Thursday, October 12, 2017

Rome and Our Book Pilgrimage

Dome of St. Peter's Basilica, Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.,  Flicker, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
When were working on the Pilgrimage book by Patrick McCaskey, I knew that the book would serve as a survey of holy places for people who might make the trips, as well as a book for people like myself who are pilgrim-wannabes. 

Historically, one of the big shakers and movers in pilgrimage travel was the Emperor Constantine--who was responsible for not only making Christianity  legal, but building great churches in both the Holy Land and Rome.  Constantine made Christianity the church of choice for the Roman Empire. Some churches replaced  Pagan temples and buildings--some people have a problem with that, but replacing one church with something completely different has been done in many places. Of course, we live in a world where people want to reinvent history in ways that are contrary to past renderings, but Rome actually did feed the Christians to the Lions and killing Christians had been a sport for the Romans during many periods before Constantine. 

Constantine started building churches in the 4th century. His mother, Saint Helena, traveled to the Holy Land and visited historic Christian sites and also brought back some relics to Rome. In time, many of Constantine's churches have been replaced by more elaborate buildings, but his presence is still strong. 

At times, a trip to the Holy Land was not safe. The churches in Rome would often get extra attention during these times. Today, pilgrims love the Holy Land, but they love Rome and all it offers as well. The Holy Land remains a special place for three major religions (Jews/Christians/Moslems), but Rome is a special second home to Christians. Because of the multiple cultures in charge of the Holy Land and to some extent its churches, the buildings could never get the extraordinary attention and exacting detail that the Church in Rome applied to its surroundings. 

Many people don't realize it, but a lot of the effort, fund-raising and expense involved in building the new St. Peter's (1506-1614) took place during the Protestant Reformation. The decay of the original St. Peter's took place during the time of the French Popes and the anti-popes--much of the time when Rome was not the center of the Church. The new St. Peter's is called by many "the greatest thing in the universe" and few will argue the point after a first hand view of the Basilica.  

As European kings squabbled among themselves and fought over church property and church control of property in their own kingdoms, church leadership was challenged. Some might suggest that the Church was too active in various national affairs, while others point out that the kings and royal families often exerted influence on the church. Royal families and their progeny sometimes had a role in Church leadership. 

Pilgrimage covers the history of the pilgrimage sites concisely for readers. It also includes stories of athletes who in some cases were influenced by their visits to the sites. Also included are the author's observations and inspired writings on all things McCaskey. Pilgrimage is the Third Book in the popular Sports and Faith Series. It's a great study for those who will appreciate some church history offered concisely and simply.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Ora et Labora

The following passage is from Sports and Faith: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout by Patrick McCaskey, Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press.

The Rule of  Saint Benedict has been a fundamental guide for monastic life for many centuries.   Saint Benedict lived around 500 AD and  Saint Benedict’s Rule has since served as a guide for those who wanted to live in community and in faith.  The term “ora et labora” (prayer and work) describes the Benedictine way in a nutshell.   Saint Benedict’s  Rule encourages community members to avoid idleness and directs them to spend their time in prayer, labor, and sacred reading.  The “Rule” advocates a balance in life that keeps people on task. 

Of course, many Christians keep busy outside of monasteries.  We are not all meant to be monks, ministers, or other Religious, but we can forge a kind of life of prayer and labor.  Many of the best in sport have done just that.

Bob Cousy Wakes Up Boston to Basketball in Sports and Faith II by McCaskey

McCaskey Sports and Faith II
The following passage is from Sports and Faith: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout by Patrick McCaskey, Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press.

The Boston Celtics were not a very good basketball team before Bob Cousy arrived from Holy Cross in 1950.  Cousy became the most beloved athlete in Boston.  The “Houdini of the Hardwood” was a great ball-handler, passer, and shooter.  He was only 6-foot-1, but he had speed and quickness, great peripheral vision, big hands, and long arms.  He played for the Celtics from 1950-1963 and during that time he led the league in assists for eight years in a row and played in 6 championship seasons. His record breaking 28 assists in a single game that he set in 1959 held until 1978 when Kevin Porter got 29.  He scored 16, 960 points in his career—an average of 18.4 per game.  He had 6,959 assists—an average of 7.5 per game.  He averaged 5.2 rebounds per game and he held a .803 foul shooting percentage.

Cousy was an NBA All-Star every season he played and was named the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player in 1954 and 1957. He was named the NBA Most Valuable Player in 1957.
His play excited the Boston fans and the city developed a taste for the game.  His 50 point performance in a playoff win against Syracuse in 1953 made an impression on fans that they simply never forgot.  He went 30-32 at the free throw line and scored 12 points in the game’s fourth overtime period.[1]  Playing for the great coach Red Auerbach, Cousy was always passionate and driven to succeed.  His behind-the-back dribbling and passing punctuated his approach that was part showman, part street ball, but all explosive.  His passes were so quick and disguised that in the early days they bounced off his teammates’ bodies and heads.  When Cousy had the ball, everyone on the court was challenged to “stay in” the game every second.  When Bill Russell came to Boston in the 1956 draft, the Celtics’ championships seasons began.  They won 6 out of 7 championships with Cousy and Russell. Then Russell and the Celtics won 5 out of 6 championships after Cousy’s retirement.

