My voice will be heard for my brothers in Delta Sigma Phi…and brothers to be

In June 1982, my life changed forever.

It was then that my dream of attending the University of Kansas – of becoming a Jayhawk – was snuffed out faster than you can say “Rock Chalk.”

I was a co-valedictorian at a medium-sized Kansas Class 5A high school. Not a big deal, but a 4.0 GPA for four years HAD to mean something, right?

Well, in the eyes of those at KU, evidently not. My ACT composite score, a 28, wasn’t going to turn any heads, but I thought the 4.0 was proof positive that I worked my ass off – despite being somewhat limited in certain areas academically.

I succeeded where others may not have.

Thank the Lord for Kansas State University.

K-State, it seemed, liked the idea of a young person overcoming deficiencies and succeeding at the highest level.

K-State, it seemed, rewarded young people who fit this description.

K-State, it seemed, was going to become my new home. All that crimson and blue was going to end up at Goodwill. I was trading it in for royal purple and white.

If I could find a place to live.

And it couldn’t be a dorm. I was lost enough socially as it is. I’d have drowned in a dorm.

Thank the Lord, again, for the miracle that was and is Delta Sigma Phi.

By the end of July 1982, I was a Delta Sig pledge. Yes, they called us “pledges” back then. We weren’t “new member candidates” or “new members.”  We were pledges, plebes…or worse. And it was the most awesome thing on Earth.

Delta Sig gave this self-confessed social outcast (some things haven’t changed much in the 35 years since, come to think of it) a place I could call home. Delta Sig gave me an instant set of brothers – black, white, gay, straight, drunk, sober, intelligent, less so….

You get the picture.

And 35 years later, Delta Sig is still giving me gifts I can never hope to repay – though I’ll keep chasing that elusive ideal of paying back all that Delta Sig has given me until the day I die.

Early next month, I’ll attend my FIRST Delta Sigma Phi National Convention.

Those of you who are Delta Sigs are probably awfully confused right about now. Yes, it’s true: someone who LOVES his fraternity with all of his heart, all of his soul, and would do just about anything for a handful of men who have become MORE than brothers to me HAS NEVER attended the largest celebration his fraternity throws for itself.

And that’s another reason I love Delta Sig: the idea that I can simply “be me” without having to answer a ton of questions.

The first few conventions I missed (as I remember it, anyway) were because I simply had given too much of my life to coaching baseball. National conventions were during the summer months, and I was not doing ANYTHING that took me off of a baseball diamond.

Missing those conventions probably also had a little to do with being so socially awkward (or maybe A LOT to do with it), but it was a matter of priorities. My fraternity was always going to be there. It was a rock. It was a constant.

But now, that constancy is being threatened on campuses across the nation.

The very idea of fraternity is at risk, and in many places, fraternity men have no one but themselves to blame.

That’s why the drought is about to end for me.

No, I haven’t quit coaching baseball – I’ve been doing that for 36 straight years! But I have abandoned the idea that my fraternity will always be there, that it will always be my rock, my constant.

I’ve simply decided that Delta Sig means too much to me to remain on the sidelines while fraternity and sorority life is in peril on campuses across this great nation.

I can’t affect sweeping change. I’m not that powerful. I don’t give enough money to Delta Sig, Kansas State or any organization to swing a big stick.

But my voice can, and will, be heard.

There’s too much at stake for it not to be heard, too many men who have become too important to me to see those relationships forever altered – or snuffed out before they even get started.

I want to have the chance to be WHEELED into an Alpha Upsilon Alumni Reunion in the year 2052 at age 88 and share stories of a life that was made all the more remarkable by the concept of brotherhood.

Yes, my voice can, and will, be heard.

It will be heard for Dr. Pat Bosco, my first Delta Sig mentor. Dr. Bosco spent so much time with a homesick kid whose parents were just 60 miles away that he should have received a Congressional medal of honor 10 times over….and that was in just my first semester at K-State!

It will be heard for Randy Withrow, my long-time Delta Sig roommate, best friend, and the one person in my life who can complete my sentences for me…even if we’re apart for weeks, months or years at a time.

It will be heard for my biological brother, Brian, who I became closer to during my days at Delta Sig than I ever had been during nearly 16 years of sharing the same bedroom growing up. There’s something about our Delta Sig brotherhood that drew us together in ways that blood never could.

