Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Sheamus Liam McLellin's Career in Jeopardy

U.S. Army Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret on behalf of
Shea McClellin has been at New England for two years and was released a couple days after Saint Patrick’s Day this year. McClellin, 28, signed with New England as an unrestricted free agent from Chicago on March 18, 2016. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder was a first-round draft pick (19th overall) out of Boise State in the 2012 NFL Draft, but failed to perform at a first-round level.

Various injuries and uncertainty just how to use McClellin contributed to a mixed NFL experience. A first round draft pick for Chicago, can be a tough route with a history of linebackers such as Urlacher, Singletary, Butkus, George, etc. The Bears moved McClellin around, knowing they had a talent, but wondering if they had him in the wrong position. McClellin would play for 3 Defensive Coordinators for the Bears.

McClellin was a great story. A country boy who was raised essentially by his grandparents who had overcome great challenges. An excellent college player from Boise State where he played defensive end.

Injured all of 2017 (he suffered from concussions), he played for 5 seasons (2012-2016) and started in 35 games: 31 for Chicago and 4 for New England. He had 200 tackles. In 2015 he had 81 tackles in 12 games for the Bears. Big salary, great expectations, McClellin was released by Chicago and the media called him a flop, but ,many of us wished him well and wanted him to succeed wherever he went.

In New England, McClellin was another role player in Belichick’s arsenal. In 2016 with New England, McClellin appeared in 14 contests and started in 4. In a game against Miami, with the Dolphins inside the 10-yard line, he recovered a fumble and ran it back 69 yards—a franchise record.  In another spectacular play, McClellin leaped over Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox and blocked a Justin Tucker field goal attempt. In Super Bowl LI, the Patriots beat the Falcons in overtime and McClellin started at linebacker.  

The Boston Herald reported McClellin was cut due to failed physical designation The Patriots used their first two picks on day three for linebackers: their fifth-round selection was Purdue’s 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, Ja’Whaun Bentley. They selected Arizona State’s 6-foot-2, 244 pounds, Christian Sam with No. 178 in the sixth round.

It’s tough to say whether McClellin will land with another team in the pros or whether he wants to play again based on recent injuries.

Ten NFL coaching heavyweights are expertly covered in author Patrick McCaskey's Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships (Pub 2014)  This is an important project because it entertains and informs--plus it helps keep the memory of many great coaches alive.

The Big Irish Guy's New Book on Chicago 16 Inch Softball

Irish American Tim Maher's new long-anticipated book on Chicago Softball is now out! Check out his new website dedicated to the book called We Are Chicago's Game: 16 Inch No Glove Softball. Check out his appearance on The Skinny and Houli Show

At this site you can also see information on Tim's football book on Saint Rita's season 3 Yards and a Cloud of Dust that describes St. Rita's run at the 1970-1971 Catholic League and Prep Bowl Championship. 

If you grew up playing 16 inch softball games or just watched the fun at your local park, you will enjoy this book by one of the biggest sports celebrities in Chicago. 

For South Siders, both books are now available at Bookies at 10324 South Western Avenue in Chicago. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

When Irish Eyes are Not Smiling

A few months back I joined an international group of Irish people on a social media site. This is international now, so you didn't have be an Irish citizen to belong. And I posted a sentiment of mine that I really hope the Irish people were not going to abandon Catholicism in Ireland because for me it was a huge part of the way I looked at Ireland. I also wrote briefly about things we have in the states that came from Europe that you can no longer find in Europe, etc. The idea was not to suggest that my opinion should somehow force the Irish to cower and mend their ways with the Church, it was just a personal expression of hope that the Irish would keep the faith--after all I had always looked to Ireland for faithful people--including many of the priest we had who were from Ireland. And I have seen a lot in the press including things directly from Ireland that suggest a loss of faith. 

Many of us here still love their priests. 

Well, what I got in return was a lot of vinegar--commenting on how incredibly rude I was and that I would have the gall to suggest anything to the Irish, etc. So I thanked the folks, closed the social media door and never went back. I'll keep my thoughts to my own blogs and if people don't like them, don't come knocking. 

Unlike many of my relatives, I have never been to Ireland, although I would have enjoyed it. I was raising 6 children and money was always tight. I didn't hang out in bars or taverns either, although a cold Harp every now and then was appreciated. I didn't play golf or bowl or go on long holidays. I've rarely seen professional sports live, gone to plays, eaten at fancy restaurants. But for me doing my best for the kids was always the priority and frankly it was what I enjoyed most in life. But certainly I failed plenty of times. Do I have regrets? Yes, plenty of them. Would I do things different? Yes, plenty of things. 

I grew up in an Irish neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.  My relatives were terrible singers,  good drinkers, and most were church-goers. We were no meat on Friday and respect-the-priests and-nuns Irish Catholics. And being Irish for us was all wrapped up in our Catholic parish--although in those days we had a lot of people who looked down their noses at others. It wasn't always bright and sunny in the parish, although that had little to with God and more to do with his human creation.  

But, the parish and the Church was a potent force for us. In fact the South Side Irish Parade practically steps off from from my old Parish stoop. 

