one shining moment

Perhaps you saw it. Perhaps you did not.

When the University of Michigan men’s basketball team hit their improbable, last-second shot — shockingly sending the Wolverines into the so-called “Sweet 16” — pandemonium erupted on the court. As is often typical these days, the players and fans went a little, understandably crazy.

There was shock on both ends — in winning. And losing.

And then there was this, as depicted by Brian Smith, for www.AthletesInAction.com:

“… As Houston’s Cory Davis watched in disbelief along the sideline, he was met by an unlikely visitor. Mo Wagner, a forward for the Wolverines known for his grit and sometimes chippy play, stopped pursuing the chaos and momentarily reengaged his opponent.

The moment is worth championing on multiple levels.

God created us to celebrate when things go well. It completes the experience. To neglect the opportunity to celebrate would leave us feeling like we had one final piece of a puzzle that we just decided not to fit into place. There is nothing wrong with the rest of the Wolverines chasing each other around the court. You can even see Wagner start the celebration process.

But then he presses pause. Why?

I have no idea. I can guess, but ultimately, I don’t know why he stopped.

That’s a large reason why this moment was so beautiful. It was not normal or expected. It was not scripted. You can tell from Wagner’s body language that he did not start running with the intention of stopping to chat with Davis. It certainly wasn’t to mock Davis.

Something more like competitive empathy. Athletic respect toward a fellow player who competed at a high level and helped bring out everyone’s best. Understanding born out of his own experience with losing. A genuine compassion extended to the vanquished — perhaps out of relief that he wasn’t having to suffer the emotions that come with Davis’ fate. A simple display of class. Whatever — it was something worth noticing.

March Madness never fails to deliver memorable moments. The Cinderella stories, unlikely comebacks, and buzzer beaters will always make ESPN headlines.

But moments like these make sports so captivating for us. Against the backdrop of the Madness, snapshots of compassion and empathy continue to capture our attention — and keep us fixated to see what could potentially happen next.”

I’m reminded of a previous post penned last fall. It detailed the 14 warmup shirts worn by the Purdue men’s basketball team this season. Each wore a different word…

Peace.
Justice.
Humility.
Togetherness.
Respect.
Loyalty.
Love.
Empathy.
Equality.
Unity.
Friendship.
Forgiveness.
Tolerance.
Compassion.

Isn’t it true? Against the backdrop of the madness, the above virtues capture our attention most. They last for more than one shining moment in time.

Respectfully…
AR

the other side of madness

Like many this weekend, I watched as dreams were dashed and brackets were bashed on the college hardwood. With improbable upsets and last-second shots moving from desire to reality, it was an exciting weekend for even the fair-weather fan.

None was as unlikely or historic as the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s win over Virginia. Virginia was considered the strongest team in the tournament; UMBC was considered the weakest. With the upset being the first time a #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed in the men’s NCAA tournament, (if you were up late enough to watch it) history was made. It was an iconic moment in sports.

Let that sink in for a moment. An iconic moment in sports occurred at the hands of a small group of 18-22 year old, amateur, young men.

So as the clock wound down and the upset evolved from the impossible to the unlikely to the seriously-are-you-kidding-me, jubilation was everywhere… Oh, how we love a good underdog!

The jubilation was everywhere! … yes … except in the hearts of the players and fans from the University of Virginia.

As fun as it was to watch the unprecedented glee from UMBC’s Retrievers — “Retriever Nation,” as is now being trademarked (even though a mere four days ago, said “nation” equated to a little more than five thousand fans), it was hard to watch the poignant pain of those who cheered on the Cavaliers.

The contrast was striking… untamed joy on one side… complete, unexpected shock on the other.

It made me ask, “How often am I aware of the other side?”

When the madness turns to sadness for a select group of people, do I:

… deny it?
… act like it’s no big deal?
… act as if only my perspective or emotion is important?