In the “Vision Books” series for children, Bob Cousy is portrayed in the first book called Champions in Sports and Spirit by Ed Fitzgerald.  Cousy came from a French immigrant family of limited means and he never forgot those who struggled around him.  His faith was fundamental.  In Champions in Sports and Spirit, Cousy is quoted:
“While I was at Holy Cross, I received Holy Communion on an average of three times a week for the whole four years, and I feel that any success I may have had at school and since my graduation can be attributed to the religious foundation I was able to build there.”

Cousy’s family home is in Worchester, Massachusetts, where he and his wife Marie raised their two daughters, Marie Colette and Mary Patricia.  Bob and Marie brought their daughters up with a strong sense of social justice that included attending civil rights rallies.  Cousy called his wife “Missy,” and while he was frequently away due to his demanding playing and coaching career, he was absolutely devoted to her. Missy began suffering from dementia about the year 2000 after 50 years of marriage.  Cousy put his husband skills in overdrive and did everything he could to care for his wife and see that her remaining years were comfortable—helping her maintain a healthy routine, fixing her medication, reading the newspaper with her, and taking care of her needs for over 12 years of decline.  She passed away in 2013.      

Boston fans who were around during Cousy’s playing career will remember Cousy’s Celtics farewell ceremony on  Saint Patrick’s Day of 1963 his final regular-season game at home in Boston on the way to another championship.  As Cousy was choking back tears during his goodbye speech, a fan shouted out, “We love ya, Cooz.” Tears flowed and applause followed for one of Boston most beloved athletes. 

Cousy received an honorary doctorate of human letters from Boston College in 2014.  In honor of the great guard, the Bob Cousy Award is given to the top collegiate male basketball point guard annually by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

[1] Jeff Greenfield, The World’s Greatest Team: A Portrait of the Boston Celtics from 1957-1969. 

A Little on Notre Dame and Catholic History

McCaskey's Sports and Faith II
The following passage is from Sports and Faith: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout by Patrick McCaskey, Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press.

Catholics were once thought of as scruffy superstitious people by many other Americans and at many schools they were not welcome.  Benjamin Franklin and others of the colonial period referred to Catholics as “Romans.”  Franklin would sometimes attend mass and sit in the back of church as if he was studying a primitive culture and its practices. 

A little college in South Bend, Indiana, grew into a great source of Catholic pride on the football field in the 1920s.  The school was actually quite ecumenical with its players and coaches—you didn’t have to be Catholic to play or coach the Irish.  The great Knute Rockne did not become a Catholic until just before his son was to receive his First Communion when the coach had been at the school for several years.  Rockne himself was impressed by his players who he saw wake up very early on game day to attend Mass.  On the road one day, Rockne could not sleep and went down to the hotel lobby where he saw player after player head out to church.  He followed and he was impressed by his players’ piety when he saw them receiving Communion.  The players also seemed stronger and Rockne sought the same experience.[1] Many of the fighting Irish are not Irish or Catholic, but it is wonderful to watch the singing of the “Alma Mater” after home games.  Addressed to Our Lady, the patroness of the school, the song was composed by ND graduate Joseph Casasanta with lyrics written by ND President Father Charles O’Donnell.  It was first performed at Knute Rockne’s funeral in 1931. When singing the alma mater, students of all nationalities and faiths put their arms over each other's shoulders and sway as they sing.  Some smile and think nothing of the song’s lyrics while others are obviously in prayer. 

Many sports historians believe that it was Notre Dame under the great Knute Rockne that became the first “national team” in the college ranks.  Rockne himself was so beloved and respected that when he died in a tragic plane crash in 1931, the entire nation mourned.  Condolences came in to his widow from all over the world.  Movies followed the Rockne legend and then more movies were made after more legends took shape.  Notre Dame Football won national acclaim.

[1] Severin and Stephen Lamping (translation, arrangement, and foreword), Through Hundred Gates: By Noted Converts from Twenty-Two Lands (Milwaukee:  Bruce Publishing Company, 1939) 41-42. 

Catholic Grade School Football and Seasons of Faith

The following passage is from Sports and Faith: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout by Patrick McCaskey, Copyright 2015, Sporting Chance Press.

The McCaskey family is tied to several Christian Churches over the generations—Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Catholic.  Many of my friends have similar backgrounds.  The influence of an Irish Catholic Grandmother on my dad’s Scotch Irish side and a Bohemian Catholic Coach on my mom’s side helped bring the McCaskeys of my generation into the Catholic school system.  Catholic schools in many areas made grade school football teams popular.  Football continues with many Catholics into high school and college.  I had to quit football after high school, but I would have loved to have played at Notre Dame.  Serious eye disease cut my play short.  My time had come to seek something else.  So over the decades I have been running in the Senior Track Circuit. 

