Monday, May 31, 2010

Are you ready to give your life away?

A challenge to change and be changed

A rising voice in the missional movement, Palmer Chinchen is passionate about creating a fresh desire among Christ-followers to reach out to a hurting world. His latest book, True Religion: Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth, examines the idea of living a life sacrificially poured out for Christ. Chinchen believes that those who are willing to give their lives away to change the world will find their own lives changed forever through that process. He challenges believers to love the Lord with all their mind and soul, with all their strength and heart, and as this love is poured into the work of Christ, believers will experience God moving them in a unique direction that will carry them into new and exciting areas of service.

Drawing from his experiences while growing up in Liberia, West Africa, and later Malawi, Chinchen speaks with authority about the needs facing our world today. His memories of the ravages of war and disease, as well as the effects of extreme poverty, fuel Chinchen’s desire to see God’s people become passionate about reaching beyond their comfortable church pew and reaching out to those in need all over the world. As believers learn what it means to pour their lives out for Christ, they will, in turn, show the world a true reflection of God’s heart for His creation and open doors that will enable the truth of the gospel to reach untold numbers of people for Christ. Believers will also find that they are truly living life as God intended and that the risks, the passion, and the rewards of following Christ are more exciting and fulfilling than they ever dreamed.

Chinchen has spent most of his adult life leading groups of people on global ministry experiences all over the world. He is convinced that the church can be radically transformed if they will dare to give their lives away for Christ. True Religion is his challenge to God’s people to join in a global missional movement and change the world. He is particularly passionate about eliminating poverty, ending the unjust treatment of women ensnared in the slave trade, and eradicating malaria. He feels these goals and many others are not only possible but also represent the beginning of what God’s church can and should do. Making an eternal difference in the souls of men begins by reaching out to them where they are. True Religion does indeed take pieces of heaven to places of hell on earth.

When asked to summarize his book in one simple statement, Chinchen answers, “When you give your life away to change this world, God will change you.” David C Cook will be sponsoring the “True Religion Missions Trip Scholarship” June 1-October 31. The winner will receive $1,000 to apply towards a short term mission trip. For more information, visit

About the Author: Palmer Chinchen has served as pastor of The Grove in Chandler, Arizona, for the past seven years. He grew up in Liberia, West Africa, and as an adult has led many people on numerous mission trips around the world. He has served in college ministries in Wheaton, IL, and southern California and has taught Spiritual Formation at African Bible College. Chinchen is passionate about Christians responding to affliction and injustice in the world. He holds a PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois and a BA and MA from Biola University in California. He lives with his wife and four children in Chandler, Arizona.

True Religion: Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth
by Palmer Chinchen
David C Cook/June 1, 2010
ISBN 978-0-7814-0343-6/208 pages/softcover/$14.99

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Check out the first chapter of Good Returns

Thanks to everyone who participated in today's tour!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Schwartz Investment Council (March 12, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings - Senior Media Specialist - The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


George P. Schwartz is a Chartered Financial Analyst and a Chartered Investment Counselor. For forty-three years he has been an investment counselor, analyst, and portfolio manager. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, he graduated from Catholic Central High School and University of Detroit, where he majored in Finance.

He is president, CEO and CIO (Chief Investment Officer) of Schwartz Investment Counsel, Inc., a registered investment adviser headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, which he founded in 1980. His organization manages stock and bond portfolios for endowment funds, foundations, pension funds, and mutual funds including the Schwartz Value Fund and the Ave Maria Mutual Funds (a family of six no-load Catholic mutual funds, including the 2009 Lipper Award Winning Ave Maria Growth Fund), America’s largest family of Catholic mutual funds.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $25.00
Hardcover: 200 pages
Publisher: Schwartz Investment Council (March 12, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984404201
ISBN-13: 978-0984404209



It would be downright silly to claim that only good, moral and religious people can succeed at investing. There are numerous examples of dirty rotten scoundrels who have made killings in the stock market. So many, in fact, that the idea of ruthlessness as a prerequisite to investment success is a common cliché — the “Gordon Geckko”1 model, as it were. Yet, I am convinced that there is a certain relationship between conviction in spiritual matters and acumen in analyzing the market. I think that relationship lies primarily in two areas: (1) an ability to see beyond surface features into inner realities; and (2) a willingness to dedicate oneself to disciplined practices over time.

Both Judaism and Christianity have spoken profusely on economic matters, the “Parable of the Talents” being only one of the more prominent New Testament passages that address the subject.2 Indeed, the Bible is filled with commercial imagery and financial references that have provided the basis for centuries of reflection on economic and business matters. Some of them comment quite explicitly on the virtue of investing for the sake of future security — to wit:

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” (Proverbs 13:22)

“Whoever does not provide for relatives and especially family members has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

In the Catholic tradition, there has been a remarkable degree of consistency among thinkers who have turned their attention to the concerns of economic life.3 Among the monumental Catholic pronouncements is Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum. Issued in 1891, at a time when the ideas of Karl Marx and other revolutionary thinkers were causing socialist ferment in the industrialized nations, Rerum Novarum offered a comprehensive Christian vision of the proper relationship between capital and labor, the basic components of economic exchange.

One of the points the encyclical makes most forcefully is its defense of private property as an economic necessity related to our fundamental human nature. Because “man alone among the animal creation is endowed with reason,” wrote Leo, “it must be within his right to possess things not merely for temporary and momentary use, as other living things do, but to have and to hold them in stable and permanent possession....”4 While the Pope was focusing primarily on ownership of tangible property (i.e.: land), rather than corporate shares, he acknowledged the importance of making provision for the future (that is, of investing), noting that ownership gives man the power “to exercise his choice not only as to matters that regard his present welfare, but also about those which he deems may be for his advantage in time yet to come.”5

Leo was no laissez faire capitalist. He insisted that the interests of society in general, and of the poor in particular, must be adequately addressed for the economic order to be considered properly Christian. “However the earth may be apportioned among private owners,” he wrote, “it does not cease to serve the common interests of all.”6

