pittvsnotredameI wrote the essay that follows two years ago after attending a football game between Notre Dame and the University of Pittsburgh. This past weekend the two teams once again took the field in Pittsburgh, and I asked my husband if it had been Notre Dame fans who almost ruined one of our few visits to Heinz Field for a game.

“That would be the same team.” And he remembered the game as vividly as I did. Notre Dame fans sitting behind us nearly ruined the whole night for us because of their rudeness bordering on bullying us simply because we wore the colors of Pitt and rooted for our home team. Recently, while going through my files, I found the essay I’d started after that game. It’s still relevant today, so I’ve pulled it out of the archives to share. I hope it gives us all a moment to consider our behaviors, whether it be during a sporting event, a political debate, or a religious discussion. We are a part of the human team, party, and church. Let’s act like it.

From November 2013:

bullyingI like rooting for the home team. I want them to win, but I don’t hate the opposing team and their fans.

We decided to buy last minute tickets to the University of Pittsburgh versus Notre Dame game. Our tickets plucked us right down in the South Bend, Indiana, home base at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. We didn’t care. It would be fun with good-natured ribbing, we thought. We only hoped it was a game, and that Pitt didn’t lose horribly as they did to Florida State at the last game we attended.

In the first quarter, a Notre Dame player ran into the lowered head of a Pitt player, and the Irish guy was thrown out of the game. While the Pitt player lay on the field, a group of five Fighting Irish fans behind us starting yelling, “Get up off the ground; you deserved that hit.” My husband tried to reason by saying any hit on the head was a bad hit. They yelled back that our player put his head down so he should expect to get hit. They continued their tirade every time a Pitt player was tackled or hit.

The ugly remarks continued behind us as Pitt kept one touchdown behind or tied. My husband tried another time to reason with them, and I told him to stop because they weren’t the reasoning kind.

They made fun of our dancers, cheerleaders, and band. They called anyone who lived in Pittsburgh “stupid.” There was more, but all stayed in the same vein until in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter when Pitt scored the winning touchdown. They became quiet, but we moved into empty seats away from them, just in case. They seemed to be the types who might do something more than hurl insensitive and cruel words. I saw bullying firsthand in those fans.

If we can’t be friendly with our rivals over a stupid and meaningless game, how can we ever expect to live in a peaceful world? Take the behavior of these fans as one snippet from the world in which we live. Take the stone walls in our lawmaking bodies for another. When did we stop listening to one another and leap into a world where only one view—our own—is accepted?

It depressed me on so many levels; I’m still attempting to absorb it all. The worst part was the struggle both my husband and I experienced as we fought not to respond. It felt far too easy to shout back about the “stupid Irish” or some other ridiculous epitaph. Sitting and tuning it out required a great deal of deep breathes and closing of our ears.

Right now, I have no desire to return to a game because of five young folks, both male and female, sitting behind us on a cold night in Pittsburgh. I have to remind myself not to let them represent all people from South Bend or Notre Dame. Next to me sat two lovely young women dressed in the green of the fighting Irish. They said little but clapped when their team did well as we did when Pitt did the same. We were polite to one another, and they did not enter into the nastiness of the folks behind us.

I implore all of us to overlook our differences and concentrate on our similarities. Act with kindness toward others. Don’t lower yourself to the baseness in others. And most of all, save your battles for the big ones in life, which will come at some point when least expected. Make sure you have the energy to fight the important stuff rather than on a football game that really doesn’t matter in the first place.

But maybe most of all, enjoy what you’re doing without venom, without spite, without violence. It can’t be enjoyable to yell angry f-bombs at the field and at the people sitting in front of you just because they’re wearing blue and beige with a Pitt Panther logo on the front. If we don’t start with us, there’s little hope that religions, political divides, and countries can ever pull together for the betterment of humanity.


Happy Holidays

DSC02191I can think of no greater wish than the hope for peace in our own lives and in the greater global world. It may seem a futile wish, but I’m all for keeping dreams alive through action.

I vow to love more and to keep kindness in my heart and actions. Sometimes it’s not always possible, but if I take it one minute, hour, day at a time it’s not such a daunting task. If others take the same vow, certainly we are capable as individuals to effect change on a greater scale.

That is my hope and my dream. But dreams are only worthwhile if put into action even one small step each day. And certainly, if the Santa on skis playing a mandolin ornament could have survived from my childhood, then there’s hope.

Peace and love to you all. Thank you for being a part of my life through your comments and visits to my Living Lightly blog.


9/11 – A Time to Try Men’s Souls

Note: I wrote this column in 2001 right after 9/11. I republish it today in honor of all the victims of eleven years ago.


“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Thomas Paine, 1776, The American Crisis

Thomas Paine

 By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Two centuries later Thomas Paine’s words serve as a guide for our nation’s pain during the past several weeks.

The pain is evident in the voices and faces of those who speak of the events of September 11. Some people constantly read and watch the news. Others turn from it, hoping it will go away. Still others try to stay away from reading and listening, but are inexplicably drawn to the media like the moths come to the candle burning brightly on my porch.

I have a friend who is a state trooper in Michigan. He has been out of uniform for years now, working as a detective. Last week he was ordered to Lansing to be fitted for a uniform. All the state troopers in Michigan received the order.

“. . .lay your shoulders to the wheel; better have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake,” Paine wrote.

Someone told me about his sister who runs all the restaurants in the Jacksonville Airport. They have removed steak from the menus. The restaurants all sit inside the security check areas where steak knives were used daily. It’s too easy to walk away with one in a pocket or purse or backpack and board the plane.

“. . .God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent,” Paine believed.

I struggle daily with feelings of revenge and hopes for peace. However, I know that we as a nation will not survive in the world if we don’t do something to give meaning to the deaths of so many. From the rubble we have risen strong, and we must show terrorists of destruction that we are a nation of strengths brought together by the beliefs of democracy, and even with the diversity of our cultures, we all love our country.

“ ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death,” Paine predicted.

This morning I walked along the road trying to clear my head and push aside the heaviness of depression, which has threatened to smother me since September 11. I began to look around me and lose myself in nature. Flowers bloomed everywhere along the roadside. Goldenrod, asters in yellow and white, and wild morning glories waved at me as I breathed in the cool air and looked to the sky forgetting for once the fear of seeing planes overhead. Instead two birds flew low perhaps looking for berries among the wildflowers.


For the first time in weeks, I felt hope.

“I love the man that can smile at trouble; that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection,” Paine noted in parentheses as an afterthought to his dissertation on fighting the British.

Towers of Light

And so I gather hope in fleeting moments and hold it close in order to make sense of the chaos of the world. I hope we will forget our petty differences and forget about discriminating against others just because they are different.

I have hope that as a nation we can rise above partisanship and simply work as one to maintain the principles of this country set forth by our forefathers. And I hope the closeness established between families and friends who have taken the time to reach out to one another does not leave when the threats and insecurities of the past few weeks no longer lay like a cloud above our heads. I still have hope we can love one another through all this mess and remain loyal to our principles.

“These are the time that try men’s souls,” but once those souls have been tried, it is the valiant and strong and fair whose souls remain intact and continue to hope for a better world.