Our Judaeo / Christianity roots keeps us disciplined

“The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence,
were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite,
and these Principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer.
And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity,
in which all these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty…

“Now I will avow, that I then believe, and now believe,
that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable,
as the Existence and Attributes of God; and that those Principles of Liberty,
are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.”

Adams wrote this on June 28, 1813, excerpt from a letter to Thomas Jefferson.


(image Memoria Press)

Monday night, once the dishes were finally finished, I sat down to catch a bit
of the day’s news.
I came in right at the beginning of a sit-down interview between Fox News journalist
Martha Maccallum and Wall Street editorialist, Bill McGrun

The subject topic was ‘Faith in American Politics’ as both journalists were offering
their take on the speech given by Attorney General William Barr Friday to a closed-door
audience at Notre Dame’s law school.
The gist of the speech has been called Barr’s take on the ‘coordinated
campaign to destroy the traditional moral order.’

I’ve written about this very subject for quite some time here in my small little corner
of the blogosphere.

Mr. McGrun observed that Barr was basing much of his thoughts on that of the
Founding Fathers and the sustaining of a ‘free’ society.
McGrun noted that “if you want a free society,
it requires people capable of self-governing
which means restraining your passions.
Religion contributed a lot of that morality that made people disciplined—allowing
them to be free and so when religion is in decline, you then get anything goes…”

Below is the link to the interview between Maccallum and McGrun…
it is a short interview and worth the viewing
but below that is the link to the full video of Barr’s address.

When I was searching for a video clip to share regarding Barr’s speech,
many news outlets offered clips with a few key soundbites along with their
overtly negative reactions.

I simply wanted the speech without any added commentary, con or pro.
So what I found was actually marked as a banned video.
Why that is I am uncertain.

The other item I sought to share was the column Mr. McGrun referenced that he’d written
following his having watched and digested the Barr speech…however,
in order to do so, I would
have to be a Washington Post on-line subscriber…
of which I am not nor do I wish to pay for.

So perhaps there is some other place where his column may be found…
but due to my limited social media connections, I’m not certain.

And as an aside I should note that both Barr and Maccallum are Catholic.
Maccallum’s son plays football for Notre Dame.
And Barr has younger family members attending Notre Dame
My Bulldogs beat the Irish, but could not beat the roosters (South Carolina)
so if you think this is a biased observation, think again.

Lastly, I’ve included a link to the Notre Dame student-based school newspaper
which published a story regarding the speech.

All of which are well worth the time to both watch and read…

https://video.foxnews.com/v/6094808752001/?playlist_id=5410209611001#sp=show-clips

William Barr speaks at Notre Dame about ‘militant’ forces of secularism, religious liberty in America

PS—I might be out of pocket for a day or two as illness has once again struck the home
of the Mayor—dad is now ailing and so we are off to help out…

we live in both dark and light

“The true diversity of humanity is this: the luminous and the dark.
To diminish the number of dark, to increase the number of luminous,
that is the aim.
That is why we cry: education, knowledge!
To learn to read is to kindle a fire; every syllable spelled sparkles.
But whoever says light does not necessarily say joy.
There is suffering in the light; an excess burns.
Flame is hostile to the wing.
To burn and yet to fly, this is the miracle of genius.
When you know and when you love you will suffer.
The day dawns in tears. The luminous weep, be it only for the dark ones.”

― Victor Hugo


(prematurely fallen muscadine / Julie Cook / 2019)

See the picture above?

Look closely.

At first glance, you see some sort of greenish greyish orb perched in the middle,
amongst the debris of what must be some sort of woodsy ground.

However, upon further inspection, you will note that the right half of the green orb,
or rather a prematurely fallen muscadine, is the side with actual color,
as is the surrounding area.
The color of life and growth.

The left side appears to be rotting or rotten while the surrounding debris around the
muscadine is equally ashen and grey…as in decaying, rotting and dark.