Forty years later, Leo’s successor, Pius XI, strengthened the vital connection between economics and morality in the encyclical, Quadragesimo Anno (1931). “Even though economics and moral science employs each its own principles in its own sphere,” Pius wrote, “it is, nevertheless, an error to say that the economic and moral orders are so distinct from and alien to each other that the former depends in no way on the latter.” Citing the unique human capacity to reason, as did Leo, Pius insisted on moral discernment in temporal affairs, “the individual and social nature of things and of men,” as he put it, “the purpose which God ordained for all economic life.”7

Never one to mince words, Pius directed some barbed comments at the corporate culture that had taken hold of the modern world by the 1930s:

“The laws passed to promote corporate business, while dividing and limiting the risk of business, have given occasion to the most sordid license. For We observe that consciences are little affected by this reduced obligation of accountability; that furthermore, by hiding under the shelter of a joint name, the worst of injustices and frauds are penetrated; and that, too, directors of business companies, forgetful of their trust, betray the rights of those whose savings they have undertaken to administer.”8

The final clause in this quotation is an interesting instance of a Pope specifically expressing concern about the rights of shareholders. It suggests a certain shrewd understanding of corporate management on the part of His late Holiness. In the same document Pius castigates profiteering as well:

“The easy gains that a market unrestricted by any law opens to everybody attracts large numbers to buying and selling goods, and they, their one aim being to make quick profits with the least expenditure of work, raise or lower prices by their uncontrolled business dealings so rapidly according to their own caprice and greed that they nullify the wisest forecasts of producers.”9

One wonders if Pius dabbled in the markets himself, because he surely had a keen eye. His observation would as directly applicable to would-be stock manipulators as

to those given to wild speculations in commodities.10

One of the clearest statements that economics can’t be separated from religiously based moral discernment was made in our own time by the late Pope John Paul II. His encyclical, Centesimus Annas (1991), was a sweeping commentary on economics, human liberty and the conditions of life in a world that had just witnessed the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, an accomplishment in which John Paul himself had played a major part (as did Ronald Reagan, our greatest President in my view). While summing up the failure of Communism to deliver on its promise of a better life for the struggling masses, the Pope offered some serious words of caution to the Capitalist West, then basking in its triumph over the Marxists. John Paul the Great charged that when the market system “denies an autonomous existence and value to morality, law, culture and religion, it agrees with Marxism, in the sense that it totally reduces man to the sphere of economics and the satisfaction of material needs.”11

Some in the left-leaning media jumped on that line as proof that John Paul was, in his heart, a sort of soft socialist, which was a fanciful idea at best. Actually, the Pope’s words were a perfect example of the balance and perceptiveness which Catholic moral philosophy has brought to human experience throughout the centuries.


Scripture offers no record of Jesus advising his disciples to “buy low, and sell high,” but I believe that religiously based moral discernment enriches investing judgment. Companies that appreciate in value — and whose shares rise correspondingly in price — are generally companies that are well managed, whose decision makers follow sensible business practices, offer good products, and deal ethically and reliably with their suppliers, employees and customers.

If “like knows like” — and I believe this is arguably true — then moral people are better able to discern virtuous qualities that are not always casually apparent. Similarly, people of genuine and abiding faith tend to live out their beliefs daily, practice regular devotions, and conduct their lives with a degree of honorable self-discipline. This mode of living (which shows a certain parallel with the well run company) disposes someone to the patient attentiveness required for successful investment results over the long term. It also reflects an internalization of the idea of “stewardship,” a recurring theme in the teachings of Christ. Someone who strives to be a faithful steward of family resources (or the resources of others) will be attuned to practical prospects and responsible choices, and naturally averse to flashy get-rich-quick schemes.

The down-side of faith as a characteristic of investors is that religious people may tend to look for the best in others even when circumstances urge the opposite. The “Golden Rule” is not only about treating people justly, it also implies that we give others the benefit of the doubt. This can incline investors of faith to stick with failing companies even after alarm bells have begun sounding, or worse, subject them to the nefarious plottings of those who would exploit their good hearts. But of course, those dangers exist for non-believers as well. And when structures are in place to offer warning and provide proper guidance, the religious inclination to self-restraint gives faithful people an advantage.

In all these ways, then, religion conduces to prudent investing.

Is the obverse true? Could one claim that companies whose operations reflect a greater degree of moral concern are good investments? A corporation can be an extremely large, varied and complex creature, after all. Is the moral profile of its policies and practices relevant to its stock market performance? That isn’t an easy question to answer, but certain factors are suggestive.

Good business management may not necessarily be a direct product of religious commitment, but it does correlate with ethical awareness, a decisively moral concept that has its roots in religious truth (i.e.: the Ten Commandments). Moreover, the values at the core of a company’s operational approach — that particular set of objectives, priorities and working assumptions to which key decision makers must give assent — will ultimately find expression in the firm’s public image. How often have you heard that XYZ Corp. doesn’t care about its customers or that it treats its employees like dirt? Such are the building blocks of reputation, and reputation has a definite influence on investor attitudes toward any given stock. While it can’t be indisputably claimed that religious principles drive share price, neither can the possibility of a cause-and-effect relationship between values and value be easily dismissed. As they say, “The truth will out.”

In recent years, however, many investors have begun to look beyond the simple question of whether a corporation operates in an upright manner. There is a growing trend to apply ethical criteria to what companies are in the business of doing. When considering the purchase of a particular stock, they will ask more fundamental questions, such as: “Do I believe this company’s products or services are proper? Is the business acceptable to me, personally, as a legitimate endeavor? Are its practices and procedures right?”

This kind of inquiry lifts investment decision making to a different level of concern, because it involves the element of conscience. And that is entirely appropriate, because when you acquire the stock of a corporation, you become one of the company’s owners. This is true whether your shares are newly issued by the firm (perhaps in an initial public offering), or whether you have purchased existing shares through the secondary market of a stock exchange. It is equally true if you have inherited your shares or received them as a gift. Your ownership interest is real, it is significant, and it has the force of law behind it.

