Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Santiago Pilgrimage Spawns Flowering of Literature: Hiking the Camino

We plan to cover "Pilgrimage" in our next Sports and Faith book.  We all know the term pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place made by people looking to find a more spiritual meaning in their lives. Those who go on the pilgrimage are pilgrims, seekers, trekkers, pellegrinos (ital.), or peregrinos (span.).  Pilgrimages were very popular in Christian circles for a long time.  In some ways, certain pilgrimage journeys have fallen out of favor. But in recent years, many Christians are adding them to their "bucket lists."  In the Christian world, there a pilgrimages to the Middle East, Rome, Lourdes, Fatima, Santiago and more.  Millions fly into to these places, but historically people walked to many and the journey was very important and meaningful.

The popular 2010 film, The Way, featured the resurgence of el Camino de Santiago de Compostello.  The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage that mostly runs through northern Spain to the burial place of St. James at the Cathedral in Santiago. An ancient pilgrimage that can begin in many different places.  One of the most popular tracts begins just across the French border in Saint Jean Pied de Port. The French route is 500 miles long and it takes people around a month of fairly difficult walking to make it. 

Pilgrimages like the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, illustrate a theme that we present at  Sporting Chance Press.  Pilgrimages involve substantial physical assertions dedicated to God and illustrate just how we "pilgrims" can dedicate our mind, body and soul to our creator.  In our Sports and Faith series, the idea behind Patrick McCaskey's books is not simply to show how athletes can be faithful, but to illustrate a fanatical desire to dedicate all we do for Christ.  For many people in modern times, the physical has been left out of the equation.

The Camino de Santiago has also spawned a recent flowering of literature by a diverse group of pilgrims.  One that I was interested in is simply called Hiking the Camino by Franciscan Priest Father Dave Pivonka published by Servant Books an imprint of Franciscan Media. Father Dave Pivonka's book looks at his Pilgrimage journey from the eyes of a young priest at his 10th anniversary of his ordination. His story gives us "pellegrino"-wannabes a taste of the journey--sore feet and all--but it also gives readers a taste of the faith experience that Fr. Dave experienced along the Way.  It seems that everyone's Camino  experience is unique, but with some similarities.  The pilgrims that make the trek find crowded hostels, physical hardship no doubt, and a lack of privacy that most Americans would find challenging.

In Hiking the Camino, we follow Fr. Dave's passage from the start.  He makes a decision to go; receives permission; finds a fellow priest to accompany him; gets his equipment; begins his journey; and then suffers along the way and experiences many great things that will cause him to forever think of his life before the Camino and after the Camino. 

I have to say that I was well disposed to reading Fr. Dave's book as I am a big Camino fan.  It was great to read Fr. Dave's narrative in that it gave me a sense of not only what one might experience, but it also examined Fr. Dave's outlook, his sense of love and holiness. His book offered a good example for myself.  I will never go on the Camino de Santiago myself, but I will use parts of Fr. Dave's experience to model my own journey to Christ.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Knock Knock...Who is there?...Read..Read Who...Read my book.

Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Won Three or More Championships examines the football lives of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL.  It's written by Patrick McCaskey, Senior Director of the Chicago Bears.  If you know Patrick, you know he is as enthusiastic about the Bears as he was when he joined the organization over 40 years ago when he graduated from Indiana University.  

One of the good things that happens when you are a football person and you work on a book like Pillars is that your appreciation of the men covered becomes ever greater and you also learn to value different approaches to the game.  

There are certain similarities between some of the coaches approach to the game. For example, Bill Belichick's serious, disciplined and well organized approach to team development is an awful lot like Paul Brown's. But you learn the differences as well. Brown was extremely well organized--so much so that he did not believe in long practices and lengthy nights for his coaches. I don't think Belichick agrees with that. And today there are many head coaches like Joe Gibbs whose assistant coaches work practically non-stop in extraordinary hours in preparation. 

Both Gibbs and Bill Walsh were said to be football geniuses.  Gibbs half time adjustments were famously productive and insightful. Walsh could make an apposing coach look silly, his game plans were so effective. But Gibbs was so confident in his management abilities that he started another sports career with his NASCAR team.  Walsh thought he quit the NFL too early and then he went back to coaching Stanford, but he worked a long time on a detailed football book called Finding the Winning Edge that can only be bought for hundreds of dollars today. 

George Halas like some other NFL founding fathers had to be concerned with the health of the league practically as much as their teams.  Only the Bears and the Cardinals survived since the first meeting at Ralph Hayes Hupmobile showroom in Canton, Ohio. Halas and Curly Lambeau had similar backgrounds in that they both were running their teams with survival as a premier objective and also actively being player-coaches the first decade of the league.  The differences though were many. 