It will be heard for Cliff Veatch, whose life was taken far too soon by cancer. Cliff was by far the most-talented Delta Sig undergrad I was fortunate enough to share 1100 Fremont with – no offense to any of the other great men there with us. If Cliff were alive today, he’d have a prominent role in the National fraternity and a starring role in everything he was involved with.

It will be heard for Jack Taylor, the man with a laugh that could fill the halls of The Pyramid like no one before or since. Jack, too, was gone way too soon. But not before his love was shared with countless K-Staters and Delta Sigs. Besides Pat Bosco, Jack probably touched more lives on the K-State campus than anyone I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

It will be heard for Hunter Post, a young man who I’ve known for just 26 months, but someone who I can say without hesitation was the one who grabbed the match and tossed it on my simmering Delta Sig flame. That fire, it can be said, has now fully engulfed this 53-year-old.

It will be heard for Trayton Post, Hunter’s brother and a kid who hasn’t yet started his college career. I love Trayton, just like I do Hunter, like I would a son. And I want Trayton to experience all the wonder that Delta Sig has to offer. I want for him what I found in 1982 and found again in 2015.

And it will be heard for Dan Bartels, Brad Schultz, Dan Prohaska and hopefully others just like them – all men I spent time with at Delta Sig as an undergrad who now either have sons who are brothers (kinda neat how that happens) or sons who soon will be. DJ, Stephen, Braden and Luke should be allowed to experience the joy their fathers did – or will – when THEIR sons become their brothers.

Yes, my voice can, and will, be heard.

Delta Sigma Phi isn’t simply a social organization. Delta Sigma Phi isn’t just a beat up old hospital building across from City Park. Delta Sigma Phi isn’t only a place to hang out for a few years and leave in the rear view mirror.

No, my friends – no, my brothers – Delta Sigma Phi is a transformative organization like no other anywhere on this planet. Delta Sigma Phi is brotherhood defined. Delta Sigma Phi is, to paraphrase a line from Field of Dreams, “everything that is good about fraternity, and could be again.”

The Delta Sigma Phi whose convention I will attend in a little less than a month is far from perfect. And heck, I’ve got myself at least partially to blame for that. I’m the one who was “gone” for a period of years before returning those aforementioned 26 months ago.

But the Delta Sigma Phi whose convention I will attend in a little less than a month is loyalty, honor, respect, friendship and love in one great big gift that just keeps on giving.

Yes, my voice can, and will be heard. And it will be heard for men named Pat, Randy, Brian, Cliff, Jack, Hunter, Trayton, Dan, Brad, Dan, DJ, Stephen, Braden, Luke…and thousands of others whose lives have yet to connect with mine.

Thanks to the fine folks at the University of Kansas – and their snub of 35 summers ago – I received the gift of a lifetime.

I received the gift of Delta Sigma Phi. And it’s a gift I intend to fight to keep.

YITBOS, to those who know.

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“Resist” no more: Work at making our Catholic faith your own in today’s world

A few of my Catholic friends and I are reading Matthew Kelly’s Resisting Happiness this Lent as a way of sharing our faith.

Today, as we got underway on Ash Wednesday, we encountered what Kelly calls “resistance.” The concept is at the center of the book, and in many forms, it is what ails the Catholic church itself right now.

How does resistance impact the Catholic faith? The answer, I believe, lies in the idea that many of us fail — on a daily basis — to truly make the faith our own.

Through the years, I’ve seen several people I’m close to — inside my own family and out — leave the Catholic faith “in search of” what they term “a better fit” for their spiritual needs.

As Catholics, they met resistance in its many forms and chose to deal with it by seeking out something different — instead of using that resistance as a call to change themselves, or how they experience the faith, in a way that would allow them to remain part of the church in which they were raised.

Through my recent dealings with some extremely talented young people at K-State, I’ve heard a common refrain: the Catholic church doesn’t meet all of my needs.

Here’s where I’d love to see them — and the older Catholics who may have “faith shopped” and left the church — undertake a process in which they overcome that resistance and make the Catholic faith truly their own.