As my family and friends head into each new football season in the fall, we are reminded of the special affection we have for football.  For those who played on or cheered for  Catholic Grammar School teams, who can forget the glorious Sunday games after church when  the entire parish stood over at the park hugging the sidelines.  The cheerleaders’ sharp chant of “push ‘em back, push ‘em back, waaaay back” still echoes today.  On the field there was the knocking of helmets, blocking, tackling, and running like the wind amidst the cheers of what seemed like thousands.

The cheerleaders often got a better workout than the football players as homemade pompoms were thrust out in millions of quick moves, leaving thousands of tiny crape paper streamers all over the field!  And back when smoking was acceptable in public places, there was the strong smell of cigar smoke as Dads and Grandpas lit up just before the kickoff.  Priests in their long cassocks and birettas would often find a good spot to watch the action and sometimes the Sisters would come over to the field as well.

In many places, Catholic Grammar schools were the only grade schools to offer football --it was a truly Catholic School experience.  Prayer was often a part of a team’s “preparation” and if any player was injured, quiet prayer could be felt throughout the crowd.  Grammar school football still goes on at many parishes and most everyone has an opportunity to play or cheer.  School colors are always present and school emblems with religious significance are seen in great number in these public places.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Lombardi and Noll: Two of the Toughest Coaches in the NFL

On the surface, Chuck Noll and Vince Lombardi were very different coaches.  Lombardi was hard as nails on his players and he motivated his team with emotional talks and take your breath away rants and raves on the practice field.  Noll was direct and a man of few words.  When Noll did elaborate, sometimes he lost the thread of his message and his players lost the meaning.  Mostly, he kept it simple.

But both coaches spent endless amounts of time to reach the same two objectives: 1. Creating the toughest team in  the NFL.  2. Creating the most fundamentally sound team in the NFL. 

Who could argue that Noll's Steelers and Lombardi's Packers were not both tough and fundamentally sound.  

Vince Lombardi Hall of Fame
Lombardi's catch phrase, "winning is everything,"  has often been misunderstood to mean that winning by any means is acceptable.  But his players would likely tell us that the "any means" had more to do with their training than things they would do to opposing teams.  By sacrificing their bodies and routinely using every ounce of energy in practice, they became a formidable team on the field.  Lombardi sought to have his players better prepared than any other team.

Noll's catchphrase was "whatever it takes." Again, it's easily misunderstood.  Noll expanded on the notion to say that "whatever it takes"  to become the best team   was his meaning.  For Noll, like Lombardi, it was all about sacrifice for the team, work for the team, playing your role for the team.  

For both Lombardi and Noll, their objectives of toughness and fundamentals was demonstrated and forever remembered in two of pro football's greatest highlights.  

Packers' 1967 NFL Championship Game

Ice Bowl Program
The Packers played the Dallas Cowboys for the NFL Championship on the last day of the year in 1967.  The Packers had a secret weapon—Mother Nature.  Few NFL games have been so well celebrated and memorialized.  The Packers had seen plenty of cold weather before this game, but the so-called “Ice Bowl” was the start of much of the lore and legend surrounding Lambeau Field.  From this game forward, Green Bay fans would not just tolerate the cold at Lambeau, they would relish their “frozen tundra.”

The Cowboys were leading, 17–14, on the Packers’ frigid home field in the fourth quarter.  With only 4:50 on the clock, Lombardi’s offense looked 68 yards downfield to the goal and began a 12-play drive for the win.  They would need almost every second.   

A determined Starr completed a pass out in the flat to Donny Anderson for a 6-yard gain.  Chuck Mercein found enough running room outside for a first down.  Starr tossed one down the middle to Dowler over the 50-yard line and Cornell Green who was struggling with his footing was able to grab and throw Dowler down hard on the tackle to the frozen ground.  It was nip and tuck all the way.  Anderson received a handoff from Starr, but was tackled in the backfield.  It was second down and 19 yards to go for a first on a field that was quickly becoming an ice skating rink.  Starr looked around and tossed Anderson an outlet pass that the halfback turned into another 12-yard gain.  Starr followed with another short pass to Anderson who gained the first down.  Chuck Mercein was targeted next and after the catch he ran the ball down to the Dallas 11-yard line.  Mercein had the hot hand and took a handoff from Starr and ran it up the middle to the 2-yard line.  Anderson rushed to within inches of the goal and a first down.  The tough, determined Cowboys’ defense stuffed two Donny Anderson drives.  Starr went to the sideline and told Lombardi since the backs were slipping, he would take the ball himself on a wedge play, which normally goes to the fullback.  Lombardi famously responded, “Then do it and let’s get the hell out of here.”  As Starr jogged back on the field, the tension in the stands was almost unbearable.