I can go on and on, but you'll just have to buy yourself a copy of Pillars of the NFL for yourself.  Chances are  you will learn some things about some of the great coaches and maybe come to appreciate more the differences in approaches and how such varied approaches can work.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Lynch Third on Edmonton Eskimos Debt Chart

Jordan Lynch of Edmonton Eskimos
Jordan Lynch has moved up on the depth chart for the Edmonton Eskimos this season.  American football fans might be surprised to hear that Lynch frequently plays on special teams.  The bigger field in Canadian football makes for a more challenging game for quarterbacks in the CFL.  Teams may need more QBs than they would normally take in the states and they make use of  backup QBs on the squad. Lynch's athleticism has been used by Edmonton on kickoffs. He has seven special teams tackles. He has also come in occassionally to run an offensive play where his running skills are acceptional.This year Lynch rushed 39 times for 155 yards and four TDs. Luynch completed 3-of-4 passes for 14 yards and a touchdown. 

Back in the United States, Lynch played quarterback at Northern Illinois University and Mount Carmel High School. Lynch's home was on the south side of Chicago in the Mount Greenwood area.  Lynch played for the Chicago Bears briefly before moving to Canada.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of  Sports and Faith Book II: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout, and Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships .

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Jordan Lynch Making Headway in Edmonton

The Edmonton Eskimos have a number of quarterbacks and Chicagoan, former Mount Carmel and NIU Quarterback Jordan Lynch is being used right now where they need him.  Last season Lynch had a try out with the Chicago Bears.

This interview will give you an update.

Lynch is moving up in the rooster as the Eskimos traded Matt Nichols who was second in line to Edmonton starter Mike Reilly. Reilly is a veteran player who was injured earlier this season, but appears to be preparing to come to play the team's Labor Day Classic in Calgary.

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of  Sports and Faith Book II: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout, and Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships .

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dayton Dragons v. Lake County Captains Recalls Fred Merkle in Father's Day

The Dayton Dragons are a Class A Minor League Baseball Team in the Midwest League that is affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds.  The team is famous for its fans that regularly sell-out Fifth Third Field where they play and have routinely exceeded 500,000 plus attendance.

On Father's Day, the Dragons played out a game scenario that has been repeated occasionally in much the same way for well over a hundred years. The Dragons were playing the Lake County Captains from Eastlake, Ohio, a team affiliated with the Cleveland Indians.


Back on September 23, 1908, the New York Giants played the Chicago Cubs in a critical game that had great importance in the Pennant race.  The game was tied at 1-1 in the last of the ninth inning and Moose McCormick was on first base for the Giants.  Young second baseman, Fred Merkle came up next and drove  one into right field along the line.  Moose lumbered to third and Merkle played it safe and stayed at first. Shortstop  Al Bridwell was  next and he managed to line one into the center field giving McCormick more than enough time to tag home for the winning run. 

Merkle was a young rookie, in fact the 19-year old was said to be the youngest player in major league baseball.  He had been riding the bench for most of the season and he knew the drill at the end of the game when the Giants played in the Polo Grounds.  In the Polo Grounds, the second a game ended, the players scurried on out to the clubhouse before the crowd flooded onto the field to make their exit through the field.  And Fred did just that.  

The only problem was that the Cubs second baseman, Johnny Evers has been making noise to home umpire Hank O'Day that a runner on base in those circumstances was  supposed to follow to the next base and safely tag the base even when the runner ahead scores.  If the runner does not tag the next base, by Rule, Rule 59 in fact, the runner could be forced out and the run negated.

Technically, Merkle should have tagged second, but the rule was rarely enforced particularly when the ball made its way out of the infield.  In the Giants-Cubs game, the play was appealed. Witnesses suggested that the actual game ball had been tossed into the stands by one of the Giants and "a ball" perhaps not the actual game ball, had been eventually thrown to second to force Merkle was called out some time after the play had ended for most everyone.   Because the fans were swarming all over the field, once the appeal was made and Hank O'Day had called Merkle out, the game could not continue. 

In 1908, baseball was truly the National Pastime and since it was before radio,  the newspapers took the story to the nation.  According to one scribe, young Fred Merle was a "Bonehead"  and in New York especially, he was raked over the fires in print.  The storm might have dissipated had the National Baseball Commissioner Harry Pulliam ruled on Merkle's behalf after the Giants appealed the ruling.  But Pulliam collected witness accounts and gave the "case" even more media attention as he "held court" and decided the issue.  

Public Bonehead, Private Hero

When the season wound down and the Giants and Cubs were tied for the Pennant at the end, it was decided that the September 23rd game was ruled a tie and would be replayed on October 8 for the Pennant.  Although Merkle did not play that day, the Giants lost the contest and the Cubs moved on.  The ridicule went on for Merkle and tragically followed him throughout his remaining career and even after his death in some cases. The whole episode and the 1908 year and baseball season is explored in Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle.



