Dropping the Bowl


I have reached a point in life that I never anticipated. It is unexpected, difficult to accept, and to some degree painful to talk about.

This is somewhat embarrassing for a red-blooded American man to admit. I certainly won’t volunteer it in either polite or impolite company.

But here it is; I may have watched my last Super Bowl.

There it is. I actually wrote the words. I’m on the record. And now I must explain my reasons for this betrayal of American sportsmanship.

The decision (which is still provisional) came to me after the 2019 game in which New England beat Los Angeles 13-3. By any standard, it was a boring event. And that is just the actual football part. A championship game that features three field goals and one touchdown is decidedly a demonstration of offensive futility.

But beyond the boredom of the play, it was made more boring by how interrupted it was by commercials, reviews of plays, and a halftime show that seemed to last forever. I honestly can’t remain focused on a sporting event that has more interruptions than sporting action.

And for the most part, the interruptions were sophomoric.

Perhaps there were viewers who were thrilled by the lead singer of Maroon Five taking off his shirt and strutting around in his semi-buff torso and tattoos. And he was better than the rap stuff. Not my cup of tea.

In fact, I must now make a serious personal confession. My wife and I take dance lessons and not long ago did a routine to a Maroon Five song: “Moves Like Jagger.” I solemnly promise never again to go down that shameful road.

But returning to the Super Bowl, perhaps the problem with the halftime show is people want to make it more than the break in a football game is designed for.  Why all the massive production?  I’d rather see (and hear) the marching band from the University of Illinois.

But just to be fair, there was one positive musical note in the eight hours of pre, during, and post coverage: Gladys Knight singing the National Anthem. God bless her for singing the song with maturity, dignity, grace, and talent.

Then there are the commercials. The brilliant advertising agencies that designed the ads clearly were not targeting me. I don’t like robots. I don’t care what Hollywood stars drink. I don’t drink beer.

Looking back on the majority of the commercials – even those that were faintly amusing – I can’t remember what they were selling. I guess being cute and clever is more important than selling chips and cars.

I watched the game until the boring end, then skipped the award ceremony and thought about better ways I could have spent the previous several hours. Here are a few of the preferred options…

  1. Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.
  2. Engage in some solid spiritual reading.
  3. Talk a walk with my wife.
  4. Sort out my fishing tackle so I’m ready for spring.
  5. Clean out all the old files on my computer.
  6. Watch an old movie that doesn’t have graphic violence or naked people.
  7. Play with the grandkids.
  8. Clean the garage.
  9. Go dancing.
  10. Write another blog.

Those are some of the options I’m considering. Of course, if the Bears make it to the Super Bowl next year, all of this sanctimonious and superior posturing goes out the window. In that event, I’ll be glued in front of the TV and will put up with whatever stupid ways people come up with to sell hamburgers and roasted nuts. And I’ll enjoy the halftime show with the band Chicago and the Blues Brothers.

Wonder Woman

pexels-photo-266093The world has many accomplished women.

The leaders of Great Britain and Germany are women.

Major companies led by women include Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, DuPont Chemical, Xerox, Sunoco, and Archer Daniels Midland.

Then there are the “powerful” and “influential” women: Melinda Gates, Ivanka Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Serena Williams, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

These are women who have worked hard and achieved great success. They have made a great deal of money, live in big houses, have lots of people to care for them, have someone to drive them around in the limo, eat at the finest restaurants, fly on private jets, get to sit in a skybox at the Super Bowl, and are hounded for autographs by their admirers.

In short, these are women the world sees as the model of success. Each is a “wonder woman” in her own right.

Then there is Marianne Wren, 80, of Cottonwood, Idaho.

According to the Lewiston Tribune, she was a homemaker and sold Avon products for many years. She also worked as a librarian at Prairie Community Library and for Summit Academy in Cottonwood.

Her hobbies include playing cards and games, scrapbooking, sewing, quilting, and watching her grandchildren’s extracurricular and sporting activities. She is a member of the St. Mary’s Guild, Regnum Christi, and Christian Mothers, all at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and the Sunshine Club and card groups.

Last Saturday, a Mass was held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Cottonwood in honor of her 80th birthday. The Mass was celebrated by her son, Fr. Bruce Wren, LC.  I don’t know Marianne, but Fr. Bruce is a friend, author, and poet.

I’m pretty sure Marianne doesn’t have a limo driver, private jet or tickets to the Super Bowl.  On the other hand, I bet she is welcome at the best restaurants in Cottonwood.