Starr stood behind center with 13 seconds remaining at the 1-yard line with no time outs.  He raised his hands to quiet the crowd and the ball was snapped on a quick count.  Jerry Kramer jumped out at Jethro Pugh, hitting him low, followed by Packer center Ken Bowman hitting Pugh high.  Cleats scratched on ice and Pugh was driven backwards.  Starr shadowed Kramer and plunged into the end zone for the score.  Mercein, who thought Starr was going to hand off to him, trailed the play and raised his arms in the air so the officials knew he was not pushing Starr into the end zone—an infraction that might have caused the Packers the game.  Millions watching thought Mercein was signaling a score! The fans realized that Starr had scored and in the midst of an arctic field of dreams came the deafening roar of the crowd.  Chandler kicked the extra point. 

Defining Moment for Noll’s Steelers

Immaculate Reception Commemorative Football
The defining moment that ended the string of frustration and put the Steelers into a new winning way came at the very end of the divisional playoff game on December 23, 1972.  Pittsburgh had the ball on its own 20-yard line with just 1 minute 20 seconds to go trailing the Oakland Raiders 76.  Bradshaw was no miracle worker in those days and five plays later, the Steelers were still 60 yards from pay dirt with only 22 seconds remaining.  Bradshaw threw over the middle to “Frenchy” Fuqua, but Raiders’ defensive back Jack Tatum crashed into Fuqua and the ball with such force that the ball flew backward like it had been redirected by some unknown hand.  Franco Harris grabbed the ball off his shoelaces in stride and eluded tacklers on his way to the end zone for the score and the win.  The play was called the “Immaculate Reception.”  Although the Steelers went on to lose the AFC Championship to the Dolphins, they made an impression with football fans, their competitors, and most importantly, themselves.  They had arrived.  Noll’s Steelers were winners and now with the Immaculate Reception, it seemed like they had fans in high places.

Harris personified what it meant to play fundamentally sound and give it everything he had.  Although he was apparently out of the play, he kept his head in it and when the ball bounced off Tatum  he was able to pick it up and run for the score.  The extra point gave the Steelers a 137 victory.

In the waning moments of both games, the players took stock of themselves and played solid fundamental football as a team.

Chuck Noll, the great Steelers' coach and one of the greatest coaches in NFL history died this past week. 

Copyright Sporting Chance Press

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships that is available at select bookstores, Amazon, and the publisher's web site.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Our Football Lovers Bible: Pillars of the NFL

Whether you are a football coach, journalist, or fan, Pillars of the NFL: Coaches WhoHave Won Three or More Championships is a football lovers bible that offers biographies that examine the football lives of the greatest coaches in NFL history. 

And Amazon has it on sale now!

These are the game's 10 greatest legends who outsmarted the field, time and time again. It is not a book of strategies and drills, it's a book about the greatest coaches and their players. It a priceless book for those closest to the game.

Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships is published by Sporting Chance Press and written by Chicago Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey.  The Pillars themselves are the greatest coaches in NFL history--determined strictly by the number of championships.  Ten coaches have won three or more championships: George Halas, Guy Chamberlin, Curly Lambeau, Paul Brown, Weeb Ewbank, Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, and Bill Belichick.

1. George Halas was a great man and great coach, but every once in a while he recharged his batteries and stepped back and watched others coach. He was a master at so many things, but he never felt like he knew everything and was always learning. He would bring college coaches into his camp and would pay attention to their ideas. He was very competitive and made it through some very tough times by tightening his belt. 

2. Curly Lambeau was a fine judge of character and he was able to recruit players to his club. His training and demands were tough. He saw  the passing game as something to be developed even before the rules were created that would allow for much of it in the league. He kept in touch with his former coach at Notre Dame, Knute Rockne, and they shared ideas and discussed players. 

3. Guy Chamberlin was a Nebraska farmer, but he knew the way the game was played. He played both defense and offense.  He saw football as great escape for a few years from the farm and the dry spells that happened. He loved the game and he would have expected his players to show the same passion. 

4. Paul Brown father was a railroad man with a watch--he learned to use his time wisely. Brown scripted his practices and made the most of the time he spent on the field. His players were skilled and he had classroom sessions and playbooks. He wanted smart players who were focused on learning and bringing discipline to the game. The color of a man's skin was irrelevant.

5. Weeb Ewbank was a small man who loved working with men. He never let his ego get in the way of creating a winning environment. Whether teaching players, handling salary relations, or negotiating a player's return, he kept his wits and his sense of humor. He succeeded in different played with different teams and he was at his best building a team. 

6. Vince Lombardi has been hailed as a disciplinarian. His methods were considered old fashioned and not workable for the modern player until he made them work for championship after championship. He learned high school and college coaching before the pro game. He was middle aged before he led the Packers. He grilled his players on plays until they became perfect at executing them.  He came very close to pushing them too hard and having a revolt, but he learned to back off at just the right time.  Once his methods were successful on the football field his team was practically invincible. 

