the people I admire do much of what they do just for the joy of it. There are things they do because they are obligated to, and things they do because they promised they would, and there are things they do simply because they are the right things to do. But they have more of these other things in their lives, more of the things they do just for the joy of it.”

Do you have an answer? Here's mine.

thanks Owen!
This summer I embarked on an interesting, fun and nonsensical journey. I did it for the joy of it. I was not seeking profit or fame. Honestly, my goal was to make an idea a reality and see where it would go. I started referring to it as my "passion project." That title allowed me to put my free time and probably too much of my attention to what you see before you: The 2023 season ¡Caliente! Coaches Calendar. Here is the story behind it, lessons I learned and why you should pursue your own passion project.

Graduation Day. Inside the sleeve of my black robe was the June 2023 issue of Sports Illustrated. Known as the "Special Sauce" edition, the Jets' star cornerback Sauce Gardner graces the cover. Unfamiliar with this athlete, and that nickname I asked my friend—a trusted colleague and coach, Owen—if he had heard of the Defensive Player of the Year. We looked inside. Apparently, I had a reaction to the photo of Sauce with the Jets' head coach, Robert Saleh. I smiled when I saw his photo as I know and respect Saleh as the former defensive coordinator for my San Francisco 49ers. Owen read my reaction much differently.

"Anne!" he said. "I saw you do a double take when you saw Saleh. What is he in your hot coaches calendar?"

"Hot coaches calendar?!" I replied. "Do they have those?" I did what any Gen X woman would do, puling out my phone, opening the Amazon app and typing in NFL Coaches' Calendar. Nothing. Knowing that calendars are a near relic for anyone after Gen X, I intensified my search. Nada.

"Owen. This is amazing. I love this idea." The spitballing began.

One of the MANY reasons that Hard Knocks was so much more enjoyable this year...
He suggested seasonal themes, for example Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs) dressed as Santa for December. Another coach recommended including an online version that links the image of the coach to their schedule. I settled in on a QR code for each feature; it takes you to that team's schedule. I thought it could be educational as well, offering a fun fact for each coach. Graduation day is also known as commencement. In that spirit, I put forth my own personal challenge to see if I could get this done.

The Process:
I began by getting the 16 AFC and 16 NFC Team names and the head coach of each squad. In that same excel file, I listed each of their birthdays (which is included on that day of the year: fun fact: Doug Pederson: Jacksonville Jaguars and Robert Saleh: New York Jets, share a birthday!—January 31. Zodiac signs have been excluded.

Following the information gathering, I did an image search for 32 of the more powerful men in this country. With five teams led by new coaches, it wasn't as easy as I anticipated to find the "right" photo of each team leader. I wanted them donning their teams colors, logo and gear. Most wear headphones (I sometimes wish I did as a teacher), many sport sunglasses (eye wear says so much about a person) and others had on baseball hats. Knowing that the photo was essential in driving votes, I wanted a picture that connects to my criteria. (see below).

Fraternity of Coaches
The Polling:
I found a program that supported the ability to vote for twelve choices—a number that has no Biblical reference. I needed one coach for each month of the year. The website proved to be a user friendly resource as both a digital creator and user. You can see the poll I created here.  

My goal was to get 100 women to weigh in on this crew. I did what I could to draw a national audience, knowing that we all have a regional bias (not entirely sure if I lived outside of the Bay Area if Kyle Shanahan would get so many votes...but, Go Niners! and surely that explains how Bill Belichick got one vote). 

While I was not surprised that Matt LaFleur:Green Bay Packers, got the most votes, I WAS that certain people didn't make the cut such as Kevin Stefanski: Cleveland Browns. Even men have told me he is handsome.

Coach Stefanski, sorry you didn't make the cut. 

If you haven't already heard of or used Canva, you will soon. This design program does so much, including make a calendar. I was able go from production to print in a timely fashion. This was essential as the calendar starts in August (given that preseason football does too, and concludes in July).

Not For Sale:
I did a fair amount of research to ascertain HOW I could make these available for sale. Eager to just get the project done, my goal was to create a work-around so that sales would cover the cost and all proceeds would go to a nonprofit that supports the development of female coaches. The road blocks were too many. For example, I consulted an Intellectual Property (IP) right lawyer. I found out that after Disney, no one is more protective of their name and image that the NFL. I would need to get licensing permission (which is QUITE costly) for the use of any logos and pictures of coaches. In an effort to avoid a "cease and desist" letter, I made my own and have simply given them to friends and one is on its way to each of the twelve profiles ;-) Thank you, Donna for your support!