The reality of ownership is vividly illustrated when shareholders organize to complain that chronic poor performance by company management has caused the stock price to fall. The concept of the proxy contest is based on the fact that shareholders are owners with the right to express their views about company policies and procedures. (I wrote a book on the subject of proxy contests and how shareholders can exercise their influence.1)

The company you own acts in your name, not only in delivering value as an investment by maintaining and improving its profitability, but in what it does on a daily basis. The one and only fiduciary responsibility which a board of directors has is to the investors who own the firm. As an owner, you have the legal right (actually, a responsibility) to act if directors fail in their duty to represent your interest.2 At the same time, your status as an owner gives you certain ethical obligations as regards the policies and procedures by which the company operates.

There is, of course, a difference between legal and moral responsibility. The law of corporations protects individual shareholders from direct liability for the company’s actions. Owning stock is not the same as being a partner. And that is an indispensable advantage to corporations in raising capital. The number of stock buyers would shrink to a tiny fraction of the current investing population if acquiring shares brought personal liability for business failures, loan defaults, or unpaid company bills.

As an investor, your participation in the corporate process is real and cannot be ignored. The amount of money you invest influences a company’s current stock price, and impacts future price movements. It becomes part of the company’s cumulative worth, helping to determine its financial viability, the level at which it can function, and its ability to raise future capital. The stocks you hold are not just claim checks on some possible future reward (like lottery tickets). They are real parts of real companies that produce real products and provide jobs for real people. Your investment portfolio is thus part of the economic life of the nation. It has power — power which is in your hands — and power is a distinctly moral concept.

The truth of this assertion has become clear to thousands of stockholders. Today there is a heightened awareness about the role played by personal investing in the free enterprise system. It has grown over recent decades, encouraged by such factors as the increasingly apparent failures and ultimate collapse of Communism as an alternative economic system; by the proliferation of mutual funds and the growing dominance of retirement plans in the financial markets (which has given more people than ever a direct stake in the ups and downs of Wall Street); and even by the increased hands-on investor involvement made possible by online trading.


This stockholder awareness has coincided with the growth of numerous socially conscious movements, both domestic and international, which have sought to influence the business community in support of — or in opposition to — a variety of causes. The end of the apartheid regime in South Africa came about largely because stockholders of major corporations and investors in important mutual funds were able to bring pressure on companies to divest themselves of their South African business holdings or to cut ties with other firms doing business in South Africa.

Likewise, motivated investors have played a significant role in putting race- and gender-equity issues on boardroom agendas, not to mention the environmentalist stockholder agitation that has assisted in prodding virtually all major U.S. corporations to “go green” (if, in some cases, more in their public relations pronouncements than in their actual operations). Indeed, company directors have come to expect pressure over policies and procedures, often in regard to issues that are quite peripheral to a firm’s actual business. Annual meeting planners now take it pretty much as a given that some stockholder group will insist on floor time to promote one cause or another.

The rise of organized stockholder activism has been paralleled by the creation of financial products that enable individuals to express their social and political commitments through their stock purchases. A plentiful assortment of ideologically driven mutual funds has appeared on the scene under the label, “socially responsible investing”. Forbes Magazine reported that, as of September 2008, there were 173 such funds, representing $172 billion in assets.3

The investment holdings of most such funds generally reflect judgments colored by social and political perspectives that would be termed “liberal” or “progressive.” They tend to favor companies whose policies accord with the environmental, gender-sensitive, and social-justice concerns that find prominent expression in the foundation world, the mainstream media and entertainment industry, most college and university campuses, and the major not-for-profit organizations. Accordingly, corporate policies and procedures that allegedly “despoil the environment,” “exploit oppressed minorities,” “discriminate against women,” “impede sustainable ‘Third World’ development,” “contribute to international conflict,” or create other situations of injustice (real or perceived) tend to rank highest among factors determining investment choices.

But if the liberal funds were earliest to market, investors with more conservative predilections — or who feel the tug of religious scruple in their financial thinking — are by no means without options. A parade of tradition-minded funds has passed across the stage in recent years, shorter perhaps than the liberal/progressive column, but of interesting variety. Investors who want a biblical (read “Evangelical Protestant”) take on stock picking have been able to try the Timothy Plan, while those who mix national-defense concerns with their Christian values have been offered the Patriot Fund. The Amana Growth Fund, designed specifically for Muslim investors, factors Islamic principles into its stock-analysis matrix, while Catholics have sampled the eponymously named Catholic Funds, along with the Aquinas Funds, the Epiphany Funds, and the fund family I created, the Ave Maria Mutual Funds.


Just because an investment plan has a religious flavor or touts a church connection, you shouldn’t assume that it is markedly different from the general run of “socially responsible” offerings. The Presbyterian-affiliated New Covenant Mutual Funds, for instance, reflect their denomination’s generally liberal affinities, and the criteria for selecting stocks are virtually indistinguishable from any number of secular funds without an ideological focus.

In this book I wish to acquaint you with a very specific approach to religiously based investing — one that is motivated by faith and is guided by a particular set of ethical precepts. I call it Morally Responsible Investing.

While “socially responsible investing” (SRI) addresses a broad spectrum of economic, political and environmental issues, Morally Responsible Investing (MRI) focuses specifically on making investment decisions that embrace key areas of human concern. Overshadowing every other consideration is the sanctity of life. Protecting life from the moment of conception is the sine qua non of all human concern. If children are not born, there can be no other human concern. Following close on the sanctity of life is the inviolability of marriage.

Any number of other issues are important and may make legitimate claims upon our compassion, charity, and personal commitment. But the sanctity of life and the inviolability of marriage constitute the basis of our being and our human uniqueness. They have profound implications for the health and wellbeing of the human community. They go to the essence of family — the very foundation of every civilization, every cultural movement, every religion in human history. That’s why this pair of concerns has always received special attention in the Judeo-Christian moral tradition (particularly in the moral theology of the Catholic Church). In addition, they have undeniable economic implications. Family security, provision for spouses, the future wellbeing of children are at the heart of most personal investment decisions. They even provide much of the impetus for building businesses.

Of course, to speak of such concepts as “the sanctity of life and the inviolability of marriage” is to court controversy these days. Truths about human nature and human relationships which were once accepted as self-evident have become fighting words. And to attach such ideas to investing is to risk responses that go well beyond raised eyebrows or the blank stare of perplexity.