It is a prime example of contrasting imagery between light and dark, life and death…
With the poor muscadine being caught in the middle.

And if the truth be told, that muscadine, my friends, is more representational of both you
and I then either of us can even begin to imagine.

Light vs dark…
life vs death…
While we are constantly suspended between the two.

It’s as if each one vies for our very being.
The endless struggle for mankind.

That struggle is much more active and much more real than most of us care to admit,
let alone contemplate…as the forces of both light and dark, life and death, continuously
wage battle over our very existence.

Metaphors, yes…yet also very much a reality.

I started an interesting book the other day, The Shadow Party
How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and the Sixties Radicals seized control of
the Democratic Party

by David Horowitz and Richard Poe.

“Ahhh”, you say rather knowingly…” one of ‘those’ types of books.”
A book that speaks of conspiracy and paranoia.
And so now you’re assuming that I am one of those paranoid loons or deplorables
we hear so much about—oh so lovingly nicknamed by Hillary Clinton…
all because I am a conservative individual reading a book that reads like
a Hollywood spy thriller.

Yet the book is much more than a tale of political upheaval, speculation and
finger-pointing.
The book actually, and perhaps unbeknownst to the authors themselves, speaks to this very
battle of both light and dark, life and death, that I previously referenced…
it’s just that they speak on a level that hits much closer to home than anyone might imagine
as it addresses our life here in America.

There is a great darkness growing in our Nation.
And it is both you and I who hang in the balance.

It is a life that is growing ever more precarious while we are perched between
both light or dark, life or death…
For we are living in some terribly strange times.

This book reminds me of a wonderful post I read the other day by one of my favorite bloggers—
Robert, Bobby, Kloska from Thoughts from the Side of the House.
Bobby is a former professor at Notre Dame who doesn’t
post as often as I or others would wish due to some tremendous health struggles
that get terribly in his way.

His struggles with cancer and the devastating outreaching effects have been an
amazing witness unto themselves.

I, for one, am most grateful that he continues to share both ups and downs.

This past week, for the fourth of July, Bobby wrote about what it is that is
at the root of what many of us believe to be a “crisis” in this Nation of ours.

“Life in America has never been perfect.
In every age, there have been injustices, conspiracies, and controversies.
This is not unique to America; it is part of the human condition.
Yet in America, because we had inherited these noble institutional mechanisms, hope remained.
So long as the republic contained within itself a critical mass of virtuous citizens
committed more to the common good than to privileging any particular sect, group,
or class, then the structures through which we grapple with self-governance could
still yield improvement.”

Today, I have my doubts.

We live in a country that in the span of only a few generations has suddenly lost
any kind of right understanding of objective truth –
as the founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence, “…
of the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
Today, the prevailing understanding of truth is that it is something purely subjective.
This is no small matter.

Today, there has emerged this new idea that you and I supposedly have some kind of
power to create whatever truth we want.
This, of course, not only opens the door to logical self-contradictions,
it very clearly contradicts objective reality itself.
You’re not George Washington even if you think you’re George Washington and
“claim this as your truth.” Simple people see this.
Grounded people see this.
People connected to the earth and nature really see this.

Sophisticates, distracted people, and afflicted people often do not.

What we have is a crisis of truth.

In all human communities, freedom is built upon personal and collective
responsibilities.
These responsibilities always rely upon truth.
Our greatest problem today is not simply that we have lost any meaningful concept of truth.
No, it’s worse than that.
Our greatest problem is that 1) we don’t know that truth is something objective to be discovered;
and 2) we no longer have adequate tools to do the work of discovery.

Let that sink in.

We don’t understand that truth needs to be discovered…
and yet everything of consequence depends on this one thing!