Her name will never be spoken in the same sentence as the women mentioned above, but in my mind, she is about the most accomplished woman you could ever imagine.

She and her husband have seven sons, four daughters, 60 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren. That isn’t a career that typically leads to fame and fortune. But it does lead to a likely place in heaven, not to mention the preservation of the human race.

The world owes Marianne Wren the greatest thanks. She is the real wonder woman.

Gaudete Guy

4243487_fbsGaudete Sunday reminds me of Deacon John Paul Zurawski.

Deacon John passed away on May 22, 2017, quite unexpectedly and at just 75. I miss him.

As a considerate tailor might say, Deacon John was not a small man.  He was, in fact, large in body, voice, spirit, and conviction.

He also was not a man of theological subtly, weighing the gray nuances of right and wrong. His world was black and white, where right was right and wrong was wrong. He sacrificed a corporate career when he refused to do something he knew went against the teachings of the Church.

He served many years at my parish, St. John Vianney, Northlake, Illinois.  During that time, there were two certain ways to find the answer to a matter of Catholic teaching.  You could search through the Catechism of the Catholic Church – or you could ask Deacon John.

He knew the catechism and he knew the Bible. He had no hesitation of providing a parishioner with honest fraternal correction. Few would have called him “pastoral” but none would have called him unclear.

His homilies were loud and long and I always learned something new. His message was hopeful, even joyful. But he wasn’t afraid to use the “s” word (sin).

There was a certain gruffness about Deacon John. But as you got to know him, you realized he was funny and even sensitive.

As I said at the top, Gaudete Sunday reminds me of Deacon John. We had an annual joke on this Sunday. I would always seek him out after Mass and tell him how good he looked in pink. It was like telling John Wayne he looked good in a lace blouse.

Deacon John would raise his bushy eyebrows, roll his eyes and remind me that the color he was wearing was rose, not pink. A manly man like Deacon John could wear rose but never pink.

I’m sure some long-absent Catholics will wander into Church on Gaudete Sunday and think the priest is celebrating an alternative lifestyle. But the Sunday colors are to express the joy we feel for the soon-arriving Christ.

That is a joy Deacon John projected every time I crossed his path. His joy is a blessing I’m grateful to recall.

Nones on the Bus

495584940_d66f12081f_bI have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. – Martin Luther King Jr.

The 2018 mid-term elections proved beyond doubt that about half the American people don’t understand capitalism, the constitution or the founding principles of our nation.

There has been a whole lot of miseducation going on for decades.  People who should know better make some remarkably ignorant statements. In some ways, it isn’t their fault.  They truly don’t know any better.

A popular television commentator said in the wake of the voting that Republicans kept control of the Senate because of gerrymandering.  Of course, senators are elected at large in each state so gerrymandering isn’t possible.

The lying in political ads was shameless. In my own congressional district, the eventual winner likely succeeded by lying about his opponent.

It would be hard for me to choose which group of ignorance-promoters I find most distressing, but Nuns on the Bus would at least be near the top.

This is a group of, as the name suggests, nuns. They wander the country promoting social justice and, as their own materials suggests, do whatever they can to drive men/Republicans from office and replace them with women/Democrats.

To these bus riders, symbolism is more important than substance.  To me, they insult the intelligence and dignity of those they profess to support. They bury the truth and ignore right from wrong.

In my little corner of the world – suburban Chicago – the nuns were thrilled that three Republican lawmakers were defeated for re-election by three Democrats.  And even more tantalizing, two of the three winners are women replacing men.

All three newbies support policies that will increase taxes and reduce health care.  This is not a promotion of social justice. Of course, they all profess how much they care about others.

Sadly, all three newbies are strongly pro-abortion. The old guard was 100 percent pro-life.  Killing more babies is not an increase in social justice.

I fear we have lost our politics to feelings at the expense of facts and solid analysis to discover what really works to create social justice. The Republicans who lost in my local area were supporters of an economic system that has created the greatest nation in the history of the world.  The Democrats who are replacing them support the policies that made Venezuela what it is today: a failed economy with food shortages and vast unemployment. Of course, the politicians who destroyed Venezuela had really great intentions and really cared about the people

They failed because they adopted the same foolish, anti-human policies employed by the Soviet Union, East Germany, and Cuba. They failed not because they didn’t express their good intentions, but because they didn’t have a clue how to achieve them.

I’m afraid America may be headed down the same sad road.

Should I vote for a candidate who is female or black or Asian or white or whatever because of that surface quality? Or should I vote for them because of their character, their wisdom, their judgment, their devotion to the values of our Church and our nation??