Every election cycle, religious people (especially Catholics) are treated to a barrage of specious arguments attempting to justify the pro-abortion votes of politicians who claim to be earnest adherents of their various faiths. For instance, the last campaign season (2008) saw an attempt on the part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to convince her fellow Catholics that the Church has been somehow ambivalent in opposing abortion over the centuries and so her own pro-abortion views fit well within the spectrum of legitimate Catholic opinion. The Speaker’s comments brought forth a storm of corrective teaching from the bishops,10 perhaps the most earnest and concerted blast of catechetics to be heard from U.S. Church leaders in quite some time. Pelosi backed off quickly.

Try as they might to kick up dust around the topic, abortion advocates cannot obscure the obvious fact that abortion is the taking of innocent human life. Whether or not there are situations that justify abortion is a question which has been debated since the beginning of time, and that debate will likely always be with us. But abortion kills babies. That is the gross and brutal truth which simply cannot be prettied up. Moreover, the legality of abortion pollutes the moral atmosphere of society in general. If it is permissible to slaughter the most helpless and innocent among us, then on what ethical basis can we prohibit any other harmful act? The acceptance of abortion thus throws law itself into question, weakening the moral foundation of our entire culture. So if you seek to invest in a way that is morally responsible, the starting point has to be avoiding companies that participate in or provide support for abortion, as well as any mutual funds that have the shares of complicit companies among their holdings.

Closely connected with abortion is the subject of artificial birth control. Catholic teaching prohibits the use of chemical or mechanical devices that interfere with conception. Also prohibited is in vitro fertilization.

Most non-Catholic religious communities diverge from the Catholic standard on this issue, as do most individual Catholics, for that matter. But life has surprising ways of vindicating the Catholic view (as articulated by Pope Paul VI in the 1968 encyclical, Humane Vitae11). This was made all too clear with the January 2009 birth of octuplets to a southern California woman through embryo implantation.

Unmarried and with six children already, 33-year-old Nadya Suleman had received treatment at a Beverly Hills fertility clinic apparently out of an insatiable craving for motherhood (though her own mother put it somewhat more colorfully, claiming that Nadya is “obsessed with children”).12

This is only one of the more extreme examples of a persistent desire to assert human dominance over the natural processes of life. Octo-mom aside, the real story on fertility is that it’s falling to levels that have economic implications sufficient to pose a genuine threat to human wellbeing. And it’s a global phenomenon; conservative commentator, Don Feder, who writes and speaks frequently on population issues, has noted:

Humanity is failing to reproduce itself in sufficient numbers to maintain our civilization.

In this regard, one number is crucial — 2.1. That’s the number of children the average woman must have in her lifetime just to maintain current population. This is known as a replacement-level birth rate.

In 30 years, worldwide, birth rates have fallen by more than 50 percent. In 1979, the average woman on this planet had 6 children. Today, the average is 2.9 children, and falling. According to the United Nations Population Division, by the middle of this century, worldwide fertility will be below replacement.13

The subject of lopsided demographics often comes up in discussions of how the Social Security system can survive when numbers of the elderly retired overwhelm those of the working young. But the dangers of population imbalance touch far more than that. The ever-shrinking numbers of babies undermines the fundamental expectation of economic growth, which undeniably bears on investing).14 Companies that advance technologies that interfere with natural life processes, risk the constriction of those very markets on which their own products and services depend. As Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has observed, “The future of a community, a people, a church, and a nation depends on the children who will inherit it. If we prevent our children from being born, we remove ourselves from the future. It’s really that simple. No children, no future.”15 & 16

Argue with Church teaching if you like. Say the bishops are out of step with the current sexual ethos. They will readily agree that they are, and of course, that’s the point. But to be fully consistent with the Catholic moral vision, a conscientious investor would avoid companies that support fertility manipulation in ways similar to those involved with abortion.

The other great leg upon which Morally Responsible Investing stands is the sanctity of marriage. When you think about the sanctity of marriage, the first word that comes to mind is “divorce.” It would be hard to identify companies that have a direct financial interest in the break-up of marriages (other than, perhaps, the publisher of Divorce Magazine, which is a real periodical17). Of course, there are plenty of law firms that specialize in divorce, but law firms tend to be partnerships, rather than corporations, and so don’t have stock which outside investors can buy.

I suppose one could argue that a lot of companies make demands on their employees which put stress on marriages. But work-related stress can have many other effects beside harming marriages (such as breakdown in health), and for all practical purposes, it would be impossible to use divorce statistics as an investment-screening criterion.

Other things assault the sanctity of marriage, however, and the one most directly connected with the subject of investing is pornography. American society is awash in salacious images and sex-drenched entertainment. What used to be confined to the back-street peepshows and dirty book stalls is now everyday fare. Here again, the words of Pius XI are relevant:

“We must not omit to mention those crafty men who, wholly unconcerned about any honest usefulness of their work, do not scruple to stimulate the baser human desires and, when they are aroused, use them for their own profit.”18

Most hardcore material comes out of privately held production firms, some associated with organized crime. Corporations like Playboy Enterprises account for their portion of smut as well, and the case for their exclusion is obvious. What might not be top-of-mind when thinking about porn is that the overwhelming portion of questionable matter is in the hands of America’s most prominent communications firms. I’m talking about cable and satellite television operators, Internet service providers, some of the largest periodical publishers and distributors, even phone companies. Add to that the video rental chains, hospitality firms offering on-demand “adult” fare in hotel rooms, and some of the leading big-box and shopping-mall retailers, and you begin to grasp the scope of the pornography market and the challenge involved in avoiding porn-related investments. These organizations are at the core of mainstreaming pornography and dulling society’s sense of propriety.

Some people will tell you that porn is so profitable and pervasive that it’s neigh well impossible to screen out of your investments, so you might as well cash in on the earnings opportunity it represents.19 I know of at least two investment books touting vice- related stocks (pornography, gambling, alcohol and others) as sure-fire winners in just about any market.20 There are undoubtedly more.