7. Chuck Noll brought in critical players who would act as change-makers on his Steelers. These players would not accept poor play from their teammates. He started with Mean Joe Greene and was often working with black schools recruiting players that most teams would  have over looked. He created a mindset with his team that only exceptional hard-nosed play would be present. They all worked to win championships and to make their teammates Hall of Fame players. 

8. Bill Walsh was primed to be a head coach, but didn't get his chance until long after he thought it was due. And Walsh perhaps more than any other of the greatest coaches, had times where he suffered from a personal humiliation because of failure. Other times where he could walk out on a field and the opposing coach would worry so much about what Walsh's moves were going to be, he could not execute his own. Walsh seemed like he was a couple steps away from the abyss and a short leap to glory. He was hard to please and spend endless hour in preparation.  While he looked like a Physics teacher or a golf pro, he was a pugilist at heart--a former boxer with a passion for social justice. 

9. Joe Gibbs learned from every coach he worked with in football. He had a tough life as a child and then achieved a level of financial success that was almost unheard in both coaching and owning Joe Gibbs Racing. Gibbs was also a coach who played his hand as it came. He had certain ambitions when he started his NFL career, but he decided to create game plans to match his personnel not his own wishes.  He relied on a core group of coaches who he retained and he was considered especially brilliant at making half time adjustments. Like facing Bill Walsh, opposing coaches knew they had to be at their best to win against Gibbs. 

10. Today's football fans know Bill Belichick's mantra: "just do your job." And that goes for everyone connected to the team. Players are better prepared, they are trained in multiple positions, teammates and coaches are constantly reviewing their performance, everyone is expected to "man-up" and accept criticism. Players on the practice field get coached on their play under a myriad of game situations. The Patriots are a proud organization and each year the rest of the NFL can never take them for granted. Rarely are they not at the best at season end. Rarely does Bill Belichick get out-coached. 

Pillars of the NFL is a coaching tool, a football researchers handbook, and an NFL fan's guide to the history of the game

Bears Trivia Questions

I was asked to help make up some questions for a contest at a fundraiser in Kenosha, Wisconsin, for Catholic Radio Station WSFI 88.5 FM. If you are having any football parties or gatherings with Packers, Bears or other fans, these might add a little enjoyment to the event. I will post other questions in the coming days. Included are questions on several coaches. The questions came from research we did on the top 10 coaches in NFL History for our great book: Pillars of the NFL by Patrick McCaskey. The Station can use your support so if you'd like to use the questions and send them a few bucks, that's great--see their web site. Regardless, you have our permission to use them for non-commercial use. 

Halas Illustration, Copyright Bill Potter

Football History

Copyright 2017, Sporting Chance Press

1.     George Halas knew something about clothes, his father’s occupation was what?

2.     George Halas adopted what university colors for his Staleys/Bears who he dressed in navy blue and burnt orange.

3.     According to the Bears’ fight song, they stunned the nation with what  in  the 1940s?

4.     A Halas player called Sweetness was who?

5.     George Halas signed the heady former quarterback of Columbia University to run his offense in 1939. His name was?

6.     Who did Hall of Fame NFL Coach Guy Chamberlin play for, compete against and eventually praise by saying: “Everything he has fought for over the years has been for the good of the league, not just for the good of his job.”

7.     George Halas was a fan of what other professional team that influenced the name he picked out for his football team after its move from Decatur?

8.      After Confession, George Halas would come back to his downtown Chicago office and say his what?

9.      George Halas won how many NFL championships as coach? 

10.   George Halas won how many NFL championships as coach and owner?

11.   In 1931, George Halas’s Bears business partner wanted to sell his stake in the team and the original arrangement called on Halas to come up with the funds needed or forfeit his stake in the team to his partner. Halas was able to come up with the funds at the last minute. What was his partner’s name?

12.  Halas originally signed a spectacular running back who many believe brought enough people to football games to save the NFL from ruin in its early days in the mid-1920s. Nicknamed, the Galloping Ghost, what was his name?

13.  Halas’s Bears took on this nickname after the University of Chicago, who had originally used it, cancelled their football program. What is the nickname?

14.  This exemplary running back played for the Bears for his entire pro career from 1965-1971. In this short time, his play was so spectacular that he is honored in the Hall of Fame.  What is his name?


1.     George Halas knew something about clothes, his father’s occupation was what? (tailor).

2.     George Halas adopted what university colors for his Staleys/Bears who he dressed in navy blue and burnt orange. (the University of Illinois).

3.     According to the Bears’ fight song, they stunned the nation with what  in  the 1940s? (the T-Formation).

4.     A Halas player called Sweetness was who? (Walter Payton).

5.     George Halas signed the heady former quarterback of Columbia University to run his offense in 1939. His name was? (Sid Luckman).

