“Who do you play for?” You play for each other.
July 15, 2016
Paul Bagley, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy, was a beloved faculty member and revered scholar at Loyola for more than 25 years. He died on July 13, 2016, after a series of illnesses. His lasting impact on the Loyola community is evident in the words his colleagues use to describe him: a dear friend, a person without pretense, a sign of endurance. He endured cheerfully, they say, even after a serious car accident in 2008 left him paraplegic. When he returned to campus in 2010 he began attending men’s lacrosse practices, meeting with the team to–as they put it–“say something philosophical.” He quickly became an inspirational supporter of Loyola athletics. He wrote the following letter to the men’s lacrosse team for their retreat in October 2015:
Men of the Green and Grey,
You have departed the comfortable precincts of city and college and I trust that your travels to the countryside have been pleasant. I also hope that your distance, which is to say your retreat, from the preoccupations of city and college has begun to prepare you for this weekend of reflection, prayer, camaraderie, and serious focus on the theme of your time together, namely, “who do you play for?”
On the one hand, the answer to the question would seem to be obvious. Each of you plays for himself. There are goals to be scored, ground balls to be collected, shots to be stopped, strips to be made, and face-offs to be won. Typically, the name of only one player is associated with each successful effort in those regards. On the other hand, however, it is obvious that games only can be won by a team. And as the saying has it, “there is no ‘I’ in team” – notwithstanding the impressive contributions of individual players in any given contest. It also is obvious that you play for your school, for your family & friends, and for those that support you on cold February days. In answer to the question, “who do you play for?,” a number of obvious answers are available. But perhaps within the obvious answers there is a not so obvious aspect that determines their genuine worth. Let me attempt to offer a different answer to the question.
“Who do you play for?” You play for each other. That probably sounds obvious too. But I want to suggest something more than that you just play for the man with the stick next to you. I want to propose that you play with and you play for “the other.” By doing so you set aside self in favor of others. You begin to grow, develop, and complete yourself in ways previously unimaginable. By becoming “men for others,” as St. Ignatius calls us to be, you come into communion with the man with a stick next to you; and because he is in communion with the man with the stick next to him you soon all come into communion with each other and become one team. One team composed of many men who “play for each other.”
Becoming “men for others” often sounds abstract and remote. Many will say that it is an “ideal” or just a “laudable principle.” Too often it is thought to mean being empathetic with the poor or hungry or disadvantaged in underdeveloped parts of the world. But when Christ asked us to care for a neighbor and St. Ignatius called us to be “men for others,” each of them demanded that we “care” or “be for” the person next to us: rich or poor; healthy or sick; strong or weak. It is that sense of being “men for others” that has made it possible for the Men of the Green and Grey to capture conference titles, academic and athletic All-American honors, a national championship, and the unique relationship that you have established with the young men of Newtown, Connecticut.
The blessings, talents, skills, training, and preparations that you have received make you the lacrosse players and men that you are today. The Loyola tradition will demand that those skills and talents become more finely honed. Your coaches will gauge your development and maturation. Your opponents will test your competence on the field. “Who do you play for?” You play for each other. Being men for each other, you contribute to the team, the University, and the broader community. Being men for others you make one another whole persons and you do service “to the greater glory of God.” The next time someone asks “who do you play for?” Think about the depth of the question and the power and humility of the answer that it requires.
I wish you every grace, peace, blessing, and success during the retreat. As always, you remain in my prayers. I look forward to visiting with you very soon…
With every good wish, God bless, PJB … … GO HOUNDS!
Read a tribute to Paul Bagley at loyola.edu/news.