The discovery of truth does not come cheaply.
It requires diligence, patience, nuance, thoughtful consideration, and intellectual
humility.
To actually discover truth and not merely “win” an argument,
it is enormously helpful to be able to presume the good will and sincerity of one’s
discussion partner. But today our public discourse is largely carried out on Twitter.
News and opinion media have become reactionary and overly polemical.
Even our so-called presidential debates take on the form of a cheap tv game show.
How helpful is that?
Complex questions cannot be answered in one minute sound bytes.
It is folly to even try.

A crisis of truth leads to a crisis of love.

The loss of truth has led to the particularly harmful notion that your disagreement
with one of my ideas is somehow disrespectful of me as a human being.
Tragically, in 2019 America, “disagreement” equals “hate” to a lot of people.

But what if you truly love me?

To love is to will the good of another person.
If I hold an opinion that is not rooted in truth,
then that opinion can be quite harmful to me and to the people I influence.
Isn’t the most loving act to help me discover the truth?
Yes, this might require a discussion, debate, or argument.
Prudence dictates that such discussions occur at the right time,
in the right place, and with appropriate people.
But the premise of these kinds of honest disagreements and discussions is love.
To neglect such conversations with people you supposedly love
(or even with the culture at large)
is to not really love and care about them at all.

At the end of this sobering and somewhat frightening discourse,
Bobby is quick to remind us that not all is lost.
This is not a hopeless situation…

Not hopeless because it is in our hopelessness that our real Hope is to be found.
For in that Hope, resides the One true Everlasting Truth.

The Main Crisis on American Independence Day in 2019

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

Before and after…the question

The south facade of Notre Dame before the fire…


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

Now the upper portion of the same facade, after the fire…


(Associated Press)

Despite the brilliant blue sky, the delightfully warm late afternoon sun,
a heaviness continued to linger…

I dumped a portion of the hardwood chunks of charcoal into the grill then used the
lighter to ignite the charcoal.

When the soft yellow-orange glow began, I closed the lid, cracking open the vents while I
proceeded to wait.

Soon enough, I opened the lid as the flames rose while the burning wood chips popped
and crackled.

I stared down into the grill, filled with those yellow-orange licking flames,
while I purposely and intently listened to the sounds of both fire and wood.

My thoughts seemed to have gotten stuck on an unseen replay button…
replaying the scenes from yesterday’s images of both Notre Dame and of the fire.

I thought of each trip, over the past decades of my life,
that I have walked into that cavernous and overwhelmingly
historic and spiritual “house” of worship.

The sounds of my own footsteps echoing off the soaring stone walls and massive pillars
as my steps reverberated against the barrel vault high above my head.

Awe stopped me in my tracks as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting
while the hints of pungent incense lingered in my nostrils.

I grappled with the magnitude of the historical and the physical while my mind
wrapped around the Spiritual impetus for this seemingly gargantuan whale that
had suddenly swallowed me whole.

The rising flames in the grill jerked me back to the present and my need
to get about my grilling supper…

I would say that this historic and catastrophic fire is proving devastating
on a great many levels.

The world is painfully mourning an iconic cultural loss.
Paris is mourning a devastating loss of an iconic piece of her home’s heart.
As we the world mourn both an artistic and architectural loss.

The proverbial bucket list destination for tourists and one of the spiritual
pilgrimage destinations on the lists of the faithful is now forever changed…
just as much of humankind is now changed.

But what I think is even more important, the fire has shaken loose a deeply hidden
sense of loss found in most of Western Civilization…it is a loss on a subconscious level
that we’ve never been able to put our finger on…
a loss that has long existed…one we have subconsciously known
was there but yet we didn’t know.

It is the loss of our Christian Spirituality…
our Spirituality that we have allowed to slip from, not merely our
hands, but from our very psyches and souls.

Yesterday I offered a response to a friend’s comment on my day’s post regarding
the fire and that comment has now lingered in my thoughts…

“someone I was listening to last night posed the question—– and I’ll paraphrase-
‘With so much of Europe becoming so secularized—–we’re seeing these massive ancient bastions
of Christian faith becoming more and more like museums rather than houses of worship.
With everyone now clamoring to rebuild…
the question we must be asking ourselves is what are we rebuilding?