My childhood neighborhood has more Irish bars than ever, and has many Irish cultural organizations. I heard today that a local Irish Restaurant/Bar had a Irish Soda Bread baking contest and they had 151 entries. Down south of the city, they have a park that features Irish sports and they are regaling everything Irish.  

And likewise when the Irish are here from the island, they have their opinions and express them--much like any tourist. 

Here in the United States people often have their ancestry confirmed by taking one of those genetic tests. That gets a laugh from people from Ireland because they say they are so authentically Irish. No test needed. But the US is loaded with people who have bits and pieces of this and that, so the test tells you some things that you may have no way of knowing. In fact, a lot of people here have been lied to by relatives all their lives, they take one of these test and find that are something completely different. 

But for many people of faith in the United States who have come from other parts of the world, your home ground where the origins of your faith were born is important. German Catholics were concerned about their people who came over here and started up farms in places like Kansas and Missouri. They sent sisters and priests along with money to build schools and help manage monasteries and convents. It's painful for a faithful German American to go back and see beautiful churches empty that are more museums than places of worship. It must be especially painful when the German ancestors sent money over to help American Germans keep the faith and it turns out that the Germans are not keeping it themselves. Hitler could not totally kill off the faith, but modernism is doing it without the guns and terror.

The Irish came over and then many priests followed. After a while, they would be likely to look at a trip back to Ireland as a kind of a pilgrimage and a comfort. When you go back to your home country and find that the churches are empty, it's disconcerting especially for the Irish when they were fighting tooth and nail to retain their faith--some even when starving--remember "taking the soup." 

I wrote about a beautiful photograph of one of my sisters walking along the coast in Ireland: 

I can't speak for all Irish Americans, but it's views like this that bring me closer to God than a grand view of Rome or even a religious site in Bethlehem.  Jesus is everywhere, but for some strange reason I can feel him in Ireland best of all, where my ancestors first got down on their knees. 

For many modern Irish, faith seems to have replaced the English as the necessary vilain in Ireland. Here in the states we have so many victims of one thing or another, many of us have grown immune to complaints. And maybe that's the rub. But a country that rids itself of faith is not a place of pilgrimage, it's a place of regret. So I'll say it once more, I hope the Irish don't give up their faith. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Brendan of Birr One of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland

Attribution: Andreas F. Borchert, Stained Glass Window at St. Brendan Church, Birr
In my book called The Brown and White the lead character Collin Callaghan is a high school boy from an Irish Catholic family. As an Irish Catholic American, you may not have all your i's dotted and your t's crossed on authentic Irish culture. It's funny  though because I have to wonder how many of us have it all together on our own culture.  In some ways we think we live in the culture and if that is not authentic enough, than what is? 

I am not so sure.  

I remember many years ago working in downtown Chicago.  I came from a family that included policemen, nurses, and teachers.  I thought my touch points with the culture were pretty strong. But a funny thing happened when I worked on Sundays at Kroch's and Brentano's bookstore. A very different group of Chicagoans would come out of their Lake Shore Drive apartments/condos, take a short cab ride  and shop. The young people would come with their parents and grandparents and come into the store.  The pace was very slow, none of them seemed to be in a hurry. I think many times there were making a day of it--and after shopping going for dinner and maybe a show or a play. Probably spending more on entertaining in one day than my family did in a month. 

While my family and many others in Chicago at the time had toiled with junky cars, old houses, and cheap meals--the Lake Shore Drive folks were remarkably different. Many of them never owned a car or had them stored away somewhere for the rare occasions when they needed them. A house with a yard wasn't part of their American dream. The kids went to private schools that I never heard about and when they shopped and ended with a hoard of parcels, they paid for some kind of delivery service. 
The North Shore residents would look out each morning on the lake.  Most city experiences that I might remember were not shared with these people--but certainly they were part of Chicago--contributing to the culture too--in fact today, many would suggest that they had a better grip on the city than me. They lived close to museums, the music halls, the theaters, downtown and the lake.

I remember later on in life reading O. Henry's stories of New Yorkers. They say O. Henry  loved all 4 Million New Yorkers and he wrote stories about many. At one time, he write a story a week. And his characters experiences were human and surprising. 
I guess the lesson for me was that it was not so easy to understand the culture of a city, because it has many elements and people come from many backgrounds. It also reminds me to keep my eyes open to learn about culture and different things it offers. 

And while I see our culture, I will also continue to look at Irish culture and enjoy doing it. 

St. Brendan of Birr 

Brendan of Birr is one of the twelve apostles of Ireland, twelve Irish monastic saints of the sixth century who studied under St Finnian at Clonard Abbey.  St. Brendan was born about 500 and the year of his death is not agreed upon by scholars, but most think he died about 572. Sometimes confused with the more well know, St Brendan of Clonfert (the Navigator), St. Brendan became a friend of St Columba (also known as Columkill) and St Brendan the Navigator. It was at this time the monks of Ireland began a period of 300 years of illuminated manuscript creation. The Book of Kells being the most famous is said to come from one of the monasteries of St. Columba—the Kells Monastery or perhaps created at Iona in whole or in part and then shipped to Kells for safety.