As the upsets continued — from my Ohio friends working through the unforeseen losses of both Xavier and the University of Cincinnati to Auburn, North Carolina, and Tennessee — I was struck by the postgame press conference of Michigan State’s Miles Bridges. Bridges is considered one of college basketball’s best players and he just participated in the Spartan’s shocking defeat at the hands of Syracuse, a team which barely eked their way into this year’s bracket.

Said an obviously distraught Bridges, “I really just couldn’t believe that we had lost. I thought we had the best shot to win a national championship. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that. It’s probably the saddest I’ve ever been in my life.”

Note that: “the saddest I’ve ever been in my life.”

Right — these are most likely, with all due respect, fairly immature 18-22 year old men — but it does not negate the fact that one person’s glee is still another person’s agony.

Does it matter?

Should the emotions of another affect me? Or affect how I respond?

While I pray for these young men — deeply desiring them to realize there is so much more of life to be lived and how God totally teaches each of us in the hard spots, so-to-speak, especially if we let him — I’m mindful that the elation of one should never blind us to the heartache of another…

… either on and off the college hardwood.

Respectfully…
AR

what’s in a name? madness!

Ah, ’tis always one of my favorite times of year, regardless of the resulting madness…

As is typical, a plethora of Wildcats, Bulldogs, and birds tend to show up, and once again, they did not disappoint — as included are five of the untamed felines and two of the smooth-haired canines, with fowl flying in from Brooklyn, Creighton, and Kansas.

It amazes me, too, how the more dawdling animals embrace the court (no uptempo offense here). Hence, beware of those sneaky Bisons from both Bucknell and Lipscomb and Bulls from Buffalo, too.

There exist some perennial favorites, such as the Spartans and Dukies. But did you know that this year, there exists a pair of Spartans, with only one inhabiting the State of Michigan — and Duke, well, they are one of two teams hailing from Durham, North Carolina (… go, North Carolina Central, go… another bird, no less).

Can we talk about the Dukies again for a moment?

Years ago, I made a decision not to intentionally support anything associated with some kind of evil. So, sorry, Blue Devil fans; my loyalty is out. (That includes you, too, Arizona State).

Granted, this isn’t exactly a politically correct kind of field — you know the kind? “Politically correct” means we don’t talk honestly and openly about politics, religion, money, or sex. Thankfully, most of those remain missing, but note the faithful following in the Friars from Providence and Quakers from Penn.

We also have some identity politics that made the cut, albeit such a distinction always omits someone. Check out Iona’s Gaels — with a “Gael” equated to anyone of Irish-Gaelic ancestry — and the Seminoles from Tallahassee and Aztecs from San Diego.

We have the men from Syracuse, too, although they are just a color now. Then again, perhaps they find commonality with Alabama, whose crafting of the Crimson moniker came years ago, when the football team found themselves in a sea of red mud, staining their white jerseys crimson.

But lest we get lost in any one team’s individualization, it’s also true that multiple teams come to us in pairs. We have Raiders and Red Raiders, Cougars and Cougars (no women), Aggies and more Aggies (what exactly is an “Aggie” by the way?), the Wolfpack and Wolf Pack, in addition to an untamed Tiger quartet.

Standard animals are also included — especially the ursine crowd of Bearcats, Bruins and Grizzlies, and the lupine-like Panthers and Wolverines. The bear and wolf families will play among the familiar Gators, Retrievers, and Razorbacks, along with the more bovine Longhorns, Rams, and quite vocal Thundering Herd. True, some animals seem a little less intimidating on the hardwood, but we welcome all — we are an equal opportunity fan base — thinking of those small nibbling creatures closer to the order Rodentia, those mighty Jackrabbits and even Horned Frogs.

Unlike the small creatures, some teams are not animals but their names indeed imply speed. Hence, we welcome Murray State’s Racers and the Ramblers from Loyola-Chicago.