Actually, pornography isn’t all that secure as an industry. In recent years, the biggest operators have found themselves under competitive pressure. Their lock on the video market, in particular, has been weakened by low-cost digital recorders that allow amateur “artistes” all over the world to produce and flood the Internet with their own “skin flicks” — of lesser quality than professional fare, perhaps, but available for download free. Thus, digital technology is doing to porn what it did to the record companies and mainstream movie producers. Old-line suppliers are scrambling to come up with a new business model, the ultimate shape of which remains to be seen.

The pornography business has also suffered under recession, just like other industries. In January 2009, Larry Flynt, founder of the notorious, Hustler magazine, issued a press statement putting forth a rationale for government bailout. “With all this economic misery and people losing all that money, sex is the farthest thing from their mind,” he wrote. “It’s time for congress to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America. The only way they can do this is by supporting the adult industry and doing it quickly.”

One feels for poor Larry Flynt, that indefatigable self-promoter. But then it brings to mind the old Depression-era saying: “Things are tough all over.”

Still, the pervasiveness of porn and the new-found success of the amateurs only emphasizes the strong appeal of erotic entertainment. Preoccupation with vicarious sexual thrills can become a genuine addiction that intrudes on the relationship of husband and wife, diverts attention from essential human ties, and ultimately risks the destruction of marriage and family life. It’s not only men who are susceptible. Mental health professionals and family counselors are reporting dramatic increases in porn involvement among women (those bodice-ripping romance novels are only the tip of the iceberg).

Porn has even become a prominent part of teenage life. High school girls have pioneered a whole new genre of prurient self-expression — “sexting” — the practice of photographing themselves in provocative poses and various states of undress, then sharing their works with friends via cell phones and online social networking. This has led to teenagers around the country being charged with distribution of child pornography. Several face the prospect of being listed on sex-offender registries.

Thus, the danger to impressionable youngsters of our society’s pervasive atmosphere of hyper-eroticism is self-evident. “Better the millstone,” as the Lord said.

With such cultural conditions — fostered by a profound misreading and distorted enforcement of the First Amendment —individuals feel there’s little they can do to reverse our society’s slide into the muck. But for investors, one bit of positive action is available: avoiding the stock, not only of companies that produce porn, but those that provide the means by which it permeates modern life. Therefore, screening for pornography involvement must be considered a key component of any investment plan which can be judged morally responsible.

We have the power and therefore the obligation to take a stand against Pius XI’s “crafty men.”

1 Referring to Gordon Geckko, a fictional character known for his insistence that “Greed is good!” in the 1987 motion picture, “Wall Street,” as portrayed by actor, Michael Douglas. The Gordon Geckko image has proven so durable that a “Wall Street” sequel is in the works.

2 This tale suggests much about financial life in First-Century Palestine, since what would have been gained if the fearful servant had deposited his “talent” with the bankers is offered as the minimum option available (of course, Jesus doesn’t tell us anything about the master’s concern with preserving principal).

3 Just about the only major economic question on which the mind of the Church has undergone a major change is the definition of usury. Deemed immoral since Old Testament times, the practice of lending money at interest was theologically acceptable by the Seventeenth Century.

4 Rerum Novarum, Paragraph 6.

5 Rerum Novarum, Paragraph 7

6 Rerum Novarum, Paragraph 8.

7 Quadragesimo Anno, Paragraph 42.

8 Quadragesimo Anno, Paragraph 132.

9 Quadragesimo Anno, Paragraph 132.

10 It would also apply to some modern-day hedge fund operators who use massive amounts of debt leverage to magnify returns at huge risk. The 1998 collapse of Long Term Capital Management subjected the entire U.S. economy to such systematic risk, mitigated only by the intervention of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. LTCM’s founder, John Meriwether (a former trader of mortgage-backed securities at Solomon Brothers) became notorious for using debt leveraged as much as 300-to-1, when the leverage rate of other hedge funds considered aggressive was a mere 4-to-1.

11 Centesimus Annas, Section 19.

1 Shareholder Rebellion: How Investors are Changing the Way America’s Companies are Run, Irwin Professional Publishing, 1995.

2 Contrary to a very common misconception, corporate boards of directors have absolutely no fiduciary obligations to anybody other than their shareholders — not to a company’s employees or its customers, or to the communities in which it operates, or to environmental activists, or to any other “stakeholder” (I hate that word). By law, a board’s fiduciary responsibility is only to the company’s owners.

3 A quite thorough overview of socially responsible investing and funds created to reflect this concept can be found in the book, Investing with your Values: Making Money and Making a Difference, by Hal Brill, Jack A. Brill, and Cliff Feigenbaum, Bloomberg Press, 1999.

10 The victory of abortion advocate Barack Obama —made possible in part by strong electoral support among Catholics — touched a nerve in the American hierarchy. A post-election statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops included an ominous warning to the president-elect about the national divisiveness he would be courting in a single-minded pursuit of expanded “abortion rights.” Issued on November 13, 2008, less than two weeks after the election, the statement noted that, “Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected.”

11 Humanae Vitae states in Section 17 that “we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions — limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed.”

12 This incident drew surprisingly wide criticism in a society as ethically challenged as ours has become. Reaction was negative even in open-minded southern California. On February 11, 2009, Los Angeles Times writer Tim Rutten published a blistering commentary, observing what he termed the “manifest irresponsibility of this eccentric woman toward her children” as well as “the irresponsibility of the physician who took money to impregnate a jobless, husbandless woman with 14 children.”

Rutten asserted that the case illustrates “the complexities that arise when people assume that because something can be done, it should be done.” He offered this cogent (if sarcastic) insight: “The impulse that has made fertility medicine such a large and lucrative specialty in American medicine is about something other than children; it’s about the narcissistic assumption that one is ‘entitled’ to ‘the experience’ of childbearing and, more to the point, the notion that, somehow, if your particular strands of DNA don’t live on into another generation, the species will be poorer for it.”

Even syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman, of the Boston Globe, a writer who rarely encounters an example of human (especially feminist) self-absorption with which she can’t sympathize, grasped the ethical implications. “Does anyone have a right to tell anyone else how many kids to have?” her column of February 6 asked. “Can only people who can afford them bear children? Do you need a husband to have a baby? These are questions that make us feel queasy when we are talking about old-fashioned families. But they take on a new flavor in the unregulated wild west of fertility technology.”