Here are a few examples of how they might do that:

  1. Volunteer to be part of the Mass. Usher. Be a lector. Sing in the choir. Distribute communion. During my days at St. Isidore’s in Manhattan, I was as close to God in every facet of my life as I’ve ever been. And I think that was, in large part, because I was completely immersed in the “process.” I absolutely loved lectoring, and need to get back to doing it again!
  2. Get “into” the weekly readings…and maybe into the Bible for the first time. One of the things I’ve attempted to do with some of my K-State friends is to provide them a Missal so that they might have the weekly readings at hand prior to…and during…the Mass. In too many Catholic churches, attendees sit idly by during the First and Second Readings — and the Gospel reading, for that matter — rather than fully engaging in what is being shared. And for years, those of us who grew up as “old school” Catholics resisted reading the Bible. It was “something those of other faiths” did on a regular basis. I really spent little or no time in reading the Bible myself until my participation in Christ Renews His Parish while living in Lenexa. It was then, in 2012, that I “gave myself permission” to do something that I had heretofore considered to be “un-Catholic.”
  3. Seek out Homilies worth listening to. If you’re not hearing a Homily each week that moves you, get online and find one! Several of the best Catholic priests in the country post their Homilies, and time spent listening to those podcasts or watching those YouTube videos is time well-spent!
  4. Put together a small group of Catholic friends…and grow the group naturally. It doesn’t matter what brings you together. It could be the desire to really break down the four Gospels. It might be the need to find someone to work with on a philanthropic endeavor. Or it simply might be a need to remind yourself of how beautiful the Catholic faith was when you first learned of its rich history and traditions.

What “overcoming resistance” comes down to, in regard to how we grow our Catholic faith, is really fairly simple.

We each need to remember what drew us to our faith in the first place. We need to take a trip back in time to when that faith was fresh, when it was exciting, when it was filled with wonder. We need to celebrate the traditions that make our shared Catholic faith unlike any other, anywhere.

In short, we need to resist the notion that it’s better to leave our Catholic faith than to work at making it our own, where we’re at TODAY.

Resist no more, my Catholic friends. Our faith is there in all of its beauty, to be rediscovered and redefined — for you, and by you.

 

Remembering a friend gone far too soon

In November 2011, just over a year removed from coaching in my last high school football game as an assistant at Basehor-Linwood, I wrote the following words for a column that appeared in PrepsKC about what I missed most about coaching.

They were about a man who I hardly knew, yet greatly admired – Blue Valley Coach Eric Driskell.

Here’s a guy (Driskell) I knew only from a chance meeting at a coaching clinic shortly after he had taken over the job from Steve Rampy. He was the guy who had edged out Paul Brown, my friend, for that job.

I can now see why the Blue Valley brass was so enamored with him. Driskell is integrity, aggressiveness, character, toughness and heart all rolled into one very impressive coach…and man.

My postgame interviews with him were like talks with a long-lost friend. He was quiet, yet always brutally honest. And he wears his emotions on his sleeve – and his love for his players and fellow coaches is always out front.

Over the three years I worked regularly for PrepsKC, I was privileged to cover Driskell’s Blue Valley teams on multiple occasions. In fact, I covered his second State title win as a head coach in 2013 in Emporia.

On the field after that heart-stopping win over Salina South, I watched Driskell watch everyone else associated with the Blue Valley program soak in the moment. Instead of being smack dab in the middle of that moment, he worked the outside of the mass of humanity at midfield, beaming as he saw the joy the triumph had given others.

It was moments like those that really defined Eric Driskell.

Though I did not get to know him as closely as have many others, I was proud to consider him a friend, and honored that he thought of me as one as well.

Thus, when I heard he had fallen victim to a brain aneurysm just days ago, eventually passing away late this afternoon, my heart sunk.

As was Eric, I’m a firm believer in God. As did Eric, I know that God has a plan for all of our lives.

We may scratch our heads at moments like this, struggling to find sense in them.

But it’s easy to make sense of one, unavoidable fact: Our world was blessed to have Eric Driskell as a part of it.

Make no mistake about it: His loss will resonate for days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years.

But also make no mistake about this: Eric Driskell’s impact on all who he touched will resonate for those same weeks, months and years.

He had so, so many gifts. And he was always giving of those gifts to others he came into contact with – even to those he contacted infrequently, like me.

Rest in peace, my friend. And Lord, please allow those who remain here on Earth to honor Eric by living life as he lived it.