I must admit, some names simply don’t make sense to me. Who are they and why do they talk that way about themselves? For example, how many Pirates have you ever seen in South Orange, New Jersey? And what about Stephen F. Austin’s Lumberjacks? Didn’t the “Six Million Dollar Man” retire eons ago?

Let us not omit the more nondescript terminology, recognizing no matter the ambiguity, they are still endearing to a specific, faithful fandom. You go, Bonnies, Hokies, and Tar Heels!

Some have a more regal or rugged role — the Cavaliers, Titans, and Musketeers, for instance. One group from Southeast Florida actually depicts the weather; another is a little nutty from Ohio. Still more openly hope to climb to new heights (see Highlanders, Radford; and Mountaineers, West Virginia).

Note that once again, I learned much this mad time of year…

  • Tennessee’s team is called the “Volunteers” — not due to every Tennessean being so stinkin’ selfless, but rather, in somewhat of a disputed account, the nickname is tied to the state’s citizens’ prominent military role during the War of 1812.
  • “Sooners” denotes “can-do” individuals, invoking the spirit and enthusiasm of Oklahoma’s pioneer heritage.
  • And Wichita State’s “Shockers” was pegged over a century ago, referring to the summer jobs of many of their football players who harvested — or “shocked” — wheat. Their mascot, “WuShock,” is actually a bundle of wheat.

And last but not least, surprisingly, are my beloved Boilermakers, a name originally intended for insult but yet described the burliness and brawn of those mighty men from the banks of the Wabash in Indiana.

What’s in a name?

Lots.

Let the madness begin.

Respectfully…
AR

a humble strength, calm trust, even Bush & Obama…

One of the truths sharpened in me as I’ve grown in adulthood is the need to sit under the wisdom of someone else. In other words, there is great sagacity in learning to submit to another. Submission isn’t a form of weakness, friends; rather, it is evidence of both humility and strength.

We see that strength in history’s wise men and women. None have ever been convinced that they are the wisest person they know.

I keep thinking of those wise men and women — something the Intramuralist craves. Hence, the below interaction caught my eye last week — the relationship between Billy Graham and George W. Bush. The former President spoke candidly as to the keen, deep influence of Graham — a man who befriended and influenced so many — including (I love this!) those named Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan, Obama.

Bush 43 spoke of first meeting Graham in 1985 on his grandmother’s porch. He would later spend extended time with the Reverend. According to the President, Graham “changed my life”…

“… I was captivated by him. He had a powerful presence, full of kindness and grace, and a keen mind… I mentioned something I’d been thinking about for a while—that reading the Bible might help make me a better person. He told me about one of the Bible’s most fundamental lessons: One should strive to be better, but we’re all sinners who earn God’s love not through our good deeds, but through His grace. It was a profound concept, one I did not fully grasp that day. But Billy had planted a seed. His thoughtful explanation made the soil less hard, the brambles less thick…

God’s work within me began in earnest with Billy’s outreach. His care and his teachings were the real beginning of my faith walk—and the start of the end of my drinking. I couldn’t have given up alcohol on my own. But in 1986, at 40, I finally found the strength to quit. That strength came from love I had felt from my earliest days and from faith I didn’t fully discover until my later years…

Perhaps his most meaningful service came on Sept. 14, 2001. After the 9/11 attacks, I asked Billy to lead the ecumenical service at Washington National Cathedral. It was no easy task. America was on bended knee—frightened, angry, uncertain. As only Billy Graham could, he helped us feel God’s arms wrapped around our mourning country.

‘We come together today,’ he began, ‘to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says that he is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.’ God comforted a nation that day through a very special servant.

In a difficult moment, Billy reminded me—and us all—where we can find strength. And he helped us start to heal by offering three lessons: the mystery and reality of evil, our need for each other, and hope for the present and future. ‘As a Christian,’ Graham said at the 9/11 service, ‘I have hope, not just for this life, but for heaven and the life to come.’