Are we rebuilding a museum that lost so much art, etc…art that can never be replaced…
or are we rebuilding a church, a house of worship?…

I find that to be the very key question for our very postmodern Christian selves”

It is not lost on me that we are in the midst of the most Holiest of weeks within
all of Christendom while in the midsts of an ever-shrinking Christian faith
in our culture.

This fire is yet another visceral image of our own human tragedy and the fall of man.

It shakes loose our hidden sense of grief and loss over our flailing and fragile faith.

Christ descended into the depths of a raging fire of our very sin…
and on the third day, He rose from those ashes…

May we now use this sense of loss and grief, allowing our faith to be rekindled as we too rise
upward out of the ashes of what has become such a sinful loss…

Loss no more..but only gain…as the spire rises again…

“So you’re giving up?
That’s it?
Okay, okay. We’ll leave you alone, Quasimodo.
We just thought, maybe you’re made up of something much stronger.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

looking up and being reminded


(a pigeon rests on a statue placed above the ridge of the Assumption chapel at the corner
of Garancière street and Palatine street, behind the Saint-Sulpice church. / Julie Cook / 2018)

Back in the summer, back when the beach was consuming so many of our minds,
I offered a post featuring some shots I’d taken of some pelicans I’d seen while enjoying
our summer trip to the panhandle of Florida.

Nothing says beach and ocean like seeing a brown pelican sitting on an old weathered pier or that
of a formation of these gangly birds gliding effortlessly just above the surf…

Days such as today…days that are damp, windy, overcast and grey quickly push our thoughts
to warmer sunnier days. This as we are just entering into our darker colder days of the year.

I noted in that previous post how much, for reasons unknown, that I love pelicans…
They are my favorite birds oddly enough.

Birds that eat whole fish and hold them in their gullets for later…
my husband calls them nasty birds while I call them resourceful.

My previous post touched on the seemingly odd relationship pelicans have had in Christian lore
and tradition.

I did a little research and offered a bit of teaching from the information that I had gleaned…
The premise was that during times of famine, mother pelicans have been known to pluck their own
breasts until they bled in order to offer their own blood to their hungry babies…
offering life-giving sustenance.

A direct reference to Christ who offers His own blood for our spiritual hunger and
our own salvation.

So recently when visiting Paris, we were staying at a small hotel just outside of
the Luxembourg Gardens.


(just a tiny area of the Luxembourg Gardens with a shot of the Senate building behind/
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

This boutique hotel sits in the shadow of the second largest church in Paris,
Eglise Saint-Sulpice.


(Eglise Saint-Sulpice / Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

I happen to really love this church as it is not Notre Dame.


(Notre Dame / Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

It is not consumed by crowds and tourists.

It was the anchor to the neighborhood my aunt and I called home for a couple of
days about 8 years ago and the same anchor to the same neighborhood my husband and I called
home more recently….the Germain-des-Prés, Odéon of the 6th arrondissement.

Entering this historic building is definitly otherworldly.

It’s like walking into an ancient, silent and dark crevasse…as well as
stepping back into a far removed time…think pre-Revolution and pre-Bonaparte.
Yet the Revolution did hinder the finishing of the facade.

The original church was constructed in the 13th century but the building we see
today dates to the early 1600’s—finally being completed in the late 18th century.
Yet it suffered, as did so many in Paris, during the Revolution.

There are some famous paintings by Eugene Delacroix…

Along with some masterful statues and some simple but lovely stain glass…

Along with the scars from living through the days of a revolution down to
simple neglect and decay…

Add of course the massive and impressive organ

And yet there is reverence…
There is a deep and mystical yearning by many who come here…
those who come curious or those who come seeking.

