Category Archives: sports and life

Reflecting on the Best Of American Sports Teams

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The United States Women’s National Team, was simply the best and I continue to be in love with them.

They were derided before the tournament, mostly by male commentators. Their one of a kind outspoken veteran star player and co-Captain was viciously attacked in public statements by the President Of the United States, and they were criticized by others for their dominance and love of the game and love of team. I have never seen any winning team in any sport so derided for their unity, their dominance, and their ability to win against some of the best teams in the world, including Sweden, France, and England. In the final they defeated the Netherlands team which had played brilliantly the entire tournament, never trailing in a game until Megan Rapinoe scored on a penalty kick in the 61st minute of the championship game.

Their victory today was more than a victory for their team it was a victory for the proposition in the Declaration Of Independence that all people are created equal. In addition to winning they forced the hand of FIFA to increase the financial aspects of the game to women, doubling and then quadrupling the amount of money dedicated to the women’s tournament.

Beyond that, these women, and the members of the team over the past quarter of a century have blazed a trail of excellence that is hard to match. Forget about the men’s Olympic Basketball “Dream Teams”, made up of the best players in the NBA, no one cared when they ran up scores, dominated, and celebrated their wins. Forget the United States men’s Baseball team who cannot win or come close to winning an international tournament because the MLB owners won’t let their best players compete, or the U.S. Men’s Soccer team which has never gotten past the semifinals in the World Cup despite more funding and higher salaries than those of the USNWT.

The U.S. Women speak for more than sports. They speak for the equality of the Declaration, and the rights of women (and men) everywhere who are discriminated against because of gender, race, or religion. By the way when I speak of gender I don’t just talk male and female, but also of my LGBTQ friends, brothers and sisters.

This was a special team. They had a lot of detractors, including former teammates, but they showed their metal and won, in a convincing manner. They scored the most goals ever by a women’s treat in World Cup history and only allowed three goals against them in seven games. They defeated three of the highest rated teams in the world just to get to the final. They dealt with age and injuries, and still showed a joy for the game, love of team, and yes, patriotism, even the kind of which is unpopular and makes authoritarians uncomfortable and angry.

In that, Megan Rapinoe, the object of so much of President Trump’s disdain, won both the tournament’s Golden Boot for the most goals and assists, as well as the Golden Ball as best player of the tournament. As a patriot who believes and hopes for the best that our country has to offer, I hope that she and the team refuse any invitation to Trump’s White House. They fought for too much to surrender those victories to a man who would use them for a photo op and then continue to speak badly of them.

Congratulations to the American Women who won the Women’s World Cup and so much more, this year, as well as in 1995, 1999, and 2015. They all deserve our respect, appreciation, and admiration; but especially this team, for they are the face of ALL United States Soccer. They are the people who have inspired American women and men to compete at the highest levels of soccer worldwide.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Die Rekordmeister: Bayern Munich Does the Seven-Peat

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today I had the pleasure of seeing my favorite soccer team, Bayern München of the German Bundesliga win their seventh straight league title in the final game of the season. It was the 28th time since the Bundesliga was formed in 1963 that Bayern won it. It is the first time since 2009 when the Bundesliga title went down to the final game. It was also the toughest title fight that Bayern has had the past seven years. This year Borussia Dortmund gave them all they were worth.

This year was a year of transition for Bayern, the lost some key players over the summer trading block, and a number of key players were getting older and suffering injuries more often. Dortmund, a young team with some solid veterans came out of the starting gate hot, by the December break they had a nine point lead on Bayern and many were writing the reigning champions off, especially after Dortmund defeated the the Champions in a close 3-2 battle in the first stage of the Klassiker in Dortmund. it appeared to many, if not most that Bayern was doomed, and might even stumble enough not to secure a place intrepid UAFA Champions League next season.