A final story: One night while dad was away on a trip during his presidency, mother and I had dinner at the White House. Eventually we got to talking about religion and who gets to go to heaven. I made the point that the New Testament says clearly that to get to heaven, one must believe in Christ. Mother asked about the devout who don’t believe in Jesus but do God’s work by serving others. She then took advantage of one of the benefits of being first lady. She picked up the phone and asked the White House operator to call Reverend Graham.

It wasn’t long before his reassuring Southern voice was on the line. He told us, as I recall, ‘Barbara and George, I believe what is written in the New Testament. But don’t play God. He decides who goes to heaven, not you.’ Any doctrinal certitude gave way to a calm trust that God had this figured out better than I did.

Those of us who were blessed to know Billy Graham benefited from his deep convictions and personal example, his wisdom and humility, his grace and purity of heart. We knew that his life was a gift from the Almighty. And I rejoice that he is now in the company of God, whom he loved so much and served so well.”

I love the wisdom of Billy Graham — a man who sincerely and passionately offered hope for all regardless of ethnic, religious or political background… a man who knew life was a gift… who was humble and strong and recognized both the reality of evil and our need for each other… who knew that God will always have this life figured out way better than we do… and who, no doubt, was incredibly wise.

Respectfully…
AR

my opinion

Please read each of the following ten statements thoughtfully and carefully:

  • All semi-automatic weapons should be banned.
  • Jesus is coming back tomorrow.
  • One of the presidential candidates in the 2016 election was clearly better than the other one.
  • Abortion should be legal in every circumstance.
  • Businesses should stay out of politics.
  • The church should stay out of politics.
  • Hollywood should stay out of politics.
  • Every woman who claims #MeToo is telling the truth.
  • Government is too big.
  • Social media has been disastrous.

Each of the above has been averred at sometime, somewhere, by someone, passionately, emphatically, on social media or elsewhere — maybe even on the Intramuralist.

Here’s the challenge: each of the above is an opinion.

Let’s be clear. An opinion is “a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter.”

Let me add two more relevant definitions. First, a preference is the act of “liking better or best.” And second, a conviction is “the state of being convinced.”

In other words, a preference is a liking; an opinion is a judgment or belief; and a conviction is a certainty — it’s something I’d die for.

For example, I like Purdue basketball; I believe they are incredibly talented this year; but as much as I want them to — and have convinced myself that it is going to happen — there is no guarantee that Purdue will win the NCAA tournament; it is not certain.

The challenge exists, though, when I state the above — stating my strong preference and opinion — as something it is not; it is not conviction. As much as I might want my beloved Boilermakers to be standing amidst the falling confetti when “One Shining Moment” is played, my passion and resolve do not make my opinion more certain.

And that’s where our intelligence gets in the way. We think we’re smart; we think we know what’s right; we think we’ve got it all figured out. So we approach things smartly — not wisely.

Wisdom and intelligence are two totally different things. Intelligence is smarts, brains, and mental capacity. But wisdom is something more. Wisdom adds discernment, self-awareness, and sensitivity toward others.

As thus said frequently in my household, wisdom is more important than intelligence. I may have a son with a cognitive disability who doesn’t score exceptionally well on standard IQ tests, but that same son is incredibly, incredibly wise. Wisdom is always more important.

It is only via wisdom, friends, that we learn the difference between preference, opinion, and conviction. Hence, if we could learn that — if we could be a wise people — our conversations, relationships, and even social media status would be far better… and far more respectful of all those around us.

Respectfully… always…
AR

in state or in honor

Henry Clay was the first.

Jacob Joseph Chestnut and John Michael Gibson were a first.

Later it would be Rosa Parks.

Yesterday it was Billy Graham.

Yesterday afternoon, the body of America’s most famous evangelist lied in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. According to the Architect of the Capitol, “The Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol has been considered the most suitable place for the nation to pay final tribute to its most eminent citizens by having their remains lay in state or in honor.”