Should I vote for a candidate who tells me how much they care – or a candidate who has a proven plan to improve the economy, environment, and national security

Martin Luther King Jr. wanted people to be judged for something more than skin color. I wager he would say the same about gender.

Nuns on the bus, if you asked people to vote for someone because of their gender, you insult both the candidate and their voter. You have chosen a thoughtless path.

If American continues to drift to the left, ignorant of its founding principles that protect the people from the government, we’re likely to come to fear our government. And we’ll have a lot more dead babies.

Faithful Catholic Voters Needed


Millions of opportunities are available on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. You don’t need years of experience. You don’t need to be a genius. You don’t need to be wealthy. It won’t require lots of time or spending a fortune.

All you have to do is vote. And as a Catholic, you have a responsibility to vote according to the beliefs of your faith.

It isn’t difficult. Keep it simple. Don’t get all tied in knots over liberals vs. conservatives vs. progressives vs. libertarians vs. Republicans vs. Democrats.

There are many issues.  Build the wall or not. Expand government or shrink it. Regulate more or less. Capitalism or socialism. Sox or Cubs.

All are important issues, but they are secondary to the three questions you must apply to any candidate:

  • Does the candidate support the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death?
  • Will the candidate protect the sanctity of true marriage, the union of one human female and one human male who are willing to cooperate in God’s plan for marriage, faithful, together, open to children?
  • Is the candidate willing to do whatever it takes to protect religious freedom?

Frankly, you may not have a candidate who will answer affirmatively to all three questions.  You might not one who get a single one right.

In that case, you still should vote. And, yes, vote for the candidate who you believe will do the least harm. Sometimes the best choice is to not make the worst choice.

For Your Big Honking Nose

big-noseThe gender equality police achieved a major victory a few days ago when Kleenex agreed to change the name of Kleenex Mansize to Kleenex Extra Large.

It seems some of the feminist police thought a reference to some nose wipes in the masculine gender somehow implied that women weren’t as rough and tumble, that they didn’t have the nose power of men.

I doubt that is what the folks at Kleenex were thinking when they named the product decades ago.  They likely thought women would not be offended if accused of having daintier noses.  But those were the days when it was a compliment to call a woman feminine.  Times have changed.

I’m not saying there are no dainty, feminine women left. But it seems to me that many of the women I observe in public are determined to prove they are just as big, tough, mean, and smelly as any man could ever be. Some women have surgery to become men – and vice versa – but that is an issue for another day.

I suggest they put a tagline under the new name of the tissues, something like “For Big Drippy Noses of Every Gender.”

And there are many other products that will have to be given new names.

  • Hungry Man Dinners. This name probably stems from the olden days when it was generally held that men are larger than women and, therefore, eat more.  I expect this is insulting to women who can pig out with the most rotund of men.
  • This is the name of a man-sized, oops, er, I mean a very large sandwich. I guess they will have to change this to personwich.
  • Mr. Clean. Well, this might suggest that persons who are not misters are not clean. This gender-ridden name will have to go. Maybe they can call it Androgenoclean.
  • Brawny Paper Towels. At first, hearing the title it might seem like this isn’t a problem.  After all, in today’s world, every sort of sex or gender can be brawny.  But when you see the product, it has a picture of a big man with a beard and a flannel shirt who looks like a lumberjack, oops, er, I mean tree harvester. That is a terribly masculine image and I’m sure is scheduled for replacement.

Some wise marketers have done their best to get ahead of the gender police.  The people who make Johnnie Walker whiskey came out with Jane Walker whiskey earlier this year.  Nice try, but I think this will be seen as a hapless attempt at making “separate but equal” acceptable. They will eventually have to eliminate both Johnnie and Jane and use a genderless name, perhaps Red Label Whisky.

But there are some products that have a masculine name and I hope they retain it.  I’m thinking specifically of Mr. Twister fishing lures.  I like to fish and I use these little gems frequently.  The name has alliteration and describes the product perfectly.

And I admit that I fully intend to continue to be a fisherMAN as long as God gives me the strength to cast a Mr. Twister.

Just Play the Game

So…I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.

511px-Osaka_WMQ15_(6)_(19957109051)It is an old joke and not terribly funny.  But it kept running through my mind as I watched the women’s final match of the US Open Tennis Championships.

I decided to watch the women’s singles championship on Saturday, September 8.  It portended to be an interesting encounter between Serena Williams, winner of more tennis championships than anyone else in history, and Naomi Osaka, a 20-year-old phenom who appeared on the brink of becoming the “next Serena”. It added interest that Serena was Naomi’s childhood idol and here they were competing against each other.