They come to sit,
to pray,
to sleep,
to hide,
to rest,
to wander,
to wonder…

And so it was when I was actually outside on a side street…
walking alongside the perimeter of this massive hulking building that I looked up
and actually saw it…
the mother pelican sitting atop a spire of a side chapel.

The same imagery that came to mind back in July…and here it was again in September.
Found not at the beach and not in some warm tropical locale but rather in the midst
of a massively large city whose people are often too busy to glance upward albeit toward
their rather famous tower…

And yet here it was…as always, a powerful reminder of sacrifice.
Life, death, redemption, and salvation…


(all photos by Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Remember to always stop long enough to look up…

And may we now offer our prayers for our Jewish brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh
as well for all the first responders…

Lord have mercy…

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/pelicans/

Show us the way oh Lord. . .

“Others have seen what is and asked why.
I have seen what could be and asked why not. ”

― Pablo Picasso

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(a statue of Christ on the Charles Bridge , Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2012)

What is it that sets us apart form the other creatures on this planet our ours?
Other than that opposable thumb business?

What is it that makes us greater, wiser, better. . .?

Is it perhaps our ability to be compassionate and kind?
Perhaps to reason and analyze?
Or is it is our capacity to be creative. . .that ability to dream, to imagine, to think and therefore to compose, to construct, to paint, to sing, to sculpt, to dance and to build. . .

The ability to even take that which has been ruined and destroyed, even by our own hands, and to remake, rekindle and renew. . .?

I had not intended to have such a serious minded post again this week but it appears that forces beyond my control thought better of my initial decision. . .

Today’s news is laced, once again with the heinous beheading by ISIS of another innocent bystander–another victim to their ravenous thirst for innocent blood. This time it was an 82 year old Archeologist taxed with preserving and saving the ruins of Palmyra.
It seems they held this gentleman for the past month, torturing him in an attempt to discover where the vast treasures of this ancient, and to some holy, site were hidden. He never shared that information with his captors, who knows if he even was aware of hidden treasure, so it was another case of “off with their heads”. . .

Here you may find a link to the full story as found on the BBC . . .
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33984006

In Charles Kaiser’s book “The Cost of Courage” which I shared in yesterday’s post, Mr. Kaiser retells the story of the Vichy Parisian Mayor, Pierre-Charles Taittinger who, following the invasion of Normandy which was the telling realization for the Nazis that their time of Occupation in Paris, as well as all of France, was drawing dangerously to its finale, approached the Nazi’s high commander, General Choltitz, with his final plea for the Germans to spare the city.

It was well known and documented that if Hitler had to relinquish the City of Lights back into the hands of the Allies, then they would not receive a city at all but rather one that had been razed and burnt to the ground. Every bridge crossing the Seine, as well as every monument from the Eiffel Tower to Napoleon’s Tomb had been wired with explosives. The fleeing German troops were to detonate and burn everything in their wake as they left the city.

Monsieur Taittinger implored the General one last time:
“Often it is given to a general to destroy, rarely to preserve,” Taittinger begins.
“Imagine that one day it may be given to you to stand on this balcony as a tourist, to look once more on these monuments to our joys, our sufferings, and to be able to say, “One day I could have destroyed all this, and I preserved it as a gift for humanity.’ General, is not that worth all a conqueror’s glory?”
The General replied, “You are a good advocate for Pairs. You have done your duty well. And likewise I, as a German general, must do mine.”

History tells us that the General was wise enough to know that by now Hitler was indeed a madman and that the war, with the Soviets now advancing from the east, was all but over and that it would not serve the furture of Germany, whatever that further may now hold, to destroy what the French held so dear. There is more to the story, a series of interventions and seemingly miraculous moments which spurred the Allied forces to march upon the city in the nick of time, but I suggest that you read that story on your own as it makes for fascinating reading.