The second half of the season was different. Dortmund stumbled, Bayern recovered. They won 13, tied 3, and their only loss in the second half was on February 2nd. During the run they destroyed Dortmund 6-0 in Munich in the second leg of the Klassiker. Different players stepped up at different times, younger rising stars and the veterans who had been the backbone of the team for years. Back up goal keep Sven Ulreich was a big part when the legendary starter Manuel Neuer was injured in a win against Düsseldorf the following week. Striker Robert Lewandowski won the Golden Boot for the second year straight, something not done since Bayer Leverkusen’s Ulf Kirsten won it back to back in 1996-1998.

Bayern took a two point lead and 17 point positive goal differential into their final match in their home at Allianz Arena against Eintracht Frankfurt. Dortmund had to play on the road against Borussia Mönchengladbach. In order to overcome Bayern’s lead Dortmund would have to win and have Bayern either lose to Frankfurt or tie them with Dortmund winning by a clear 18 points. That didn’t happen.

Dortmund did win by a score of 0-2. It wasn’t near enough. Bayern buried Frankfurt 5-1 with legendary wingers Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben nicknamed “Robbery” by their fans scoring late goals. Ribery had spent 12 years in Munich, Robben, 10. It was a story book ending to a tough season. First year Coach Niko Kovac whose job in in question throughout the season deserved the win. In the post game celebration the coach, like coaches in the United States got drenched, but it wasn’t with Gatorade, it was with a five liter glass of Paulaner Bier dumped on him by Arjen Robben. A receiving line of Bayern Greats Greatest the team members a s coaching staff as they were presented their individual medals and the teach received the championship trophy.

Bayern, Dortmund, Leipzig, and Leverkusen all secured places in the Champions League. Mönchengladbach, Wolfsburg, and Frankfurt secured spots in the UEFA Europa League, while Hanover 96 and Nuremberg were relegated to the Second Bundesliga. Köln which was relegated from the Bundesliga last year will return for the 2019-2020 season. They will be joined by either Paderborn or Union Berlin, the result which will be determined Sunday. Stuttgart will place the Third Place Second Bundesliga League finisher. That will be either Union Berlin or Paderborn, if Stuttgart wins they stay in the Bundesliga, a loss sends them into relegation. I wish the Major American sports leagues had such a system. The Second Bundesliga is not the Minor leagues, it’s teams can play for the German Cup and they have the same kind of followings as the First League teams

Bayern has one more game in a week. On May 25th they play Leipzig for the German Cup and the team is already preparing for next season with new additions of star players to fill in their weaker areas, with more to come. Dortmund is back, and Bayern will be ready for them next year. Robben and Ribéry will continue their careers elsewhere with no hard feelings, rumor has it that Robben might end up playing, like many other aging European greats in the MLS.

I am just glad I got to see Robben and Ribery play in person on our last trip to Munich. What a year.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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“We’ll Lick This Someday” But Will Someday Ever Come: Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, and Charles Thomas

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John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson on opening day 1947

Friends of Padre Steve’s World.

Pitchers and catchers reported to training camps in Florida and Arizona today and will continue reporting tomorrow. Thursday is a Valentine’s Day and thank God Easter falls late this year so it doesn’t coincide with Ash Wednesday.

For the Baseball purist, the Priest and the inept romantic the combination is quite juxtaposing. For the fact of the matter I don’t do either Lent which Ash Wednesday begins or Valentine’s Day very well, thankfully Lent doesn’t begin for a few more weeks.

That being the case I routinely screw both of the up and as hard as I try I struggle to reach the Mendoza Line in either one. Of course that leaves baseball which for me is a religion, as well as a social commentary on America, our values, and virtues, despite the fact that I also find much truth in Soccer, or as most of the world calls it Football. But I digress, this is about baseball, Civil rights, and America.

I’m not the first to say this an editor in Baseball Magazine wrote in 1921:

“Thomas Jefferson, when he wrote the Declaration, made proper provision for baseball when he declared that ‘all men are, and of right out to be, free and equal.’ That’s why they are at the ball game, banker and bricklayer, lawyer and common laborer.” 