Sadly, as I’m sure you know by now, what should have been a compelling competition turned into a surreal display of childish temper that was embarrassing to watch and should have been even more awkward to be a part of directly.

I’m not going to recount the entire sorry saga.  In brief, Serena got whupped badly in the first set.  She got a warning from the umpire because her coach was coaching from the stands, which is not allowed.

She got another warning when things were going poorly for her in the second set and she threw a tantrum and smashed her racket on the court. That is a painful thing to watch for someone like me who probably couldn’t afford one of her rackets, let alone the luxury of intentionally breaking one.  In Serena’s case, the fit meant Naomi was awarded an extra point.

Serena didn’t like this and went on a further tirade that eventually resulted in Naomi being awarded an entire game. And Naomi proceeded to close out the second set and win the match.

If you listened to Serena’s rant – as well as the commentary by some “experts” during and after the event – you got the impression that Serena had been unjustly picked on by the umpire and had been a victim of the entire oppressive male-dominated tennis oligarchy.

Serena_Williams_I have a different view.

Serena’s coach was giving her signals from the stands, which isn’t allowed.  He admitted it after the match but gave the old “everybody does it” excuse.  I tried that on a cop who stopped me for a violation once; it didn’t work.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a player smash a racket on the court. And it wasn’t the first time a player was penalized or fined for such an outburst. It is awful sportsmanship and a bad example for all the little girls for whom Serena claims to be a role model.

And the game penalty? Well, after Serena had halted play, threatened the umpire a couple times, ranted, raved, and turned the event into something akin to the warmup debate for a professional wrestling match, what did she expect?

What seems lost in much of the analysis is that there was one person who had the power at any point in the fiasco to put a stop to it and return everyone to watching two talented athletes play tennis: Serena.  All she had to do was close her mouth and play tennis.

Maybe Serena did get a bad call, although it all looked on the up-and-up to me. But even if, I remember playing at a critical moment in a high-school basketball game (during one of the rare moments the coach dared bring me off the bench) and I stole the ball from the other team. To accomplish this stunning feat, I smacked the opposing player across the arm, but the referee didn’t call a foul.

I mentioned it to my coach later and he laughed and said: “it isn’t a call if it isn’t a foul.” Then he reminded me never to complain to the referee because there would be times when I didn’t foul but a foul would be called.  He was right.

The umpire didn’t cost Serena the match. She lost because Naomi outplayed her. And Serena not only lost the match but an opportunity to be a champion who was gracious during and after defeat.

Naomi was gracious in victory. What a confusing and disappointing moment it must have been for her, a moment she had dreamed up, a noble battle between her and her idol. Instead, she watcher the woman she so admired turn into a tempest of temper.

Naomi Osaka may become a great tennis champion, maybe one of the all-time greats. If that happens, there will be a day in the future when a younger player takes her throne. I’m betting she will remember her first championship and will want the one she loses to be marked by her display of gracious dignity. People remember dignity.

Boys and Girls and Zes, Oh My!

Lucas_Cranach_d._Ä._001I went to college in the early 1970s and although it might surprise today’s students, my generation had plenty of problems to deal with.

Many of the students came to the University of Illinois (where we still had a mascot named Chief Illiniwek) to get an education. Some came to avoid the draft and Vietnam. Some came for sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.

We had anti-war demonstrations, marched about the quad for various causes and, occasionally, found the library and did our homework. The marching band did a great halftime show at football games, partially offsetting the awful performance of the team.

One of today’s controversies wasn’t part of our daily lives. We spent absolutely no time or energy worrying about gender pronouns.  If a student had to fill out a form and is asked for gender there were just two choices: male or female.

I raise this issue because some universities (University of Minnesota, for example) are thinking about requiring faculty and staff to refer to a student by the gender pronoun the student prefers – or to use a neutral pronoun: Ze.

We didn’t have anyone who wanted to be a Ze when I was in school. We really have just two categories: he and she.  Some of the more mature professors called us Mister or Miss.  And if a woman was married, they would use Mrs.

Of course, you could make a mistake.  From the back, an attractive blond woman with long hair and a blond-harried male hippy could be hard to distinguish.  But when such a mistake happened, you just apologized and laughed.

The penalty for pronoun misuse today is more serious.  An errant Minnesota Golder Gofer can be disciplined or fired. This seems ridiculous to me.