6.     Who did Hall of Fame NFL Coach Guy Chamberlin play for, compete against and eventually praise by saying: “Everything he has fought for over the years has been for the good of the league, not just for the good of his job.” (George Halas).

7.     George Halas was a fan of what other professional team that influenced the name he picked out for his football team after its move from Decatur? (Chicago Cubs).

8.      After Confession, George Halas would come back to his downtown Chicago office and say his what? (Penance).

9.      George Halas won how many NFL championships as coach? (six).

10.   George Halas won how many NFL championships as coach and owner? (eight).

11.   In 1931, George Halas’s Bears business partner wanted to sell his stake in the team and the original arrangement called on Halas to come up with the funds needed or forfeit his stake in the team to his partner. Halas was able to come up with the funds at the last minute. What was his partner’s name? (Dutch Sternaman).

12.  Halas originally signed a spectacular running back who many believe brought enough people to football games to save the NFL from ruin in its early days in the mid-1920s. Nicknamed, the Galloping Ghost, what was his name? (Red Grange).

13.  Halas’s Bears took on this nickname after the University of Chicago, who had originally used it, cancelled their football program. What is the nickname? (Monsters of the Midway).

14.  This exemplary running back played for the Bears for his entire pro career from 1965-1971. In this short time, his play was so spectacular that he is honored in the Hall of Fame.  What is his name? (Gale Sayers).

Lawrence Norris is also the author of The Brown and White, a fictionalized memoir told with great humor and warmth of his days in high school.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sporting Chance Press Publishes Pilgrimage Book in Sports and Faith Series: Great Year to Cover Fatima and Other Holy Sites

At Sporting Chance Press we published a book called Pilgrimage; it is the third book in our Sports and Faith Series by Chicago Bear Vice President Patrick McCaskey. This year, pilgrimages have been especially important with the 100 year anniversary of 100th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Fatima. 

Locally, Bishop David Malloy is celebrating a Fatima Anniversary Mass on October 12 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Rockford, Illinois, at 7 PM. At the Mass, the Bishop will offer the consecration and services of the priests of Rockford Diocese to Our Blessed Mother. 

Sporting Chance Press Pilgrimage book by Patrick McCaskey
Pilgrimage explores various Christian shrines and holy places popular with today’s trekkers and seekers. Awakened by modern fascination with places like the Way of Saint James, many athletes whose achievements are celebrated in this Sports and Faith book, have made pilgrimages part of their faith journey. The Holy Land, Rome, Lourdes, Fatima, Assisi, and several other places of interest and their origins are examined. 

Author Patrick McCaskey has peppered the book with his own poems and narratives on all things McCaskey. The popular author’s poems and his own literary and papal pilgrimages are here. McCaskey shares personal episodes that readers will find simple, insightful, and touching. Pilgrimage shares stories of exemplary athletes and others who are successful in sports and life. These writings are often the product of the author’s efforts on behalf of Sports Faith International, an initiative that honors devout athletes and coaches. In Pilgrimage, some of those featured have left sports for religious vocations—a college volleyball star, an Olympic Speed-skater, and a professional (female) football player! Add to these, stories on coaches, teams, and athletes of all shapes and sizes, including some who have struggled mightily with their sport and their calling.

Sports training as a metaphor for religious growth and is found throughout. Athletes train seriously for sustaining endurance, improving their skills, and maximizing performance. Many faithful Christians use such training to make a difference for the unfortunate, teaching young people, and working tirelessly for others. These efforts are featured. Pilgrimage includes some stories you may not expect: The story of Lou Gehrig, the great Christian gentleman of baseball. EWTN sensation, Bear Woznick, devout Catholic, radio and TV host who challenges people to abandon themselves to God, and live a life in pursuit of God’s will in the boldest, most rewarding way possible. Then there is Mark Philippi, a nationally recognized Strength and Conditioning Coach and Power-lifting champion. Another story features West Point graduate and army officer, April Ortenzo, who is following her family’s example of service and sacrifice to others.

Pilgrimage is a well-rounded offering that helps readers on their own faith journey through the examples of many others. Some readers may not be able to make a life-changing journey across continents and oceans, but this book can give readers some insights and enrichment. For those seeking adventure and travel in their future, here’s a personal introduction.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Willpower, Good Habits, Temptation, and The 10 Commandments of Baseball

In sports, we often talk about willpower. And willpower has certainly made a difference in many athletes careers as well as in most of us regular folks' lives.  An athlete who has willpower for workouts and practice, also needs it for studies. You can be a good athlete, but if you don't apply yourself in the classroom, you may flunk out of school and end up with a lot less options. On the other hand, a good athlete who applies his or her efforts in the classroom may end up with a scholarship or may be able to succeed in other ways.

But, if you are using willpower alone, you may find yourself running out of gas when the going gets tough. There are other lessons from life that can help.