Not unexpectedly, Goodman took her sharpest jab at the medical establishment. As she wrote, “a reproductive business that generates so much controversy has produced a remarkable consensus. Infertility treatment for an unemployed, single mother of six? Eight embryos in one womb? There must be a proper word in the medical literature to describe this achievement. I think the word is ‘nuts.’”

13 Feder’s dispiriting picture of population decline is laid out in a presentation he gives at pro-life events, such as the 36th annual March for Life Rose Dinner held January 22, 2009 in Washington. His text is archived on line at:

14 The urgency of the situation received special emphasis in January 2009, when Austrian chemist Carl Djerassi, one of three scientists whose research led to formulation of the synthetic progestagen, Norethisterone, a critical step in development of the first oral contraceptive, published a commentary in the Austrian newspaper, Der Standard, in which he described the “horror scenario” of population decline brought on by birth control. The 85-year-old retired researcher called the fall in birth rates an “epidemic” that is more of a threat to civic health than obesity. He wrote that couples trying to avoid reproducing themselves were merely “wanting to enjoy their schnitzels while leaving the rest of the world to get on with it.” A report by the Catholic News Agency noting Djerassi’s commentary is archived online at:

15 This truth was illustrated with chilling astuteness by British writer, P.D. James, whose novel, The Children of Men, was set in a bleak world where all of humanity had suddenly ceased to be fertile.

16 It must be acknowledged that there is disagreement, not only about the danger posed by population decline, but over whether it is actually happening at all. Since the English political economist Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) first put forth his theory that population growth would eventually outpace food production (what’s termed the “Malthusian Catastrophe”), overpopulation has been a persistent fear. The idea was given dramatic expression in the 1968 book, The Population Bomb, by Paul Ehrlich, currently of Stanford University. It persists today primarily as an argument for that Holy Grail of the environmental movement, “sustainability.”

Paul Ehrlich was one of the founders of the group, Zero Population Growth (now called Population Connection), which has been a principal advocate of so-called “reproductive rights.” Its British counterpart, the Optimum Population Trust, recently launched an initiative aimed at convincing people to have fewer children, known as “Stop at Two.” It is now widely acknowledged that, except in certain confined geographic localities, overpopulation is a myth. Though his academic specialty is entomology, the study of insects, Ehrlich is the “go-to guy” for media folks writing on population issues. He may be an expert on bug life, but as a demographic prophet he has proven to be a quack (as was Malthus before him).

17 Divorce Magazine is published by the Toronto-based Segue Esprit Inc., which also operates Divorce Marketing Group, a firm offering services to attorneys and other professionals involved in divorce throughout the United States and Canada.

18 Quadragesimo Anno, Paragraph 132.

19 The February 2008 issue of the conservative Catholic journal, New Oxford Review, illustrates the ubiquitousness of pornography-related investments, noting that Christian Brothers Investment Services, which manages funds for more than 1,000 U.S. Catholic dioceses and Church-related institutions, was holding shares in Lodgenet, “one of the largest providers of in-room porn to the hotel industry.”

20 Stocking Up on Sin: How to Crush the Market with Vice-Based Investing, by Caroline Wexler, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (2004); and Investing in Vice: The Recession-Proof Portfolio of Booze, Bets, Bombs, and Butts, by Dan Ahrens, St. Martin’s Press (2004).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Check out the first chapter of Coached for Life

Thanks to everyone who participated in today's blog tour!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Lariat Companies, Incorporated (May 18, 2009)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings - Senior Media Specialist - The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Ed Flaherty grew up in the blue-collar town of Great Falls, Montana. By the time he assumed the role of team captain for the 1962 Great Falls Central Mustangs, life circumstances had already begun to make him a leader. Flaherty’s father juggled bills to put his boys through Catholic school, and his young son was forced to shoulder many of the adult responsibilities like cooking and cleaning. His mother suffered from debilitating depression, and he was often called upon to provide for his two younger brothers for long periods of time. Flaherty’s natural leadership abilities were honed by his two football coaches. Under their influence, he began setting the first of many life goals that would propel him to remarkable success.

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Jack Uldrich is a renowned global futurist, independent scholar,sought-after business speaker, and best-selling author. His books include the best-selling, The Next Big Thing Is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business, and the award-winning, Into the Unknown: Leadership Lessons from Lewis & Clark’s Daring Westward Expedition. His latest book is Jump the Curve: 50 Essential Strategies to Help Your Company Stay Ahead of Emerging Technologies.

Mr. Uldrich’s other written works have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Futurist, Future Quarterly Research, The Wall Street Reporter, Leader to Leader, Management Quarterly, and hundreds of other newspapers and publications around the country. He also writes a regular column on emerging technologies for “The Motley Fool” and is a frequent guest of the media worldwide—having appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and National Public Radio on numerous occasions.

In addition to speaking on future trends, emerging technologies, innovation, change management, and leadership, Uldrich is a leading expert on assisting businesses to adapt. He has served as an advisor to Fortune 1000 companies and is noted for his ability to deliver provocative, new perspectives on competitive advantage, organizational change, and transformational leadership.

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Product Details:

List Price: $19.95
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Lariat Companies, Incorporated (May 18, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615278825
ISBN-13: 978-0615278827


“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price all of us pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” —VINCE LOMBARDI


Bill Mehrens’ and John McMahon’s Stories

May 2, 1955

Armed with nothing more than two letters of recommendation from his current and former college football coaches, Bill Mehrens, a soon-to-be graduate of Carroll College, a small liberal arts college in Helena, Montana, arrived in the office of Father Harold Arbanas, the principal of Great Falls Central Catholic High School. He was there to interview for the head football coaching position.

Located on the corner of Central Avenue and 24th Street in a neighborhood surrounded by modest middle-class homes, the school had opened its doors only five years earlier. In the aftermath of World War II, the influx of people moving into the area strained the city’s existing Catholic high school, St. Mary’s, and it was decided that a new, bigger school was needed. With the support of the Catholic diocese of Great Falls, the city’s numerous parishes and feeder elementary schools, as well as the assistance of the region’s three distinct congregations of religious women—the Ursulines, the Sisters of Humility of Mary, and the Sisters of Charity of Providence—Central strove to provide its students with a superior education grounded in its Catholic tradition. As Father Arbanas ran through this history—including a brief tutorial in which he elaborated on how the nuns at Central were still as tough and hardened as their predecessors who helped settle Montana in the late nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century—Bill Mehrens, with his clear brown eyes and broad shoulders, sat erect in his chair and absorbed every word. He wanted this job.