“Lying in state” ceremonies are typically reserved for deceased presidents and other elected officials. “Lying in honor” has become the utilized phrase for those who served us in a non-elected capacity.

Allow me to highlight a few additional, key words…

Most “eminent”… meaning illustrious, distinguished, renowned, esteemed, noteworthy, great, prestigious, important, influential, affluential, outstanding…

“Honor”… meaning integrity, honesty, uprightness, ethics, morals, morality, principles, high principles, righteousness, high-mindedness, virtue, goodness, decency, probity, character, scrupulousness, worth, fairness, justness, trustworthiness, reliability, dependability…

And yet I’m struck by how many intentionally dishonor… thinking Chestnut, Gibson, Parks or Graham — the only private citizens given such an honor — were somehow undeserving…

(… oh, how we let our differences get in the way of what’s right sometimes…)

Chestnut and Gibson were U.S. Capitol Police officers killed at the Capitol in the line of duty on July 24, 1998. They stopped a gunman in the Capitol, and were the first private citizens ever given the distinction of “lying in honor” in the Rotunda.

Parks was deemed “the first lady of civil rights,” after she first bravely refused to give up her bus seat in the “colored section” to a white passenger, after the whites-only section was filled. Her act of defiance and continued advocacy infamously inspired many. When she passed away in 2005 at the age of 92, Parks became the first woman and the second black person to lie in honor in the Capitol.

And Graham was one of the most influential preachers of the 20th century. He was a friend to each President — regardless of party — and he helped millions from varied backgrounds, ethnicities, and demographics. Through his teaching and exhortation, those millions learned what it meant to love God and one another. He rested in honor yesterday.

Perhaps my favorite picture from yesterday’s memorial was the one of gathered senators, spouses, and other congressmen, cabinet members, family members, etc. — each still, with eyes closed, heads bowed, and mouths shut.

At that moment, partisanship didn’t matter.

Self-focus didn’t matter.

Difference didn’t matter.

All that mattered was honoring another.

Oh, we have much to learn…

Respectfully…
AR

what can we sacrifice in leadership?

Today we do something different.

Today we offer solely two sentences — two sentences I recently read that made me think…

… and think some more.

The sentences come via a backdrop of how challenged we are in search of virtuous, effective leadership; it seems too many are too willing to sacrifice something, looking past the fault lines in one leader, accepting something perhaps we should not.

Leadership can’t be sacrificed, friends…

Virtue can’t be sacrificed.

Effectiveness can’t be sacrificed.

And yet way too often we are willing to sacrifice something…

“Well, he/she isn’t as bad as the other.”

Note: something’s wrong when we are comparing levels of “badness.”

And then I saw this note from author and pastor Rick Warren, the wise man honored with giving the invocation at the presidential inauguration in January of 2009.

Later, in 2012, Warrant offered these two sentences:

“The world is desperately looking for an authoritative message in a humble personality.

That combination is irresistible.”

Authority.

Humility.

Want to find an effective leader?

Want to be an effective leader?

It starts with genuine humility.

(Ok, so maybe a few more sentences than two…)

Respectfully…
AR

are you virtuous?

In the 2004 “Character Strengths and Virtues” handbook, six classes of core virtues are identified, made up of 24 measurable “character strengths.” They are as follows:

  1. Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, innovation
  2. Courage: bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality, zest
  3. Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence
  4. Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership
  5. Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, prudence, self control
  6. Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality

To every positive, there exists a negative; to every good, there exists an evil — every synonym, an antonym. So what are the antonyms and opposites of each of the above?

The opposite of “wisdom and knowledge” is folly and ignorance.

The opposite of “courage” is cowardice.

The opposite of “humanity” is hate.

The opposite of “justice” is partiality.

The opposite of “temperance” is rashness, brashness, arrogance, and unforgivingness.

And the opposite of “transcendence” is unimportance and inferiority.