And yet what happened yesterday, suggests that in baseball, even painful lessons are sometimes forgotten.  The Dayton Dragons were facing the Lake County Captains.  Jose Ortiz singled to left field to score Gavin LaValley from third base for the 5-4 win in the 11th. In this case, Dayton first baseman Paul Kronenfeld played Merkle's role and headed down the tunnel at the end of the game along with his other teammates and the umpires.  The Lake County Team and their manager, apparently felt that Kronenfeld had not touched the base and an appeal was made.  At this point, the Dragons manager Jose Nieves believed that since the umpires had left the field, the game was effectively over and the call should have quickly confirmed the 5-4 win.  But for some reason, a call was made to the umpires' supervisor resulting in a 33 minute wait.  Eventully, the game was ruled a 5-4 victory for Dayton.

The Captains final Tweet for the game:

 The call will stand, Captains lose and officially protest the game as well. Captains fall without actually allowing the winning run, 5-4.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Mike Sanford and Indiana State Football Program

Mike Sanford

Mike Sanford, a former quarterback for the USC Trojans of the 1970s, is in his third season as head coach of the Indiana State Football program and he is making strides to turn the program around. 

Last year, the Sycamores finished with an 8-6 overall record with its first trip to the playoffs since 1984.  Sanford was named the AFCA Regional Coach Of The Year.

The Sycamores were led by quarterback Mike Perish who ended his career with school record for pass completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns.  Last year he also set a season record for touchdown pass receptions at 21. Perish graduated from Marist High School in Chicago.

The Sycamore's defensive squad was led by Connor Underwood a First Team All-MVFC performer who finished the season with 94 tackles, a school record 13.5 quarterback sacks, and 25 tackles for a loss.  Underwood is starting his senior season. Underwood lettered in football, basketball, and track at Washington Community High School.  He played for Coach Darrell Crouch.

Coming on staff with Sanford, was linebacker guru, Brian Cabral, who came over from a long coaching career from the University of Colorado. Cabral is the Associate Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator. Cabral has been one of the nations top recruiters and player developers of Polynesian players for decades. 
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL, Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout, and Sports and Faith Book 2: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fr. Ted Schmitt Receives Sporting Honor Posthumously

Father Ted Schmitt
The Fr. John P. Smyth Award was given to Fr. Ted Schmitt (posthumously) at the Sports Faith International Awards Ceremony at the Marriott Lincolnshire on May 24, 2015.  The Smyth Award is given annually to an outstanding Catholic athlete or coach who has chosen a  religious vocation. Fr. Ted Schmitt passed away suddenly in December of 2014.

Father Theodore (Ted) Schmitt, was ordained at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in 2002 at age 57. He grew up in Chicago, the son of a Chicago Police Officer. He was an altar boy at St. Genevieve Grammar School and he attended DePaul Academy. He played several sports as a boy. He was inspired to consider a religious vocation by his Irish Catholic mother and parish priests. He went to St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Indiana.

After graduation, Schmitt taught and coached football at Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison, Illinois. After studying film at Northwestern, he was employed by Universal Studios in Chicago and a vocation to the priesthood seemed millions of miles away. He worked for Universal in Chicago, New York and at Universal City, California. He was a friend to many Hollywood celebrities. He became very successful, but found that he had become a “lousy human being.” A priest helped him sort things out and he enrolled at Mundelein Seminary in his 50s. 

As a priest one of his goals was to use athletics as an evangelical tool for Catholic grammar schools, high schools and non-Catholic ones. "Athletics, done right, can be a wonderful way to grow closer to Jesus Christ.”

Father Schmitt was football chaplain at St. Patrick High School in Chicago and Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park. Nazareth head coach Tim Racki reported Schmitt “said Masses or held prayer services before every game. We considered him part of the team." Schmitt saw Nazareth Academy recently win the Illinois 6A State Football Championship. Many said Father Schmitt played an important role in that accomplishment. He was also chaplain to the Streamwood Police and Fire Departments. He was an avid amateur boxer.

In his last assignment at St. John the Evangelist in Streamwood, he was credited with "re-energizing" the parish and was present in Washington DC as the school received the coveted Blue Ribbon Award. School officials state that with Fr. Schmitt's and other positive influences, the enrollment at the school has increased by 100.   

In December of 2014, the energetic and enthusiastic priest died unexpectedly.

For more information on the remarkable life of Father Ted Schmitt see Dolores Madlener's feature "Five Minutes with Father" in the Catholic New World.
The Fr. John P. Smyth Award is awarded by Sports Faith International that is Chaired by Sporting Chance Press Author and Chicago Bears Director, Patrick McCaskey.