Arbanas, a former championship figure skater with a solid, athletic build and a jovial air about him, then outlined his vision for the school and its mission. “My goal is to give our students the best high school education in the nation—bar none.” The way he said “bar none” told Mehrens that behind the priest’s friendly façade lay a man of great determination. “Most of our students come from hard-working families. Many parents are farmers, ranchers, or smelter workers. Most own only one car, and more often than not our students wear hand-me-downs because their parents are scraping by to just pay the tuition. They define prosperity not by whether they have a TV antenna on the top of their roof, but by whether their children go on to college—something that most of them could never even dream of.

“Regardless of where they come from, the priests, nuns, and lay faculty of Central see every student as equal, and we expect them to do their best.” Arbanas stopped and reiterated his last point by adding, “We expect every student at Central to succeed. Every child has a wealth of untapped or underdeveloped talent,

and it is our job as their teachers and mentors to tap into those talents and nurture them to their fullest extent—be those talents in the sciences, arts, languages, or athletics.

“But it is not enough just to provide them with the intellectual tools they need to succeed in this world; we must also develop their moral character in such a way that they can then apply their gifts to their surrounding community.

“As a former student at Butte Central and having attended a Catholic college yourself,” continued Arbanas, “I have no doubt that you are the beneficiary of a similar philosophy.”

“Yes, Father, I am,” replied Mehrens. “I’m also a product of—and a believer in—discipline. My parents were not of the ‘spare the rod’ school of thought, and neither am I.”

Arbanas smiled. “As are we, Mr. Mehrens. There is no doubt that our students need structure in their lives—and benefit from the same—but we are even more resolute in our belief in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Arbanas went on to discuss a little more of his philosophy before he turned to the purpose of the interview: to find a new football coach. “Tell me, why do you want to coach?”

It was the perfect opening for Mehrens, who, as always, was meticulously well-prepared. He had done his homework on Great Falls Central and took Arbanas’s question and ran with it.

“To begin, let me say that everything you have told me about Central fits perfectly with my own view of both education and athletics. As a coach, I see my job as more than just guiding the Mustangs to victory. Foremost, I expect—and will demand—that every kid do his best. I will demand excellence, and I will do my best to give my students and players the tools they need to succeed both on and off the field.

“The reason I want to coach is because I view sports as an excellent way to develop character. Kids need to have goals, and they need to understand that they are more than members of a team, as they are representatives of this community. And, as such, they have responsibilities to their community. They need

to understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and that the core component of success is hard work. They need to learn to give 100 percent in everything they do and then take pride in a job well done. Win or lose, if my kids work hard and give it their all, I will consider the game to have been a success.”

“I am glad you mentioned this notion of community,” replied Arbanas, “because it is vital to what we are trying to achieve here at Central. For the past few years, I have sensed students at Central have had this notion of being the poor stepchild to the town’s public high school. I want to rid ourselves of this feeling.

In fact, we will rid ourselves of it.” Arbanas’s conviction was resolute. “People are who they are, not because of where they come from, but rather because of where they are going. There is a big difference.

We here at Central care nothing about the former—and everything about the latter. We are what we make ourselves, and I intend to make every student a winner.

“Central is moving up from Class B to Class A in athletics this year, and I believe it will help our school’s image, but I want everyone, including the students who don’t play sports—either because they don’t have the talent or because they need to work after school to help support their families—to take pride in our programs and our school. As a coach, you can help send this message—often in a way that other teachers cannot.”

Arbanas wrapped up the interview by saying, “This is what I want to happen after our teams have defeated an opponent. I want the opposing team’s players, coaches, fans, and teachers to say, ‘Wow, we just got whipped by the better team...but aren’t they just the most respectful and classiest bunch of kids you’ve ever seen?’”

He concluded the meeting by taking Mehrens on a tour of the school and telling him that he would be in touch. The 22-year-old Mehrens thanked the priest for the opportunity to interview and, as he shook his hand, said, “I agree with your goals, and I know I can help you achieve them.”

Two days later, Mehrens received a call from Arbanas and was asked if he would like to be the school’s new football coach. Mehrens agreed on the spot. A one-year probationary contract was forwarded via the mail the next day. The contract was extended in 1956.

After notching two winning seasons in his first two years of coaching Class A football, Mehrens then led the Mustangs to its first-ever state championship in 1957. He repeated the achievement the following year, tying with Miles City for the championship. That same year he negotiated a five-year contract to stay at Central.

August 25, 1945

Anaconda, Montana, was a tough place to grow up in the 1930s and ’40s. The Anaconda Mining Company was the town’s big employer, and if the workers in the smelter went on strike—as they often did—most of the town suffered.

Early in his life, John McMahon and his family were spared the tougher hardships of strikes because his father worked at the Rocky Mountain Brewery—one of the few industries immune from the vagaries of a strike-inflicted economy, because beer was consumed in equal quantities in both good times and bad times in Anaconda.

In 1942, when he was just four, the family’s fortunes changed when McMahon’s father died a needless, although not uncommon, death. He succumbed to an ear infection that grew progressively worse due to a lack of penicillin.

With a world war raging and three young children to support, McMahon’s mother was forced to take a modest paying job as the Anaconda city treasurer. Times were tough, and later, after the war, whenever the miners went on strike and the town’s coffers dried up, the McMahons, like everyone else, were forced to buy their groceries through the local union hall.

The loss of his father had one positive outcome, however. It caused McMahon to seek refuge in sports at an early age. Sports, in turn, gave him an outlet and an identity. He began playing baseball at the age of seven and had a nickname slapped on him before he ever swung at his first pitch.

Back in the war years, Anaconda was the kind of town where almost everyone had a nickname—be it Bull, Red, Paddy, Moose, or Ox. And its kids played baseball the way it was meant to be played—on Saturday mornings without any parental supervision. Often, the only adult around was a college-aged kid named Ed Kalafat, who acted as umpire.