It’s not rocket science to suggest that most of us wish to be virtuous — to be men and women of strong, solid, and uncompromising character. But why is it that in so many of our dialogues — we are marked more by our opposites above than by our strengths?

… we might claim to love humanity, and yet we show openly show hate toward someone…

… we might claim to be men and women of great temperance, and yet, we withhold forgiveness toward at least a few…

… and we might claim to be wise and knowledgeable for our years, and yet, we are not open-minded in sincerely listening to the person who comes from a varied angle.

It seems, therefore unknowingly, that our society has been lured into believing a complete lack of virtues and strengths is acceptable… especially when talking about any dicey or difficult matter; it’s why an increasing number choose never to discuss money, politics, religion, or sex.

Consistent with the Intramuralist’s advocacy for always embracing what’s good and right and true, we would be wise to remember when we are most tempted to disguise the wrong for a right — to accept the total lack of virtue.

I was reminded again this past weekend of the “H.A.L.T.” theory…

When am I most tempted to act inappropriately? When am I most tempted to withhold love, forgiveness, fairness, and far more? When am I most tempted to lash out, forgetting my deep desire to treat and love all people well?

… when I am…

Hungry…
Angry…
Lonely… or…
Tired.

When I am hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, I am most tempted to forgo what I know to be good and right and true.

In many of the recent Intramuralist discussions, one observation that repeatedly arose was the increased levels of anger in our country — manifesting itself in various ways, but typically, often destructive.

HALT.

May we attempt to remember what’s virtuous… and pause when the temptation to do otherwise is lurking.

Respectfully…
AR

Photo by yatharth roy vibhakar on Unsplash

four days after Parkland

Let’s talk honestly, rawly about what happened last Wednesday. Let’s talk about the students. Let’s talk about solution.

First, take a moment to say each of these names out loud. Take note, too, of their ages…

Alyssa Alhadeff (14), Martin Duque Anguiano (14), Scott Beigel (35), Nicholas Dworet (17), Aaron Feis (37), Jaime Guttenberg (14), Christopher Hixon (49), Luke Hoyer (15), Cara Loughran (14), Gina Montalto (14), Joaquin Oliver (17), Alaina Petty (14), Meadow Pollack (18), Helena Ramsay (17), Alex Schachter (14), Carmen Schentrup (16), and Peter Wang (15).

We need to know their names, see their faces. We need to make sure we humanize the process and allow ourselves to feel. We cannot simply stand back behind a policy; we need to stand most behind our people.

17 people died Wednesday afternoon. No doubt none expected to lose their life that day. And that could have been any our kids or any of us or any of our loved ones, too; we expect school to be safe. It was not. It’s seemingly, increasingly not.

So what do we do? What’s the solution?

Let me first say I have tremendous respect for those who shout and shame on social media. They are motivated by a deep desire to solve this problem.

I also have tremendous respect for those who cry out and pray, acknowledging we need help in this area. They are motivated by a deep desire to solve this problem.

What concerns me are those who see only one of the above as right, and therefore denigrate all others. “The ‘my way or the high way’ approach is rendering all of us incapable of rising up to a challenge that will continue to consume the most innocent and best of us,” says one wise friend. We need to address the challenge without attacking or dismissing the approach of another.

I do find comfort that even among the most passionate, shameful expressers, each of us is still motivated by a desire to solve this heartbreaking challenge in our country.

Friends, we can — and should, I believe — look at policy changes. So let’s do something that works. Let’s take the politics out of it and find what’s effective and works. There is no such thing as “there is nothing we can do.”

Do we need to limit access to semi-automatic weapons? Then let’s do it. But let’s limit more than just the scary looking ones.

Do we need to limit the lobbyist groups that are influencing policy and our legislators’ votes?