Good Habits

Good habits ingrain actions that may have taken willpower in past, but now puts them on automatic pilot.  The person who thinks too much of the doing the things that need to be done and relies solely on willpower is going to have problems. Good habits lead you to act in positive ways without sweating it. 

If parents teach their children to be honest, the kids can take that with them through life. 

I remember working at a shopping mall as a teenager. A women bought something at our store, but left without her purse. One of the clerks saw it (he had learned good habits) and without hesitating he alerted the other employees that it was there. A teenager near by heard how the purse was left  (who had not developed good habits) and he came over to claim the purse--saying that his mother had left it and told him to come by and see if it was there. Another employee (who was inexperienced) turned it over to him and he promptly  headed for the exit. My brother who was also working at the store knew better and yelled at the boy to stop.  Within about 30 seconds several of us were chasing the boy down the mall--he finally dropped the purse and escaped. 

Avoid Temptation

In church circles, they tell you to avoid the temptation of sin to avoid every kind of evil. I say avoid the "nasty." You may have some forewarning in advance, so keep your head up on this one and save yourself from a lot of misery.  When taking that business trip avoid going out with the party crowd especially if the party can provoke other things.  A co-worker may be friendly and lively, a good person to sit with at dinner after a long day at a trade show or a meeting, but if you have this sense that it can turn into something else, excuse yourself from going to the dinner--you have something else to which you have to attend. 

When you face a situation that seems to drain you of willpower, experiments have shown that you may be likely to give in to something that comes along very soon after the first situation.  It reminds me of when  you deal with one of your kids who asks you for permission to do something so obviously stupid that you wear yourself out in the argument. But shortly after that argument, another request is made to do something you don't like, but it is less harmful and you give in.  You have to keep your head at all times.

I suspect that many parents talk about the "home rules" and get their kids to understand them before they get a bunch of requests that might wear them down. My mother used to tell us that "this is no flop house" that we were not going to come and go at all hours as we got older. On the other hand, our friends were free to come home with us at a reasonable hour and spend the night.  This was no small sacrifice on my mother's part as our house was tiny and it meant that there were often several young men often spending the night--sometimes on the dinning room floor and other times playing cards in the kitchen till all hours.  But all of us were safe and our friends regardless of their own situation at our home were always welcome at ours. 

If you use enough emotional tools it should help you prevail. There are many books today that talk about kids acquiring an emotional toolkit. 

There are also many good behaviors and habits that come out of faith based education and training. Of course, bad behavior can come out of faith when it is corrupted by people who misuse it.

Larry Norris is the Publisher of Sporting Chance Press. Readers of this post may like The 10 Commandments of Baseball. The 10 Commandments of Baseball discusses 10 great principles of legendary manager, Joe McCarthy, that have been taught in baseball settings for over 100 years. The book is also produced with great historical photos and many buyers have told us that it is a "keeper" and holds a permanent place in their library. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Great Thoughts from the Greatest of the NFL

We've published a book called Pillars of the NFL by Patrick McCaskey that covers the football lives of the top 10 coaches in NFL history. A study on the great men of the NFL is a worthwhile exercise. And the book is very interesting. These men were very different and yet they were all winners. The book is large, but it briefly covers each coach. It also includes illustrations by Bill Potter and some great historical photos.

Great ideas came and continue to come from NFL thought leaders. Here are five personal principles (paraphrased in some cases) culled from NFL legends that coaches/trainers should help instill in their “players.” These are general principles that should be of interest to people in every walk of life.
Illustration, Copyright Bill Potter

1. “Never go to bed a loser”—George “Papa Bear” Halas

George Halas's Chicago Bears became a premier sports enterprise and this little principle was his way to promote great effort every day.  Halas was a man’s man and he could be blunt. I like this quote because I am sure it comes honestly. I can’t see a speechwriter coming up with this one.

2. Treat everyone with kindness, but never let anyone mistake kindness for weakness—Art Rooney, Sr.

Rooney was a boxer, baseball player, and a sports promoter whose family continues to play a leading role in professional sports ownership along with many philanthropic causes. This reflects the reality and sometimes when people work with very successful men, they ask for things—not necessarily trying to take advantage of them, but just in course of business or even for charity. This was a saying for Rooney and his family to follow.

3. Love and respect all, but fear no one—Wellington Mara

Wellington Mara owned the New York Giants football team and he was one of the most advanced thinking owners. Mara also spent a lot of time on league business. Like George Halas, he was one of the men responsible for seeing the NFL survive as well as his team. Coming from New York, Mara had a lot of critics and at times he had to be very tough. He had to be fearless.

4. You don’t necessarily have to like your players, but as a leader you must love them—Vince Lombardi

School-teacher Lombardi was a legendary motivator who focused on basics and preparation. He was the toughest football coach of his time. His players were ready to hang him from the rafters in Green Bay, but then they started to win. The players learned that as tough as Lombardi could be, his purpose was to make them as good as they could be.  And he was accomplishing it.