When the church bells rang out echoing across the city, with the deep baritone bells of Notre Dame leading the way, sounding the joyful news of the liberation of Paris, the General was heard to say, “that today I have heard the bells of the death knell of my own funeral. . .” He had sent the troops out from the city with having detonated only the bombs of one of the train stations.

What is it about our splendors and our glories, those monuments we construct, build, make and craft from generation to generation. . . those tombs and treasures we hold so dear and so ever important? So much so that we feel the urgency and need of being tasked with their care, their maintenance, their upkeep and their eventual preservation?
Is it because we see that these manmade wonders are some of the tangible evidence of the better part of our nature? That despite our ability to destroy, to kill and to promote war. . .deep down we know that we strive for the good, the beautiful and the enduring?

These wonders of ours link us to our past civilizations. These monuments of glory, grandeur and beauty of both joy and sorrow allow us to see from where we have come, and in turn we are afforded the opportunity to show future generations the part of us which is better, kinder, gentler, more humane —that side which chose to give rather than to take?

So on this day, when another has fallen victim to a dark and evil menace spreading outward from the Middle East, I am left with the simple prayer, “Oh Lord, show us the way. . .”

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(Duomo di Milano / Milan, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(The Bascillica di San Antonio / Padova, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore / Firenze, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

CIMG0493
(Basilica Papale di San Francesco / Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

CIMG0541
( Basilica Papale di San Pietro / The Vatican / Roma, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

DSC00306
(stain glass windows in The Basilica of the Holy Blood / Bruges, Belgium / Julie Cook / 2011)

DSC00478
(Notre Dame / Paris France / Julie Cook / 2011)

DSC00505
(détail, Notre Dame / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

DSC00643
(Eiffel Tower / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

DSC00639
(the cross that sits atop the Eagles Nest or the Berghof overlooking Berchtesgaden, Bavaria which was once Hitler’s private mountain retreat / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC00720
(St Stephens Cathedral/ Vienna, Austria / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01188
St Vitus Cathedral / Prague, The Czech Republic / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01191
(Rose window, St Vitus Cathedral / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01368
(A section of the Berlin Wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01375
(a section of the Berlin wall / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01402
(The Brandenburg Gate / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01461
(The interior of the new German Chancellory, the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

DSC01477
Exterior of the Bundestag / Berlin, Germany / Julie Cook / 2013)

Winning or the tale of a “Damn Good DAWG”

“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. Thats the essence of it.”
― Vince Lombardi

slideshow_1379930_uga.1120_bs2
(one dog in the continuous line of the last 7 UGA bulldog mascots / AJC image)

Attending the University of Georgia during the late 1970’s and early 80’s was a magical time full of pure wonderment and joy.
It was a time of National Championships, Heisman Trophies, broken records, sUGAr raining from the sky, and all of the things of which legends are made.
Those were heady days in which to be a college coed.
It helped if you liked football.

Being raised in the South, I indeed not only liked, but loved college football, as I still do. I do not speak of the round variety of futbol played world over—but rather I speak of the humble and odd oval pigskin variety which is the epitome of the quintessential slice of Americana.
Blame it on my father, for I was raised watching as well as loving college football.

Those exciting days of fame made oh so sweet by the likes of Herschel Walker, Vince Dooley and Larry Munson have all but long disappeared from the forefront of University of Georgia. Those legend makers have retreated back into the shadows where they now live as the ghosts of Glories past. Their phantasm images remain ready to haunt old, as well as new, fans and coaches alike as each season the hopes of the DAWG Nation silently, noisily, fantasizes “will this will be the year???”

That same nagging and haunting question hangs painfully and often bitterly over the heads, as the awkward elephant in the room, of colleges and schools nationwide. As time marches on and Legends come and go, their parting often brings the anxious anticipation and hope of recapturing those long past days of not only winning and bragging rights, but of fame and fortune. Because isn’t that what football is all about now, the fame and the fortune?