My good friend Anne Marie has a contact with the NFL so we will work among the proper channels and to determine what those 55 Park Avenue in New York think about all of this. Stay tuned. In short, doors will close but that doesn't mean the overall production can't happen in an appropriate way.

I tried explaining the calendar to Coach Vrabel...story that follows will not be put in writing

In Pursuit of Your Passion:
I would encourage anyone who wants to do something for the joy of it to make it happen. This idea, born at an unsuspecting time and place was fun to develop and create. I now can name all 32 head coaches in the league. Because of the fun facts included with each profile, I also know a little more about each person. On Thursday night, when the Lions took down the Chiefs, I couldn't help but say "I can't believe Dan Campbell didn't make the calendar."

With a passion project, some people will get it. Others won't. Regardless, it's been a fun process. One friend said "finally, a calendar that objectifies men." While was tongue and cheek, my goal was to share and show something different. In fact, the back of the calendar includes my manifesto. I believe it. I brought this to life. No one was cured along the way. No one was harmed either. Just a lot of joy and that is already spilling over to today: the advent of the 2023-2024 NFL season. Let's enjoy some football!

Thank you, Canva!

America is fascinated by coaches. We love them and we bemoan them. They are household names. One could argue Americans can know more NFL head coaches than United States’ Senators, let alone Congressmen and Congresswomen. 

What it takes to become a head coach speaks to our intrigue. Coaching is an art and a science. How one leads and why they do are worth discussion and easy to debate.

Many coaches are role models of professional and personal discipline. Yes, a good percentage of  NFL head coaches were former great athletes, while others came to the game because of their passion for it. Others have a strong desire to lead and a bottom line dictates they must do so. .They are talented, charismatic, dynamic and more. These are but a few reasons why we find NFL coaches so attractive. 

The purpose of this calendar is to showcase twelve NFL coaches who stand out. Yes, you will learn a little bit about their story as well as their birthdays and you will gain easy access to their team’s schedule. But, by hanging their photo on your wall, you will learn more about them on your own. Other people will react and respond. I can’t wait to hear about the conversations that follow. 

Who  you see in the printed project is the result of who over 100 female football fans find attractive.* The following criteria was used to guide their votes. 

Criteria in no particular order of importance:

  • Raw material (physical appearance)
  • Likability
  • Charisma
  • Talent (real or perceived)
  • Personal bias (it’s okay to support your own coach!)

Women were not required to know much about some of those metrics. The goal was to vote with what you can see and the results were determined from there.

I hope this calendar will only get you more excited for the 2023/2024 season and ready to support and cheer for the coaches you see here—including your own city’s! If legally copyrighted, all proceeds will go to an organization that supports the development of women in sports. 

Photo Credits
Sauce Gardner

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Less is More: Rules Changes to Baseball and Football in 2023

At a San Francisco Giants game this summer, my niece saw a shirt that read "Make Baseball Slower." We laughed. "Said no one ever," I replied. 

I won't apologize for this: I enjoy MLB games exponentially more now that the pitch clock is in place. And in case you haven't heard, college football has made some changes too. Thanks be to God. Here's why.

For the sake of clarity, the 2023 MLB rule changes: Pitch clock, end of shift and more notes the changes.

The new rule: Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Hitters will need to be in the batter's box with eight seconds on the pitch clock. 
What they're trying to change: The average time of a nine-inning major league game in 2022 was 3 hours, 4 minutes, which is actually a six-minute decline from 2021's all-time high -- but the time of game has been rising consistently since first crossing the three-hour mark in 2014.

On a philosophical level, I would like to engage in a conversation about what these newly imposed time constraints reveal about our society and me! Again, I don't want to undo this change. I feel relieved by the fact that the game keeps moving. I don't want to spend four hours at the yard. Is that a first world problem or what? 

But last Fall, I attended the Notre Dame vs. USC game at the Coliseum and began a blog posting I am only finishing now. The post was to be entitled "Threats to the Live Experience." In short, that game—the final one of the 2022 regular season—was so long, I wasn't sure I wanted to go back for another one. Here are the philosophical questions I raised last November. Fortunately, it seems that the powers that be made some changes.
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The holy season of Advent is upon us. It is a time of waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. The Incarnation. God become flesh and has dwelt among us. It made all the difference. I profess this truth with conviction and passion. Our showing up matters. God agrees.

The Incarnation prompts me to think of other ways when and where our personal presence matters. People travel long and far to attend the weddings of family or friends. The descriptor of "destination" is not required. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle goes so far as to say that true, authentic friendship requires seeing one another in person, on the regular! Many companies are requiring employees to return to the office, at minimum two days a week. Call it what you will—accountability or management—being physically present in the work place IS different.