But for African Americans in the first half of the Twentieth Century the game was as segregated as as any town that adhered to Jim Crow in the South or the Sundown Towns in the North and West which excluded them from the political, social privileges enjoyed by Whites. In spite of their relegation to the Negro Leagues a lot of people in baseball knew their talent and ability, one of them was Branch Rickey. Rickey was the first to successfully integrate a team. Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis opposed early attempts at integration from 1920 until his death in 1944, as a result early attempts to integrate teams failed.

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Charles Thomas 

It was in 1903 when Rickey, then a coach for the Ohio Wesleyan University baseball team had to console his star player, Charles Thomas when a hotel in South Bend Indiana refused him a room because he was black. Rickey found Thomas sobbing  rubbing his hands and repeating “Black skin. Black skin. If only I could make them white.” Rickey attempted to console his friend saying “Come on, Tommy, snap out of it, buck up! We’ll lick this one day, but we can’t if you feel sorry for yourself.”

Branch-Rickey

Branch Rickey

Thomas, encouraged by Rickey was remembered by one alumnus who saw a game that Thomas played in noted that “the only unpleasant feature of the game was the coarse slurs cast at Mr. Thomas, the catcher.” However, the writer noted something else about Thomas that caught his eye: “But through it all, he showed himself far more the gentleman than his insolent tormentors though their skin is white.” Thomas would go on to be a dentist and remain a friend of Rickey until Rickey’s death in 1965. He moved to New Mexico where he became on of the first African American dentists in that state. Mark Moore, the Executive Director of the New Mexico Dental Association noted:

“This was a time when being a professional was difficult for an African-American. As one of the first black dentists in New Mexico, Dr. Thomas helped desegregate dentistry. He had a significant impact on our national history and the dental profession.”

Baseball like most of America was not a place for the Black man. Rickey, a devout Christian later remarked “I vowed that I would always do whatever I could to see that other Americans did not have to face the bitter humiliation that was heaped upon Charles Thomas.”

In April 1947 Branch Rickey who was now the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers invited one African-American ballplayer to the Dodgers’ Spring Training site in Daytona Beach Florida. The South was still a hotbed of racial prejudice, Jim Crow was the law of the land and Blacks had no place in White Man’s baseball, but Rickey decided to challenge that rule and the player was Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson Shaking Branch Rickey's Hand

The Dodgers had been coming to Florida for years. Rickey moved the Dodgers from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach in 1947 after Jacksonville had refused to alter its segregation laws to allow an exhibition game between the Dodgers International League affiliate the Montreal Royals, for whom Robinson starred.

That was the year that Rickey signed Robinson to a minor league contract with the Royals.  When Rickey called up Robinson 6 days prior to the 1947 season Robinson broke the color barrier for both the Dodgers and Major League Baseball. However it would take another 12 years before all Major League teams had a black player on their roster.

It is hard to imagine now that even after Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier that other teams did not immediately sign black players. However Rickey and Robinson broke the color barrier a year before Harry Truman had integrated the Armed Forces and seven years before the Supreme Court ruled the segregation of public schools illegal. But how could that be a surprise? The country was still rampant with unbridled racism. Outside of a few Blacks in the military and baseball most African Americans had few rights. In the North racism regulated most blacks to ghettos, while in the South, Jim Crow laws and public lynchings of progressive or outspoken Blacks.

Actor, director and civil rights activist Ossie Davis wrote in the book Baseball Nineteen – Oh – Seven” that:

“Baseball should be taken seriously by the colored player — and in this effort of his great ability will open the avenue in the near future wherein he may walk hand in hand with the opposite race in the greatest of all American games — baseball.”


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Larry Doby (above) and Satchel Paige signed by the Indians

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The Cleveland Indians under their legendary owner Bill Veeck were not far behind the Dodgers in integrating their team. Veeck claimed that his effort to purchase the Philadelphia Phillies was rejected by Kennesaw Mountain Landis when he announced that he would desegregate the team. Under Veeck’s direction the Tribe signed Larry Doby on July 5th 1947. Doby would go on to the Hall of Fame and was a key player on the 1948 Indian team which won the 1948 World Series, the last that the storied franchise has won to this date.