We need not look only to The University of Georgia as a school, a team and a fan base which seeks out those days of glory gone by, but we may cast our glances to schools such as Ohio State who wistfully wonder if their glory days, which harken back to the likes of Woody Hayes, may rest on the steely shoulders of Urban Meyer, as Buckeyes continue to exorcise the demons of the ingrained image of a beloved and aging coach, who’s frustration with a player and a game gone a rye, lead to the infamous punch seen round the world.

Ghosts of glory may also be found on the campus of the University of Alabama who’s legendary Coach Bear Byant is the standard bearer for all of college football and of what it takes to create winning programs. His image is hallowed with not only Bama fans, but with college football fans, young and old nationwide as no one can deny the immortal houndstooth.

And then there was the sad and tragic toppling of a legend in Pennsylvania which was shrouded in mystery, denial, pedophilia, fame and the defamation of a once almost holy character. I won’t go into the details of Joe Paterno as I was once a stalwart Penn State fan. I continue to sort out the horrendous accusations of a heroic legend of a man who I can’t wrap my brain around having not known what evils were taking place in his “backyard”. . .

Yet it is to the hallmark of the ultimate American tale, the one of seeking a better life, hard work and success, coupled with a tragic premature ending, which most likely captures the imagination of many a sports fan—that of the legendary player and coach of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, Knute Rockne. Rockne immigrated with his parents to the US from Norway in 1903. He grew up in Chicago playing neighborhood ball. He played football in high school, but the lack of funding forced the would-be gridiron standout to head to the workforce. Four years of working at the Chicago post office, a 22 year old Rockne finally saved enough money to attend Notre Dame where he not only played football, earning the honor of All American, but where he also coached immortalizing the emotionally charged phrase “win one for the Gipper”

Sadly however, today’s college football, for good or bad, along with collegiate sports in general, has morphed into something almost unrecognizable, falling victim to the all mighty dollar. Today there is television and savvy marketing which brings not only popularity but millions upon millions of dollars to schools clamoring for a piece of the pie. Scholarships, advertisements, colossal stadiums, notoriety and endorsements run amuck. These are the things which now drive and dictate college sports. The winning at all costs mentality is sadly what keeps coaches with a job. And who wants to lose a multimillion dollar job?

Fans, alumni and sportscasters become a fickled lot. No longer is a winning record important but things such as key rivalry games and national titles now loom paramount. A beloved coach who “allows” the team to lose the hope of playing for, not only in a bowl game, as it must be an important bowl, but the loss of a potential national title, can quickly find any coach in the proverbial hot seat come Monday morning following any loss during the usual round of the sports talk shows hitting the airwaves.

Fans and alumni begin clamoring for a “head on the plate” as something must change and change quickly because we are a Nation of winners.
Americans do not like losers.

Enter Mark Richt, the current head football coach at the University of Georgia.

Richt2

If I had a son who played football, I would want him playing for a man like Mark Richt.
Richt is a man of conscience, who is driven and steered by a faith based compass. His is a deep based unwavering faith in a God of mercy and grace.
Ohhh, I can hear those who lead the atheist protest groups and those of the ACLU raising their wary little antennas worried we’re mixing Christianity on the field of play. My observation of Coach Richt is not of a man leading a team of Christian soldiers—he merely happens to be a Christian who happens to be a leading SEC football coach who happens to merely be a ‘lead by example’ sort of man.

When Auburn’s current quarterback, Nick Marshall, who was recruited and signed by UGA, was caught stealing from fellow teammates, Richt cut him from the team. Richt believes that for all actions there are consequences and that everyone must see those consequences through, as painful as they may be for everyone involved, even at the risk of winning. Nick Marshall has since worked his way back to a leading role in the SEC, much to Richt’s delight. Never smug or condescending, Coach Richt is a believer in second chances and the turning around of misguided character. He was pleased that lessons were obviously learned and that this young man is finally seeing a dream come true.

