"And This Week's Game Ball Goes To... ... ..."


I do not have the greatest mind for football, I must admit -- but you probably already know that. I can't even begin to imagine what goes through a coach's mind when it comes to play calling -- although I do make a pretty good Monday morning quarterback every now and then! I am not a coach, and there will never be anyone who will confuse me as such. However, if I was granted the ability to make just one call, it would be this: Mike McCarthy deserves the game ball from Sunday's competition with the Colts.

In my preparation for Packer duties, I often arrive at least a good hour at 1265 before the start of Mass. I do this to simply get my bearings straight, set up the "chapel," which is the Defensive lecture hall, and then I go and practice my homily many times over -- depending on its length, of course. I do a homily "walk through" as I pace the long hallway in the Packer facilities that leads to the tunnel -- which I have named for my own state of mind, the "Hallway to Victory." Normally I have the entire route to myself.

The first person I usually encounter is Coach Mike Stock -- the Packer Special Teams Coordinator. He's always quick to say hello as he heads to his special teams classroom in an attempt to drop something off or pick something up. As he makes his way, he'll be sure to remind me, "I'll be back in just a minute!" I've yet to start Mass without him!

Mike McCarthy is always the next person I encounter. He'll be coming around the bend of the hallway that serves as an indoor, underground perimeter to the bowl. He comes with the same characteristic stride week after week -- in formal attire with a Starbucks gripped in his right hand. Coach customarily will spend the next several minutes to ask about my family, parishioners, students and inmates. He always shows great interest in any number of issues -- but eventually the tables get turned, and I take the opportunity to catch up on his life since we last met.

On Sunday, this guy was ready to go! Never arrogant, quite the opposite, he showed such belief and confidence in his team. He shared several specific reasons why his team was ready and why they would prevail. In fact, after the two of us swapped "homilies" that we'd be sharing with the team at different points on Sunday, he actually invoked a cheer as the two of us ran into the lecture hall; I did not want to imagine what the guys inside the room were thinking -- it was an extraordinarily loose moment -- until we encountered the Penitential Rite, that is! ....Then the Irish Catholicism took over!

Like his immediate predecessor, this Coach Mike reminds me of how "mental" this game is. It takes physical prowess for these guys to get their foot onto the field. After that, the brain takes over. The coaches affiliated with the Packers over the years have shown me that it's not simply brains and brawn, but it's heart and spirit as well that is required to win in life -- on and off the field. Fortunately, our coaches have such a humble belief in themselves and in God that they can offer a holistic approach to winning and loosing, dieing and rising, falling and getting back up. Coach shared that conviction with heart this past weekend -- he offered a game winning performance -- which was no act, but from the very core of his being.

While I suspect Coach McCarthy will have no game ball to place on his mantle from this past weekend, this Bye Week will be one of the most memorable weeks of his entire life -- perfect timing, to be sure! I keep Coach, Jess and the entire McCarthy & Murphy families in my thoughts and prayers -- knowing that God will bless these good people with abundant life -- no game ball could ever compare to such a tremendous blessing!

Thanks, Coach and Jess,
for saying "yes" to God's gift to you!


Geo said...

Father, your post reminds me of why it is such a miracle that I came to St. Norbert. From a teaching career in a community that was so conservative as to not allow their daughters to date my Catholic sons to St. Norbert College is a dream come true. No longer am I a pariah, someone to be disliked as "different". I admit, I'm a chicken to be "out there in the frontier". And they KICKED ME OUT!! Imagine that! After 27 years, they determined I was no longer fit to teach their children. God bless them. They gave me the gift of SNC.
At SNC, my Catholicism, imperfect as it is, is nurtured and I feel I have come home. The nuns who worked so hard to educate me are smiling from Heaven now.
Then there's the Packer connection. One of my fondest memories is watching the Packers in our home in Thorp, Wisconsin and listening to the game on the radio at the same time. My dad was a dedicated Packer fan and it was one of those things we did not miss.
And now, you are just down the hall from me and I get to provide computer support at Packer camp. Life just keeps getting better. Hope I live to be 100.
Oh, and PowerPoint? Yes, I have to be honest. Technology is wonderful as long as you are aware of the pitfalls. I once drove 90 minutes at 11 p.m. at night the night before my biggest presentation ever to pick up a four inch piece of wire needed to connect my laptop to the projector. Always test the facility ahead of time when possible. When not possible, always remember to make sure you have your Powerpoint backed up on a flash drive so that you can plug it into someone elses computer if yours should not work.
God Bless you always, Father Jim!

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