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Hank Thompson and Roy Campanella

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The St. Louis Browns signed Third Baseman Hank Thompson 12 days after the Indians signed Doby. But Thompson, Robinson and Doby would be the only Blacks to play in that inaugural season of integration. They would be joined by others in 1948 including the immortal catcher Roy Campanella who signed with the Dodgers and the venerable Negro League pitcher, Satchel Paige who was signed by the Indians.

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Monte Irvin (Above) and Willie Mays

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Willie Mays

It was not until 1949 when the New York Giants became the next team to integrate. They brought up Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson who they had acquired from the Browns. In 1951 they would be joined by rookie Willie Mays to become the first all African-American outfield in the Major Leagues. Both Mays and Irvin would enter the Hall of Fame and both remained key part of the Giants’ story. Despite their age have continued to be active in with the Giants and Major League Baseball, Mays still is but Irvin died in 2016.

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Samuel Jethroe

The Boston Braves were the next to desegregate calling up Samuel “the Jet” Jethroe to play Center Field. Jethroe was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1950.

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Minnie Minoso

In 1951 the Chicago White Sox signed Cuban born Minnie Minoso who had played for Cleveland in 1949 and 1951 before signing with the White Sox. Minoso would be elected to 9 All-Star teams and win 3 Golden Gloves.

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Ernie Banks (above) and Bob Trice

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The Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Athletics integrated at the end of the 1953 season. The Cubs signed Shortstop Ernie Banks who would go on to be a 14 time All-Star, 2 time National League MVP and be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977 on the first ballot. The Athletics called up pitcher Bob Trice from their Ottawa Farm team where he had won 21 games. Trice only pitched in 27 Major League games over the course of three seasons with the Athletics.

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Curt Roberts

Four teams integrated in 1954. The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Second Baseman Curt Roberts from Denver of the Western League as part of a minor league deal. He would play 171 games in the Majors.  He was sent to the Columbus Jets of the International League in 1956 and though he played in both the Athletics and Yankees farm systems but never again reached the Majors.

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Tom Alston

The St. Louis Cardinals, the team that had threatened to not play against the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson in 1947 traded for First Baseman Tom Alston of the Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres. Alston would only play in 91 Major League games with his career hindered by bouts with depression and anxiety.

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Nino Escalara (above) and Chuck Harmon

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The Cincinnati Reds brought up Puerto Rican born First Baseman Nino Escalera and Third Baseman Chuck Harmon. Harmon had played in the Negro Leagues and had been a Professional Basketball player in the American Basketball League. Harmon who was almost 30 when called up played just 4 years in the Majors. Both he and Escalera would go on to be Major League scouts. Escalera is considered one of the best First Baseman from Puerto Rico and was elected to the Puerto Rican Baseball Hall of Fame. Harmon’s first game was recognized by the Reds in 2004 and a plaque hangs in his honor.

Carlos-Paula

The Washington Senators called up Cuban born Center Fielder Carlos Paula from their Charlotte Hornets’ farm team in September 1954. Paula played through the 1956 season with the Senators and his contract was sold to the Sacramento Salons of the Pacific Coast League. He hit .271 in 157 plate appearances with 9 home runs and 60 RBIs. He died at the age of 55 in Miami.

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Elston Howard

In April 1955 the New York Yankees finally integrated 8 years after the Dodgers and 6 years after the Giants. They signed Catcher/Left Fielder Elston Howard from their International League affiliate where he had been the League MVP in 1954. Howard would play 13 years in the Majors with the Yankees and later the Red Sox retiring in 1968. He would be a 12-time All Star and 6-time World Series Champion as a player and later as a coach for the Yankees. He died of heart disease in 1980.  His number #32 was retired by the Yankees in 1984.