5. Focus on your job—focus on what you do and do it right—Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick runs the tightest of organizations. He can often be heard in key situations telling a player, “just do your job.” Belichick has had some great results from players in his very special system. He can cut things down at times to very defined roles.  Some people don’t last in Belichick’s system, but other excel because they learn what is expected of them. And that makes all the difference in the world. 

Principles are often short and sweet, but have a deeper meaning for people as they consider their implications. 

Copyright Sporting Chance Press

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Pilgrimage Goes Round to Famous Sites

Our new book, Pilgrimage, looks mostly at traditional religious sites and provides information that readers will find useful and interesting.  Places like Lourdes, Fatima, Rome, the Holy Land, Mexico (Gaudalupe), Canterbury, and others are discussed. In Rome and the Holy Land, there are many churches built to celebrate certain events and people.
  • What was the history of the construction of St. Peter's?
  • What was the greatest church in Rome in the early days and who built it?
  • What miracle was performed at Tabgha and what church commemorates it?  

Saint Francis, Saint Claire, Saint Issac Jogues, Saint Giles, Saint Bernadette, Saint Thomas Becket  and many other saints are examined as the book goes round to the pilgrimages sites. 

And like other books in our Sports and Faith Series, the author, Patrick McCaskey, looks at top athletes who lead exemplary lives.  Many of these athletes have identified pilgrimages that have inspired them to action. There are three Religious Sisters featured: Volleyball player, Sister Miriam James Heidland; professional football player, Sister Rita Clare Yoches; and Olympic Speed Skater, Sister Catherine Mary. The author creative writing and poems are scattered throughout along with a chapter on his literary pilgrimages that features his favorite writers.  

One More Time for Lawrence Norris on the Skinny and Houli Radio Show  in Chicago

I wanted to re-post information on my appearance on the Skinny and Houli Radio Show in case the link goes dry. 

Mike Houlihan's booming voice shook the rafters as we began the show the Skinny and Houli Radio Show  in Chicago.  Houli and Skinny were the consummates hosts and encouraging as things went along. 

Listen to the Podcast

Great Book 
I was having a media event for The Brown and White, my fictionalized memoir of my freshman high school days.  The story takes place in 1967-1968 during the Vietnam War, Chicago's historic neighborhood changes, the changes in the Catholic Church from Vatican II, and the assassination of Martin Luther King.  It was a time of turmoil. Yet, the theme of the book is one of growth that I hope in a funny kind of human way pays homage to my family, my teachers, and friends. The book brings back a lot of memories for readers who will no doubt think of their own experiences as they read it.

It was a great experience to be on the Skinny and Houli Show.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chicago Catholic Article of The Brown and White

New article in Chicago Catholic--my interview about

Click Here


Forty plus years in the making, The Brown and White is a fictionalized memoir that tells the story of Collin Callaghan's freshman year at a Chicago Catholic High School. Collin is a white boy who is living in turbulent times in a changing city. He clings to his neighborhood and his family as he heads out each day with his classmates on the Brown and White, the ancient school bus driven by free-spirited Willie. Memorable characters abound as this story unfolds. Collin's lovable family, especially his Irish Catholic policeman father and his Irish immigrant mother face life together. Collin and classmates blaze their own humorous and passionate trail through the late 1960s. A unique cast of terrific teachers are there to see the boys through. Laughs and life meet readers head on as they travel on the Brown and White.

Lawrence Norris is the author of The Brown and White, a fictionalized memoir of Chicago Catholic high school days that takes place during the late 1960s. See story in the Chicago Catholic. Skinny and Houli Radio Show Podcast with Norris--begins after the first Skinny and Houli dialogue.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bronislaw “Bronko” Nagurski

In 1930, George Halas and co-owner Dutch Sternaman of the Chicago Bears hired Ralph Jones, who was athletic director at Lake Forest Academy, to coach the Bears.  Jones made innovative adjustments to the Bears’ offense that gave the team a more mobile attack.  The Bears also added University of Minnesota standout, Bronko Nagurski, who gave the team one of the greatest power-runners of all time as well as a bone-crushing tackler and a terrific blocker.  With Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, and several other excellent players on the roster, the Bears were a formidable power.  

Bronko Nagurski was a one-of-a-kind fullback and linebacker who played in the 1930s.  “Bronk” had the size, strength, and speed of modern fullbacks coupled with the toughness of a freight train.  Like many players of the Era, he played both side of the ball. He was what the media would call a complete player. On offense, sometimes Nagurski would also throw a jump-pass--he would fake the run, pedal backwards, jump for a clear view of the receiver, and throw. He later became a professional wrestler.  He was a professional athlete for three decades.  
If you are every up by International Falls, Minnesota, you might like to visit the Bronko Nagurski Museum at 214 6th Avenue.  The museum is attached to the Koochiching Historical Museum.  Nagurski never moved from the area. He farmed on property his family had owned and ran a gas station. His family donated much of his memorabilia to the museum after his death. 

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