But I should pause here for a brief disclaimer. I actually have served time as a college instructor. It was as an “adjunct” professor and the two institutions where I led classes were a Catholic seminary and a Catholic college for women. There was no confusion about anyone’s gender.  In fact, the only disagreement was that the students wanted to call me either “mister” or “professor” and I insisted they just use my first name.

That doesn’t mean I’m totally naïve about the existence of people who might not seem to easily fit into a “normal” person’s image of he or she.  I dated and later married an art major at the University of Illinois. And although she is (and was then) a political conservative practicing Catholic, visiting her at the art building allowed me to encounter humans of many varied forms who were intent in expressing themselves in the most outrageous manner possible.

My wife is probably the second most conservative art major to graduate from the University of Illinois.  The most conservative and just as practicing a Catholic is our daughter.

Our daughter graduated just three years ago, and in our many campus visits with her, I once again got to visit the art building. Frankly, there were students for which I could find no adequate pronoun.  So when I met someone, I would say something creative like, “How are you? It is nice to meet you.” I found it perfectly acceptable to say my name and ask theirs.  I didn’t use he, she or Ze and didn’t receive a single citation from the campus sensitivity police.

In today’s culture of political correctness, some folks seem to believe gender is something each person (as opposed to God or genetics) determines. If you accept that premise – which I don’t – the gender range would go from King Kong at one extreme to Tinkerbell on the other.

But even a casual reading of the Bible shows that God had just two genders in mind.  God took a rib from Adam to make Eve.  He didn’t take all 24 of Adam’s ribs to make various sorts of self-determined genders. Poor ribless Adam would be flopping around like a jellyfish. Of course, some folks might think that just makes him another gender.

A Star is Scorned

trumpPresident Donald Trump is a controversial character and has faced his ups and downs in his remarkable life.

This week he faced a shocking humiliation when the West Hollywood City Council recommended the removal of his star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I’m not surprised it came to this. His star has been vandalized twice and we really can’t expect the poor citizenry to keep making repairs, what with the skyrocketing cost of caviar and brie in area dispensaries.

There are 2600 names on the Hollywood Walk, soon to be 2599 it seems. Many of the apparently famous I have never of.

Of course, everyone has heard of Donald Trump. But many object to his star because he is supposedly mean-spirited, rude, grumpy, insensitive, and married for the third time to an attractive younger woman.

Those qualities would hardly make him unique on the Walk. A goodly number of the actresses on the Walk have appeared naked on the big screen and fostered rather torrid off-screen affairs.

Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame has a star. So does the scandalous Pee-wee Herman.

Many of those who have stars aren’t, well, real: Bugs Bunny, Big Bird, Donald Duck, Kermit the Frog, and Snow White to name a few.  Lassie (the dog) has a star, which is a bit odd because Lassie wasn’t a single dog, but an entire line of collies.

And then there are various actors and actresses who appeared in movies and television that would be considered politically correct – if not outright racist – by today’s standards.

Frankly, if the Trump-offended are going to tear up his star, they better get a large team of workers to take out a lot of other stars. They don’t what to leave a sinful star unturned. And looking over the list, Donald Trump is, by comparison, a genteel paragon of virtue.


A Law America Should Not Need

am flagSome members of Congress are sponsoring legislation requiring that the only flag to be flown at a US embassy is the American flag.

It seems to be a strange law to be needed.  After all, what other flag would someone fly at a US embassy? The Chinese Flag? The Russian Flag? The French Flag? The English Flag?

Of course, the impetus for this legislation isn’t some renegade American ambassador flying the flag of Italy over his embassy. No, it seems a gay pride flag has appeared over a few of our embassies. Perhaps this occurred to curry favor with local activists.  Perhaps it was a misguided attempt to influence local culture.


Whatever the reason, it was a clear, loud symbol – of how weak is our government’s grasp on truth and morality.  A US embassy should be a symbol of only those things represented in our founding documents, not the latest social trend or excursion into immorality.

Yes, I believe homosexual behavior is disordered. It isn’t some new normal and no amount of gay demonstrating or banner-waving will change that. No, I don’t believe people with same-sex attraction should be discriminated against or treated like lepers in ancient times.  But treating people with dignity and respect does not require me to celebrate sodomy.

vatican-city-flag-2886047_960_720I’m sure there is someone in an American embassy in some foreign land who might want to hang some banner other than Old Glory over his building. How about a Confederate Flag? How about a Peace Flag? How about the United Nations Flag? How about the Vatican Flag?

Each of these flags would be inspiring to some folks. Each would be highly offensive to others.

The American Flag should not offend anyone representing our nation in one of our embassies.  If it does, that person needs to seek a new line of work.