While some sleep off Friday Night Football, the soccer and cross country kids and parents awake and head out for matches and meets. That’s what we’re doing this morning. My sister, TT, is here with us and will go with us to Jacob’s cross country meet then to Anna’s soccer game.
Whenever I see a piece in SI authored by Gary Smith, I tear into the issue and find it and read it–the few times in the year that I don’t start from the back with Rick Reilly.
My job as an editor is to know great writing and when good writing has potential and when fair to poor writing needs to be rejected and the author encouraged to keep writing and not give up the effort to express something genuine with words.
So, hopeful writers, listen: read Gary Smith’s incredible work in Sports Illustrated. He’s widely considered the best sportswriter–if not one of the best writers period–in America. He usually writes four articles a year for SI. He’s a master. He has written about famous athletes and has famously written about the stories behind sports, which ultimately makes me interested in sports more than I’m interested in sports. It was a Smith article that inspired the movie, “Radio,” starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
Smith’s poignant article on Pat Tillman, as with all his articles, left me amazed, sad, awake tonight, wondering at the depth of Smith’s interaction and understanding of human nature and particular people and the lives of his subjects. Pat Tillman was not just an erstwhile NFL player who became an Army Ranger killed by friendly fire, but he was a complex young man looking for truth and to make a name for himself.
Here’s how Smith begins the piece:
One day, God willing, Russell Baer was going to tell his son this story. One day, after the boy’s heart and brain had healed, he was going to point to that picture on the kids’ bedroom shelf of the man doing a handstand on the roof of a house, take a deep breath and say, Mav, that’s a man who lived a life as pure and died a death as muddy as any many ever to walk this rock, and I was there for both . . .
The story continues through the perspective of Russell Baer, whose life Tillman’s death and spirit has forever changed.
Pat Tillman’s Road – from 9/11 to Afghanistan
by Gary Smith
In the life of a mission team, as most organizations, there are “documents,” written words that define identity, purpose, vision, strategy.
I want you to see the ongoing work of the Jinja Mission that we have been part of since 1994, and we are proud of those who have taken up the vision of seeing life-change in the Soga people since our departure in 2001.
Look at Jinja Missions web site and you’ll find a “Phase 5” document. We began a “Phase 4” document with an analogy of basketball, and the current team began theirs with one from soccer. I really like both ideas but I love how they have built on ideas and made them their own and partnered even more with Ugandans as we were doing, to creatively reach out and bless a people who we dearly love.
Here is the current team’s sports analogy and below that is the previous team’s from 2001.
2006 – Phase 5
Johann Cruyff and the “Clockwork Orange” Dutch National Team of the 1970’s revolutionized the game of soccer with their “total football” style of play. This strategy emphasized the adaptability of individual players within a fluidly shifting formation, encouraging spontaneity within order, and creating new possibilities for what a team could accomplish together. It is in the spirit of total football that we put forward the Phase V document, in order to provide a flexible structure that allows us to function intentionally, creatively, and openly towards identified goals. The structure is created by our shared visions and principles. Flexibility arises from our willingness to discern and respond as a team to God’s continual action as we perceive Him working together. Just as the Total Football concept is designed to create movement and space, we hope that in putting forward this strategy we are creating space for God to move and act in our lives and in the Busoga Churches of Christ.
2001 – Phase 4
“There is no rigidity here; but there is some structure.” That’s what former professional basketball player and current U.S. Senator Bill Bradley had to say about the game of basketball on the NBA’s 50th Anniversary special. We have used this quote at the beginning of our Phase documents because we feel it describes well our intentions in presenting the visions and objectives that the documents contain. As a mission team, we work from a set of strong principles, solid convictions, and aggressive goals- that gives us our structure. But within that structure, our team functions with a good deal of flexibility. There are many judgment calls, there is room for creative expression, and there are always contextual adjustments. It is this structured flexibility that we hope will keep us open to God’s guidance as we try to implement this Phase IV Action Plan for His glory. Likewise, it is this Phase IV Action Plan that will guide us as we try to move toward our long-term vision for the churches of Christ in Busoga, Uganda.
This is another great Rick Reilly piece. My favorite two magazines are Sports Illustrated and Wineskins. You ought to be subscribed to both (less the swimming suit issue, and I’m not talking about Wineskins swimming suit issue). You’ll need to be a subscriber to read this article in full online but, here, read the first few lines. It’s in the July 31, 2006 issue with Tiger at British Open on cover.
The Parent Trap
By Rick Reilly
I went out to get my paper this morning and found my neighbor Dalton instead.
He was slumped on my stoop, looking as though he’d slept under a marching band. His eyes sported five-pound bags, his right hand was bandaged and bloody, and his face was sunk like a bad soufflé.
“My God!” I said. “What happened to you? You look like a 20-car funeral!”
“Youth lacrosse happened to me,” he grumbled. “The Competitive Elite Lacrosse League. My little Ashley made one of those ‘travel teams.’ Pray it never happens to you, dude.”
Here’s another moving piece by Reilly: Making up for lost time
Went to sign up Jacob for flag football yesterday and he balked. Why? I couldn’t get the answer out of him as he blubbered. We returned home with application in hand and Jill took him aside. Why did he not want to play? Cheerleaders. And no pads for football. We told him he didn’t have to interact with cheerleaders. Not sure what he imagined cheerleaders would be doing in the middle of practices and games, but we assured him they wouldn’t really care about football and be on the sideline. He agreed, and we’re signed up for flag football.