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The Philadelphia Phillies purchased the contract of Shortstop John Kennedy from the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League at the end of the 1956 season. Kennedy played in just 5 games in April and May of 1957.

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Ozzie Virgil Sr.

In 1958 the Detroit Tigers obtained Dominican born Utility Player Ozzie Virgil Sr. who had played with the Giants in 1955 and 1956. Virgil would play 9 seasons in the Majors with the Giants, Tigers, Athletics and Pirates and retire from the Giants in 1969. He later coached for 19 years in the Majors with the Giants, Expos, Padres and Mariners.

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Pumpsie Green

The last team to integrate was the Boston Red Sox who signed Infielder Pumpsie Green. Green made his debut on 21 July 1959 during his three years with the Red Sox was primarily used as a pinch runner. He played his final season with the New York Mets in 1963. He was honored by the Red Sox in 2009 on the 50th anniversary of breaking the Red Sox color barrier.

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It took 12 years for all the teams of the Major Leagues to integrate, part of the long struggle of African Americans to achieve equality not just in baseball but in all areas of public life.  These men, few in number paved the way for African Americans in baseball and were part of the inspiration of the Civil Rights Movement itself.  They should be remembered by baseball fans, and all Americans everywhere for their sacrifices and sheer determination to overcome the obstacles and hatreds that they faced. It would not be until August of 1963 that Martin Luther King Jr. would give his I Have a Dream speech and 1964 that African Americans received equal voting rights.

Robinson would become a vocal supporter of civil rights, especially after his experience at the 1964 Republican National Convention. Robinson, a Republican and friend of Nelson Rockefeller where he was threatened by a White delegate. He wrote:

“It was a terrible hour for the relatively few black delegates who were present. Distinguished in their communities, identified with the cause of Republicanism, an extremely unpopular cause among blacks, they had been served notice that the party they had fought for considered them just another bunch of “niggers”. They had no real standing in the convention, no clout. They were unimportant and ignored. One bigot from one of the Deep South states actually threw acid on a black delegate’s suit jacket and burned it. Another one, from the Alabama delegation where I was standing at the time of the Rockefeller speech, turned on me menacingly while I was shouting “C’mon Rocky” as the governor stood his ground. He started up in his seat as if to come after me. His wife grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

“Turn him loose, lady, turn him loose,” I shouted.

I was ready for him. I wanted him badly, but luckily for him he obeyed his wife…” (From Jackie Robinson “I Never Had it Made” Chapter XV On Being Black Among the Republicans)

Spring training for the 2018 season begins tomorrow in Florida and Arizona, in what are called the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. It is hard to believe that only 70 years ago that there was only one team and one owner dared to break the color barrier that was and still is so much a part of American life.

However despite opposition and lingering prejudice African Americans in baseball led the way in the Civil Rights Movement and are in large part responsible for many of the breakthroughs in race relations and the advancement of not only African Americans, but so many others. We can thank men like  Charles Thomas, Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey for this and pray that we who remain, Black and White, Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern; Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu; Gay and Straight, as well as all others who make up our great nation will never relinquish the gains that have been won at such a great cost.

In an age were racism has crawled out from under the rock of social distain and has risen to such political prominence that civil rights and voting rights, as well as education, and employment, and healthcare for Blacks, other minorities, and the poor of all races are under attack it is important to remember the words of Branch Rickey to Charles Thomas in 1903: “We’ll lick this one day…” It will certainly be a hard fight, but we have to fight

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, civil rights, History, News and current events, Political Commentary, sports and life

The Day I Came to Love Iran: Reflections on the World Cup, Sports, and our Common Humanity

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have a confession to make. After I watched Iran play its first match in the World Cup against Morocco I was hooked, and I hoped that they would advance at least into the round of 16. The plucky Iranian team defeated Morocco, lost to Spain by a score of just 1-0 and tied Portugal today with a score of 1-1. Their fans cheered their team with the enthusiasm that any American would do for our teams in any sport, and many of their fans took the time to protest policies of the Iranian government and Revolutionary Guard. Honestly, eight or twelve years ago I wouldn’t have gotten past the blood sport of international politics and hatred of what I considered to be an enemy. But sports can help build bridges between people that might otherwise be unbridgeable.