Then let’s do it. But let’s limit far more than the NRA. Let’s limit the AARP, AFL-CIO, and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, too. Each of those (and more) is affecting the way our legislators vote. As said here previously, the Intramuralist strongly believes that the eased restrictions on lobbyists and special interest groups — which occurred in the late 1970’s — is a primary origin of the divisive governance we sadly witness today.

But  remembering that we are talking honestly and rawly, is there more we need to do? After acknowledging the students and advocating for solution, let’s not ignore the also true realities…

  • What happened in Parkland was evil. We cannot legislate evil out of the human heart…
  • We are a society which is at best inconsistent and at worst arrogant regarding the sanctity of life. We care more about some lives than others… and…
  • We have become increasingly less compassionate and accepting of violence.

Let me make the last point a little more poignant. We have become increasingly more accepting of selective compassion, meaning we are not compassionate toward all — and we justify it.

Follow the perspective of one Florida middle school Teacher of the Year [with the emphasis being mine], “Until we, as a country, are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for the mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support when the schools are trying to control horrible behavior at school (oh no! Not MY KID. What did YOU do to cause my kid to react that way?), lack of moral values, and yes, I’ll say it – violent video games that take away all sensitivity to ANY compassion for others’ lives – as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream up in each others’ faces and not value any other person but themselves, we will have a gun problem in school.”

So yes, we need to review policy change. Yes, we need to keep praying. And yes, we need to respect one another in their different approach. Let’s work together toward solution.

That’s love, friends. Let’s make love toward all lives — toward the victims, especially — be our loudest, collective voice…. for far more than four days after Parkland.

Respectfully…
AR

more than a game(s)

What are they saying about these Olympics?

Two great stories… first, from Dylan Hernandez, a sports columnist with the Los Angeles Times, including his editorial commentary:

“A more appropriate nickname for these so-called Peace Games would be the Geopolitical Public Relations Olympics, as North Korea has claimed gold in media manipulation with a contingent that has included Kim Jong Un’s sister, red-clad cheering sections and low-caliber athletes that have become the subjects of widespread fascination.

In the background of the cynical spectacle, however, the ideals of the Olympics remain very much alive, embodied by anonymous men and women competing in obscure sports, athletes such as Chris Mazdzer, who on Sunday became America’s first-ever male medalist in the luge.

You had probably never heard of Mazdzer, but that’s the point. His silver medal won’t make him an overnight millionaire and, at some point, the 29-year-old will have to find work that doesn’t involve him sliding down his back on ice-covered tracks.

If anything, the absence of money and fame have made the 29-year-old’s journey to the podium all the more meaningful.

‘It’s all about passion, it’s about heart,’ Mazdzer said. ‘That’s what luge is.’”

And second, in the words of newly-donned Pyeongchang gold medalist, Shaun White, reflecting on one, experiencing a serious crash/injury on the slopes, as he prepared for these games:

“… By saying I want to continue on in the sport means that I’m looking at myself in the mirror and saying, ‘if I’m out on the snow again, that means that I’m willing to have that happen again. I’m ready to take that risk.’ And it was a big decision.

From that moment in the hospital in New Zealand ’til like winning the competition, making the [Olympic] team, and a perfect 100 score — I mean, that was truly the comeback story for me, and it just felt so amazing — and so incredible to make that jump back and overcoming the fears and get that score. And now I’m still fired up for this Olympics. This is really icing on the cake, if things go the way I hope they go…”

And two, on disappointedly, not medaling four years ago, and later deciding to train and compete once more:

“People ask, ‘When are you going to get over it?’ You know, the loss or whatever. You don’t, you don’t really ever get over it. It’s kind of like you have a scar from falling off a bike; it’s just with you forever. But you learn from it. So it’s a part of me now, which is great. As hard as it was, I’m thankful that it happened because it taught me a lot.”

Passion.
Dedication.
Thanksgiving.
Redemption.

Being taught a lot… learning from it… even in heartache and loss.

There is certainly something about these games that is beautiful…

And far more than just a game.

Respectfully…
AR