A few weeks ago Coach Dan Duddy had a special experience at the end of one of his games.
When the final whistle was blown we had won 35-28 in a nerve-wracking shootout against a very talented football team. If the game had been 4 minutes shorter we might have lost, and if it had been just two minutes longer, a possible loss as well. Our team played valiantly to win it.
Both teams were alternating spectacular touchdowns whether it was an acrobatic catch, a “scoop and score” of a fumble, a fake punt, or a game saving dive by a defensive back to knock down a “if not for one more inch” game winning touchdown pass 60 yards down field.
We were fierce opponents. Both teams put their colors on the line. It took six days to prepare with grueling practices and hours of film. Our Virtue theme of the week was “Consistent”, provided by one of our athletes. “We need to keep the ‘Integrity’ that we resolved to last week, he said.”, and we did.
We had played the only Catholic school on our schedule. We are Catholic as well. I approached the opposing head coach during the pre-game stretch and said we would like to pray together post-game right after the traditional handshake. He thought it was a great idea.
At the end of “the war” we knelt down with the 50 yard line separating the two teams. I was sure to “walk across the line” and get my body kneeling amongst the down – trodden players from the opposition. I found myself right next to #71, a huge offensive tackle that enjoyed “having his way” with our defensive line most of the game. I said “let’s remove our helmets men”.
I then reached out my hands to grab the hand of the young strangers next to me. We pray hand-in-hand daily. There was an awkwardness from the opposing team, this compounded with the ease and habit of what we do everyday was startling to me.
I took the big guy by surprise when I grabbed his hand, and found quite a few surprises myself. I was taken back as I raised my eyes to him to find that he looked just like the rosy-cheeked cherubs that we see surrounding our Father in Heaven in DaVinci’s art work. Coupled with a “b-zillion” freckles, he smiled uncomfortably as I found his saliva-filled mouthpiece now sandwiched between our hands. I said “thanks for the mouthpiece, but you can keep it” as I wiped my hands on my pants. This turned into mutual laughter by both teams and a wonderful “Lord’s Prayer”. Among the best one’s ever said.
Stand up for who you are. If you are in a public school have your captains invite the opposing captains to do the same at the coin toss. It was a very small gesture that turned into a multitude of results that will last not just lifetime, but generations to come, but will also spread across our nation. Be bold, be strong, BE “who you are”.