I remember my first meeting with an Iranian, it was back when Iran was an ally of the United States and I was a Navy Junior ROTC cadet undergoing training at NTC San Diego. He was an Iranian Navy Lieutenant, since I recognized him as an officer I saluted and he replied. When the Iranian Revolution came I was stunned because I figured that the Shah must have been a good guy, but that was before I learned of how he had come to power and the CIA had overthrown a democratically elected government to put him in power and how he and his secret police did horrific things to the Iranian people.

Let me say as well that I never was a fan of the Ayatollahs or their stormtrooper like Republican Guard and their abuse of human rights or sponsorship or terrorism. That being said there was a moment in time that occurred after the attacks of September 11th 2001 when the Iranians offered their sympathy to us and support for us against Al Qaida. Instead the Bush Administration turned them down and then labeled them as part of the Iraqi and North Korean “Axis of Evil.” Of course that was an incredibly stupid act of hubris since none of the three actually had any connection to Bin Laden and Al Qaida and even more stupidly many Americans including me believed the lies.

But it wasn’t long after that when deployed to the Arabian Gulf about the cruiser USS HUE CITY that I saw Iranian regular Navy ships as well as Coast Guard vessels steer Iraqi smugglers out of their territorial waters and into our hands. The Revolutionary Guard Naval Forces were a different matter, some of their boats harassed our task force flagship, the HMAS Manora and we almost went to war before they withdrew. Of course we ended up invading Iraq which likewise was an enemy of Al Qaida throwing it into chaos and basically handing Iran’s hard liners a victory. But all of that is history.

I have known other Iranians and people of Iranian dissent. Every single one of them has been a wonderful human being. I may oppose the Ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guards including their actions in Iraq, Syria, and supporting Hezbollah, but I do really believe that if the United States behaved with any kind of moderation towards Iran that the majority of people born after the Revolution and yearning for freedom would overthrow them. I think that the Iranian fans at the World Cup demonstrated more of what Iran is much more than the Ayatollahs or Revolutionary Guard. In fact even during this game there were large demonstrations against the regime in Iran.

I watched Iran’s games against Morocco, Spain, and Portugal and they earned my respect. They didn’t advance to the knockout round but they showed such poise and determination that I could not hope but to hope that they would make it to the next stage. I guess that partly because I have seen the United States do in the World Cup when we have made it into the Cup. I like underdogs unless they are playing against Germany, which I think I have mentioned that I have a rather strong attachment to, but again I digress.

I guess that what I mean to say is that I really do care for the people of Iran. Likewise I hope that the Trump administration will not blunder us into a war with them or push the Iranian people to support a government that most of them despise simply because they feel that they need to defend their country.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense to people who simply hate the Iranians and Muslims based on their nationality, religion, and race. But then I have really stopped caring what such people think about me because in spite of everything I look forward to the day that we can live in peace because having been to war I am tired of it.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Friends, Papillons, World Cup, and the Padre’s Pizza

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been a nice day with our friends in the DC area and our Papillon dogs. It was very relaxing, I got to sleep late, enjoy a nice home cooked breakfast with our friends. After that I retreated to the basement where I watched two World Cup games, Mexico vs. South Korea, and Germany vs. Sweden with Pierre and Izzy beside me on the couch.

Since I have been a fan of the German Mannschaft since mid-1980s when I first took an interest in the soccer with Bayern Munich and the National Team I have become a more and more serious follower of international soccer. I have to say that I really get into well played games especially when my teams are playing and when games are close and my team is on the verge of either advancing to another round or being eliminated things can become very tense, not that the world will end or anything like that, but sometimes it feels like it.