The guidance and teaching of young men is a big factor as to why Coach Richt is in the business of coaching—for you see coaching goes well beyond the calling and formulating of plays–anyone in education or who has ever played on a team under the leadership of either a good or bad coach knows.

Yet frustratingly, positive events for Mark Richt do not always come easily or readily as they do for his counterpart head coaches who seem to bask in the ever constant lime light of the big wins and success. Why that is, I’m not sure but somewhere I hear the idiom “good guys finish last” rolling around in my head. He and his team often seem plagued and deluged by a constant series of bad luck, bad breaks and bad calls year after year after year. The latest incident of famed running back Todd Gurley, who just finished sitting out a 4 game suspension handed down by the NCAA for the profiting of signing sports memorabilia, is just one case in point—

The crowning blow of Richt’s season, a season that had been so highly anticipated as the Bulldogs were highly touted, sitting atop leading polls back at the end of the summer, in this now surreal world of a college football playoff. . .yet all of the hopes and dreams which had slowly faded from losses to both SEC rivals, South Carolina and Florida, came crashing down on one particular play at the end of Saturday’s game against Auburn. Todd Gurley had come back from the suspension chomping at the bit to play.

His Heisman Trophy hopes already dashed by his own poor choices, Gurley still had some things to prove. The first play of the game, Gurley ran the kickoff back for a touchdown which was then immediately called back due to a Bulldog penalty–the continuing curse of the penalties has been a self inflicted slow bleeding demise for the Bulldogs. Gurley continued to work in tandem with teammate and fellow running back Nick Chubb throughout the game, gaining yards and racking up points. Yet it was during one of the final plays of the game when Gurley, running the ball, was hit. He goes down grabbing his leg yet eventually gets up, walking off the field under his own power. He wasn’t carted off the field, he could even be seen walking the sidelines. However it was a MRI which later confirmed the fears of the Bulldog Nation, Gurley had blown out his knee, tearing his ACL– ending not only his playing season, but his tenure at UGA.

Does one player make a team?
No.
Does one play make a season?
Sometimes.
However Gurley’s suspension and now torn knee are but a few pieces of the never ending litany of bad breaks which have besieged this most mild mannered coach and of this often maligned and under respected team.

Todd Gurley will have surgery to repair his knee. He will rehab and be as good as new. He will most likely be a high pick in the draft, going on to a lucrative career in the NFL.

There will be those who question Richt’s decision for having left Gruley in the game when it was clear the game was in their hands. There are those who have thought that Richt is not aggressive enough, too nice to be a head coach in one of the biggest powerhouse conferences of the game. There are those who clamor that Richt just can’t win “the big one” or that the team lacks consistency. He hangs on to his offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, when others have called for Bobo’s head on a platter. Anything and everything that is wrong with the Bulldogs all comes back to Richt.

Yet one thing is certain, Mark Richt is consistent.
He does not bend under pressure. He does not acquiesce, he does not put his moral compass aside if its inconvenient for his audience.
He is a leader,
a quiet man,
a kind man.
He is often unruffled on the playing field.
He is steadfast, not one given to the emotional fits and tirades often displayed by so many other emotionally charged college coaches.
He is a rock during a crisis.
He consistently does the right thing by all under his command regardless of position, his paycheck, or pressure.
He is the example of how one human being should treat a fellow human being.

College coaches are often compared to opposing strategizing generals who formulate plans of attack against “the enemy”—a steely game of chess with the elusive checkmate hanging in the balance. I know that I would be more than happy to follow a man like Mark Richt into battle as he is cool under pressure and always has the best of his men in the forefront of his mind.

All those attributes are great and grand you say, but they don’t win football games.
What about the Glory days you ask.
What about the multimillion dollar endorsements?
What about all the money generated and brought to the schools that win?
What about the fame, the fortune?
Yeah, you’re probably right. . .
. . .but there once was a time when winning wasn’t everything.