- Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
- ~ Proverbs 27: 17
If you waited til the final Mass during football season, you would find your morning routine altered somewhat. I recall many times being on the second floor in front of the hallway mirror with a curling iron and lip gloss in hand, readying for the last chance to gather to worshilp that morning, hearing the bustle of my mom preparing the living room for the afternoon's event: the coaches' meeting.
She would go to a mid-morning Mass, then hit the grocery store on the way home. I could hear her fixing the coffee, setting up the TV trays, and prepping the spread of bagels, cream cheese, fruit, and pastries as the front door swung open a handful of times as she did so. In they came, one at a time, the indispensable and anything-but-uniform medley of men, greeting my mom with a kiss and taking their place around the living room, where the television displayed the previous day's game.
Over the next few hours, that game would be reviewed, dissected, replayed, re-lived, and scrutinized by these gentlemen. Their names and faces may have changed over the years, but their immeasurable value did not as each brought his own personality, his own character to the table as they forged ahead in their brainstorming mission to arm their young team with every weapon possible, every chance possible to win that next game.
As I would make my way down the stairs to make the noon Mass, I had a big decision ahead: should I use the front door or should I go out the back? If the atmosphere was light and jovial, I would spend a minute or two to say a hello before crossing the living room floor to exit the front door. However, if the climate was tense or even loud, I would slip through the kitchen and disappear out the back.
Like most families, the back-and-forths, the go-rounds, the rows were just as crucial as the laughter, the consensus, the togetherness. These men, who might just as well have been sitting in peace in their own living rooms watching the NFL with their feet up and a beer in hand, were family, and, in their unstoppable mission to work together for a common goal, they gave their time, their talents, their energy, their enthusiasm, themselves to the Rare Breed.
Some were emotionally intense, others cerebral yet driven, and still others could be a combination of both. But they were each unique, and whatever style of coaching they delivered week in and week out through the preseason, season, and off-season, the assistants were a rare group of men whose significance to a head coach and his program was overwhelmingly beyond words.
The assistants. They were priceless, they were rare, and, to us, they were family.
And I am as sure of that as Sunday Mass.