It was like that today when Germany, the reigning champions had to come back to avoid being eliminated in the group stage for the first time since before WWII. In fact they have reached the semifinals the past four World Cups. Tony Kroos the German National who plays for Real Madrid scores the winning goal in the 95th minute, which not only kept Germany alive but set them up well to advance if they defeat South Korea and Mexico with wins or ties against Sweden. Needless to say I will be cheering for Mexico as hard as will be Germany on Wednesday morning.

After the game I went back upstairs, relaxed and socialized and then made The Padre’s Pizza.

What most people don’t know about me is that I worked some of my way through college and seminary working in pizza parlors. While I was on my first active duty tour in the Army I began to experiment with my own pizza dough and sauce recipes and over the years I have become quite well known to my close friends for it. It’s a lot of work because I take the time to craft each pizza, and despite the work I find it very relaxing and good for stress relief. I should do it more often at home.

I love doing it. I love making the dough to perfection, seeing it rise, and turning it into a pizza dough. I love cutting the vegetables so that they not only look good but cook perfectly. I love crafting the sauce with my own blend of spices. Then I love building the pizza so that when it cooks that it looks as spectacular as it tastes. There really is an art to it you don’t see every day.

Tonight I made large two 16″ New York style pizzas topped with mozzarella, provolone, Romano, and Parmesan cheeses, pepperoni, Italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, and garlic, peperocini peppers, and Kalamata olives. I also whipped up a pizza crust which became garlic bread.

Sometimes people ask me why I don’t try to start a pizza parlor, but truthfully I do is truly artisan and trying to mass produce it would take away the fun and turn a stress relief activity into a chore. Likewise I will not answer the question of “when does a pizza become a pizza?” (An obscure Seinfeld reference.)

Now like last night everyone has gone to bed but me and Piere. I’m finishing this up so it will Post after midnight and I will go back to reading the book Seduced By Hitler: the Choices of a Nation and the Ethics of Survival. It was published in 2000 and while I have had it in my library for at least 10 years I never read it until this week. I’m about 40% through it and I will give a synopsis when done.

So anyway, until tomorrow.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Super Bowl LII: A Championship Game for a Dying Sport

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sunday was the Super Bowl which I watched with friends at Gordon Biersch. Truthfully watching football for me is more a reason to hang out with friends as the game of American Football lost its magic for me years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a well played, competitive, and exciting game; but truthfully I find most NFL games including many Super Bowls to be less than exciting. The hype about the games, the entertainment build up to them even in the regular season, the unending year road coverage and replays of games played the previous season, not to mention the faux patriotic military displays often paid for by our tax dollars make me tired. I agree with conservative columnist George Will, a Baseball man like me that “Football combines two of the worst things in American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”

I have always been a Baseball fan. While American football is simply a game to me, Baseball is a religion.

For me NFL football, with the except of the glory years of the San Francisco 49ers with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, and coach Bill Walsh is not that special. Tonight’s game was a great game in which the underdog led by an unheralded backup quarterback complete a Cinderella Story, but for the most part the magic is gone.

My lack of real interest in the NFL has nothing to do with the abilities of today’s players; they are outstanding and player for player probably superior to the men who played before them. Nor does my disinterest have anything to do with the kneeling controversy which who I support because ultimately it has to do with the First Amendment. I think that as long as players are forced to be in the field that if they take a knee to protest injustice rather than standing while being even more disrespectful by scratching their ass or balls while acting completely disinterested during the playing of the National Anthem. I find the latter much more disrespectful and offensive than players that take a knee to protest real injustice, but I digress, I chased a rabbit there.

For me the fact is that despite the speed and violence of individual plays the pace of game is incredibly slow and the officiating seems to get worse every year and this is compounded by rules, such as what constitutes a completed pass, that are so subjective as to be a joke. I could go into other criticism of the NFL, it’s culture of violence, and of profit over the welfare of its players; especially over how it has treated its veteran players and their medical issues, particularly CTE and other brain injuries which are cutting short the lives of so many players. While the President of the United States mocks rules designed to protect players, this does matter; this is a game for God’s sake people shouldn’t die or have their lives shortened because they played it and played it well.