My students are watching a film about a famous painting "Salvator Mundi" by the great Leonard DaVinci. "The Lost Leonardo" invited discussion on seeing art in person. Why is it necessary? Is it? I had to speak from experience. I was struck by the beauty and mastery of "The Mona Lisa," a painting I had seen in books, postcards, on television and in movies. And then, I went to the Louvre in Paris. To stand before it and gaze at that smile with my own eyes is unforgettable.

Art, friendship.ceremony and ritual, relationships and more are made palpable when we experience it for ourselves: in person. As a sports fan I want to wave this same flag long and strong, but attending the USC vs. Notre Dame game at the Los Angeles Coliseum has invited me to think otherwise.

Known as “The Greatest Stadium in the World”, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a living memorial to all who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War I, has been a civic treasure for generations of Angelenos. The legacy of events and individuals hosted in nine-plus-decades reads like no other. It is the only athletic facility to host a World Series, two Super Bowls and in 2028 a total of three Olympic Games!

Every time I attend the USC vs. Notre Dame game in So Cal, my eyes feast on something I have not noticed before. From the disciplined agility of Traveler, the Trojan horse to the Man of Troy striking his sword into the field at the 50 yard line to commence the game, t
he pageantry around game day experience is remarkable. Much of it hasn't changed in the 80 years the Trojans have played in the Coliseum. Their tradition is strong.

But I would be remiss if I waxed poetic much longer. Why? My experience was compromised by the fact the game lasted over four hours. And it was a good game! However, the number of TV timeouts, the clock that stops after each first down and one that should for each injury on the field made the game much longer than it should be. 

The last minute of the third quarter and the first of the fourth took over 16 minutes to complete. I know because I timed it. It's one thing for fans on the field to handle the stop and start, touch and go. For the athletes on the field however, this reality affects the momentum, energy and arc of the game. I have to believe the lag impacts one's concentration, feel for the game and more. Tom Brady is known for saying "Let's Go!" This is not possible given the constraints of college football.

I write of this as a threat to the live experience because the game is different if one is watching at home. A viewer has several options. For example, my Dad intentionally starts watching a game about 25 minutes after it starts. This allows him to fast forward through the TV timeouts and commercial breaks. By the end of the first half he has caught up, only to start watching Q3 about 20 minutes after halftime ends. For those who prefer to DVR a game, so long as you can block the social media noise, the comfort of one's couch and the flat screen await. Inside a Sports Bar, there are no weather conditions. One can bond with other fans and heckle the rivals at bay. 

Earlier in the season, I noticed outside of Notre Dame Stadium, some parking lots charged $85. I sincerely hope no one paid that much. While most game tickets won't cost what it takes to see Taylor Swift, many are cost prohibitive, especially for families. In short, I get it. Attending sporting events in person are a privilege and a luxury. And it's worth considering: Is it worth it? 

I would argue that is a legitimate question sports fans should answer. I have my bias toward advocating FOR the live experience but I acknowledge the threats and challenges to it. Again, in spite of all the pageantry of the USC game, the opportunity to be in the historic Coliseum and share the game with a former coworker, I wasn't sure I would pay that money again.

HOWEVER, I write this post because the good news is, those running the shows recognize we are not passive consumers. People are paying attention to our attention spans, to what we are seeking and how the live experience can get better. Yes, the talent on the field is essential, the qualities of the facilities—sight and sound matter, but the flow of the game and the time it takes from the first bell until the last is important. From the officiating on the field to clock management, media involvement and much more, the live experience depends on many variables. And yes, we are an important one of many.

After Notre Dame's win over Navy last week, my Dad called to tell me that college football just got a lot better. While I was thinking of Sam Hartman as the Irish QB1, he told me about the rule changes that were implemented to shorten the game. I suppose to collapse of the Pac 12 dominated the narrative of the impending season...but, wow! what a welcome amendment. And how ironic that the photo on the webpage features that ND vs. USC game.

Our presence at games—in the stands, bleachers, on the field and sidelines matter. Weather, cost, other obligations all present their own challenges to being part of something that can be very special. I always want to live a life of gratitude; I don't want to take anything for granted. I write that because watching and attending a sports content is for the sake of entertainment.  Whether a game is two sets or makes it to three, extra innings, overtime or more than four hours shouldn't matter...but it does. 

Spending time with a friend or family at a game is a good way to make the most of time—a precious resource. But if we want the live experience to live on, let's engage wisely. With MLB and college football, like some other things in life—less is more. Here's to a great Fall... of fewer minutes on the field?!!!

Photo Credits
Salvator Mundi
Make Baseball Slower
ND vs. USC