St. Brendan of Birr founded a monastery at Birr in central Ireland although everything we know about Brendan comes from the writings on other Irish Saints. After St. Columba was excommunicated, St. Brendan defended him and told others that Columba was held in high esteem by God and his excommunication was rescinded.  St. Columba would go on to found his celebrated monastery at Iona, an island in the Inner Hebrides off the coast of Scotland.

St. Brendan of Birr’s feast day is November 29th. Brendan's monastery at Birr is said by some to have created the MacRegol Gospels (after Brendan’s death), which are now housed at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Larry Norris is the publisher of Sports and Faith Book 2 and Pilgrimage by Patrick McCaskey. 

Father Burke Masters

Sports and Faith
 In our second Sports and Faith Series book, Sports and Faith: More Stories of the Devoted and the Devout, our author Patrick McCaskey discusses Father Burke Masters, who received Sports Faith International’s Father Smyth Award that recognizes an athlete who has left the sports world for a religious vocation.  Father Masters is the Vocation Director for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois.

Father Masters has also been involved in “Spirit and Truth,” a young adult Eucharistic Adoration community program that has gatherings that include a talk, adoration, and then fellowship time.  The program has brought young adults of like minds together, fostered vocations, and also brought together people who have gotten married.  There are three groups now in the Diocese of Joliet. 

Father Masters is also the Chaplain for the Chicago Cubs.  He has a popular blog on which he posts his reflections on the daily readings that is followed by people from dozens of countries. There are a lot of negative things that we all get from the Internet whether we want them or not.  But Father Masters is someone you may want to subscribe to and get his message daily.

To subscribe, go to and go to the right hand column.  Click on “Sign me up!” and start receiving these emails directly to your inbox.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Kerry Group; A Growing Force that Began in Ireland by Lawrence Norris

On  this blog, I have been writing about all-things Irish from an Irish American persepective.  This post is about a block-buster Irish Multi-National called Kerry Group. Kerry Group is one of the biggest companies originating out of Ireland

In 1972,  a state owned company, a group of small farmer co-operatives and a US company formed what is now known as Kerry to manufacture milk protein (casein) to the United States. Almost immediately, the company acquired other companies and organizations. 

From primarily a dairy company, Kerry expanded into meat products, specialty food products, food ingredients, and made a strong push into its future with a research and development focus. It was becoming a leading Irish Multinational. Through more acquisitions, Kerry’s growth and development created a leading global food ingredients corporation. Building its Global Technology and Innovation Centre in Beloit, Wisconsin, Kerry allows customer collaboration to develop innovative products that can be delivered quickly and differentiate offerings in the marketplace. The Center has been a model for new facilities that Kerry has built across the globe. Kerry has been shifting naturally to a more holistic provider of Taste and Nutrition to the global food, beverage and pharmaceutical markets to help serve consumers who want to live better, feel better and eat better.

In recent months, Kerry Group has purchased Geneden a small company whose technology focuses on probiotics and who holds many patents. It is thought that technology and know-how from companies such as Geneden can be used across many components of the Kerry Group operations. 

“Kerry Group sponsors the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award in its 22nd year. The €15,000 Award recognizes Ireland’s leading literary talent. Kerry Group’s involvement with Concern’s RAIN project supports farmers and helps preserve vibrant and economically viable rural communities. Kerry Group sponsors Kerry Group’s Rás Mumhan, the first major Stage Race of the Irish Cycle Racing season. The race covers over 500 km . 

The Brown and White
Lawrence Norris is the author of the The Brown and Whitea fictionalized memoir that tells the story of Collin Callaghan's freshman year at a Chicago Catholic High School. Collin is a white boy who is living in turbulent times in a changing city. He clings to his neighborhood and his family as he heads out each day with his classmates on the Brown and White, the ancient school bus driven by free-spirited Willie. Memorable characters abound as this story unfolds. Collin's loveable family, especially his Irish Catholic policeman father and his Irish immigrant mother face life together. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mice and the Winter by Lawrence Norris

Mice come into the house from cold fall air

and haunt my kitchen until I set traps for them. 
My neighbor tells me they must make a home
out in the old pile of logs where the rabbits go.

But there's something spiritual in my wood pile
it holds relics of my old apple tree
and I can't bring myself to get rid of the logs
summer home of mice and hiding place for rabbits.

But like all dead things I hold onto,  it brings trouble, 
memories of mistakes I have made that sneak up
and cry out on these cloudy winter days
scolding me for what I failed to do in summer.

So on these cold mornings when nothing is warm
and even the squirrels won't come out of their nests,
I sometimes battle ghosts stuck in my head
like mice that come in from the cold, haunting my kitchen.

Copyright 2017, Sporting Chance Press

Norris is the author of the Brown and White, a fictionalized memoir published by Sporting Chance Press that is available through Amazon. The book is book about a young man's freshman year in the late 1960s in Chicago--changing neighborhoods and challenges--yet, a humorous and positive book.