When I look at football and its future I see a dying sport. It won’t die tomorrow or even in the next decade but the game itself has to change or die. Tonight’s one that took a player off the field was a concussion injury to New England receiver Brandin Cooks.

The Patriots were denied their 6th Super Bowl title when Tom Brady fumbled with just over two minutes left in the game. They lost to time against a very tough yet under appreciated Philadelphia Eagles team led Nick Foles, by a quarterback who had been written off by most football commentators. Foles not only had a great post season, but a very good Super Bowl, even catching a touchdown pass.

For a Super Bowl, so many of which are disappointing this was a very good one, the underdog won. Philadelphia finally got a Super Bowl title. Their offense pounded the Patriots and in the end their defense sealed the deal breaking up Tom Brady’s Hail Mary pass to Rob Gronkowski with not time left on the clock. While for me it will never have the magic of “The Drive” of the 49ers but it was a great game, especially because New England and the Belichick-Brady cult lost, not that there is anything wrong with that.

I watched it wearing my full Bayern Munchen kit, Thomas Mueller jersey, with matching sweats. Honestly I enjoy watching European, particularly German Bundesliga football to American football. Let’s face it, American football is much close to up-armored Rugby than it is real football because the only people allowed to use their feet on the ball are kickers, punters, and players acting as a kicker or punter; if a regular player kicks the ball during the game it can be a penalty. Really, if players can’t kick the ball how can it be football? That’s no criticism of the players or this Super Bowl, it’s just my opinion. Maybe for truth in advertising the NFL should call the game Gridiron Ball or Up-Armored Slow Paced Rugby. Admittedly that may not help ticket sales or even more television and advertising revenue but it would be more truthful, and who but the President doesn’t like the truth.

Congratulations to Nick Foles and the Eagles. They deserved this win.

Until tomorrow and reality,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under football, Loose thoughts and musings, sports and life

Saturday Football in Munich

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Judy and I arrived in Munich Saturday morning and then did a few things that we needed to do. Our hotel room wasn’t ready when we got there so we walked down to our favorite local restaurant and had lunch, meeting up with people we have gotten to know over the past few years there, before getting our room.

Judy was exhausted as she didn’t get any sleep on the flight so she took a nap as I picked up a few things that we needed for our stay that were not cost effective to pack for the flight. After I did that I took a shower and changed my clothes and proceeded to the hotel bar to watch football.

Of course, who wouldn’t watch football on Saturday afternoon? Actually, I seldom do, unless it something really special, but I digress, for you see the football I like the best is called soccer by Americans, and I love watching the high performing teams of the various European leagues as well as the Champions League. My love for the game began during my first tour in Germany and somehow I became a fan of Bayern Munich, and I have remained one since. The fact is that they are the European equivalent of a team like the New York Yankees. They have won about 26 Bundesliga cups, and four European Champions League titles. Many of their current and former players play on the highest level national teams in the sport.

While Judy slept I went down to the hotel bar to watch the Bayern game against Mainz. The outcome was not a surprise and Bayern defeated Mainz by a score of 4-0. I also got to watch highlights of other games going on. While I was watching the game I was able to join in the conversation with the others around the bar. For me it was really cool, since I was the token American and conversing in German with the local fans of Bayern around the bar. I have to admit it was a lot of fun, as was being able to converse with Bayern fans at the fest and at a local restaurant later. Most were taken aback by my ability to speak with the intelligently about the team, and the league in German, especially when they found out that I was American. One diehard even asked how I became aBayern Munchen fan which I had to explain went back to my first tour in Germany in the mid 1980s.

Today I will go to Dachau and in the evening Judy and I will go to meet a couple for dinner in one of towns just outside of Munich.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under sports and life, Travel