When McMahon stepped up to the plate for his first at bat, Kalafat, who later went on to play professional basketball for the Minneapolis Lakers, asked him who he was. “John McMahon,” he replied. Unsatisfied with his uninspirational response, Kalafat studied McMahon’s small, stocky stature for a moment and, on

the spot, decided he bore an uncanny resemblance to the Cisco Kid’s faithful sidekick, Poncho. As nicknames so often have a way of doing, it stuck. Sixty years later, McMahon is still called Poncho by his closest friends and associates.

As the summer weather faded and fall arrived, Poncho switched sporting allegiances to football. Due to his young age and small size, his mother was opposed to him playing football, but because she was preoccupied with putting food on her young family’s table, and because football was such a strong part of

Anaconda’s identity, she soon gave in to her son’s repeated pleas.

And so it came to be that in a small park, not far from Anaconda’s main mine pit, that Poncho McMahon received his first introduction to coaching. It was an experience that has stayed with him, and one that he counts among the most formative coaching lessons he ever received.

Poncho arrived for his first football practice full of boyish enthusiasm. His expectations were even higher because Hank Laughlin—one of the town’s best athletes and the kind of guy a young kid in a town such as Anaconda could idolize—had agreed to be the coach.

Laughlin began practice by calling for McMahon and the other boys to huddle around him. McMahon and his other wide-eyed peers rushed over and stood ready to absorb every nugget of Laughlin’s worldly football wisdom.

In a deep baritone voice, Laughlin said, “When I tell you to do something, I expect you to do it.” He repeated the statement with great force and added, “Do you understand?” The young players were still nodding their heads appreciatively when Laughlin barked, “Hit the ground!” The sudden and unexpected

directive stunned the kids, and they remained frozen in their upright positions. “I said, hit the ground!” This time every player heeded Laughlin’s directive and dropped to the cold ground.

As they lay there, Laughlin told them they were to get up only when he said they could get up. The boys were still in a semi-state of shock when Laughlin walked to his car and drove away. No one knew what to make of the situation—least of all seven-yearold John McMahon. A conversation soon commenced among the older boys. “Is he coming back?” one asked. “Yeah, he’s coming back...he’s just testing us,” replied another. McMahon listened intently as the minutes passed, and the older boys contemplated their next step. After a few more minutes, a consensus emerged that Laughlin wasn’t returning. Like prairie dogs cautiously popping their heads out of their holes after a close call with a predator, the boys began to stand up one by one. Just as the last boy had gotten up and was finishing wiping the dirt from his pants,

Laughlin’s car came screaming around the corner of the park. The coach jumped out of it and yelled, “Who said you could get up!”

No one dared respond, and Laughlin ordered the kids to hit the ground again. Everyone did as they were instructed. Laughlin then jumped back into his car and drove away a second time. For 15 minutes, the boys lay prostrate on the cold, hard ground until a similar conversation to the earlier one began. “He’s not coming back this time,” said one. “This is stupid,” replied another. Still, no one ventured to get up—Laughlin’s ferocity on the football field was legendary among the residents of Anaconda, and it didn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility that he was the kind of coach who wouldn’t hesitate to put a good lick on any kid who refused to follow his orders.

After waiting a few more minutes and scanning the environment to see if there were any signs of Laughlin, one of the older boys mustered the courage to get up. Soon the others followed. After a few disparaging remarks about Laughlin having taken a few too many hits to his head on the gridiron, the boys concluded that it was foolish to waste a perfectly good Saturday morning waiting for a coach who apparently had no desire to coach. They decided to split into teams and play a pickup game of football.

Just as they were lining up for the opening kickoff, Laughlin came barreling around the corner. This time his car jumped a small embankment and screeched to a halt a few feet from the boys. The skid kicked up a fine layer of black soot—residue from the town’s mines—and covered the players.

“Who said you could get up?” yelled Laughlin. “Didn’t any of you hear a single word I said? When I tell you to do something, I expect you to do it! And I expect you to do it until I say you can stop. If you can’t follow this simple rule, take up a different sport.” Laughlin was not smiling. He was dead serious and glowered at the ragtag collection of boys standing before him. He could care less that they were all less than 10 years of age. “See that backstop,” he then asked, pointing to a fence on the far horizon and about a mile away. “Run to it.” The boys took off like jackrabbits.

When the last player returned, Laughlin—for the third time—commanded them to hit the ground. Again, he departed. This time, though, no one dared move. No one said a word. A half hour later Laughlin returned and directed his players to get up.

“Now remember this,” he said, “when I tell you to do something—do it! If I tell you to block someone, do it until the whistle blows. Same thing goes on defense—you are to keep tackling until the whistle blows. I don’t care how many of your teammates are already piling on who has the ball. If the whistle hasn’t blown, stick your nose in there.” Looking around at the wide-eyed faces, he asked, “Does everyone understand?” Everyone nodded their heads. “Good. You’ve just learned the two most important lessons in football—listen to your coach and never quit.” Laughlin allowed his words a minute to sink in and then said, “That concludes our first practice.”

It was a valuable education, and over the ensuing months, Laughlin instilled in McMahon a number of other lessons, including a deep appreciation of the importance of fundamentals. He taught the young McMahon how to get into a proper stance, how to keep his head up, and how to anticipate things on the football field. Laughlin also convinced McMahon that even smaller and slower players could often outhustle and outplay larger and stronger opponents, provided they had the right attitude and were willing to work hard. They were all lessons that McMahon took to heart and later became core to his own coaching style and philosophy.

September 28, 1951

In his first four weeks of college football, Bill Mehrens had learned more about the game than he had in the previous four years. This was less a criticism of his high school football coach at Butte Central, who had honed his techniques and improved his skills enough to garner Mehrens all-state honors at the halfback position, and more of a tribute to his college coach, John Gagliardi, who, in spite of being only 24 years old at the time, already had five years of high school and two years of college football coaching experience under his belt. In 1943, after his high school team’s coach was drafted into the army, Gagliardi lobbied the school’s principal to take over coaching responsibilities. He was so successful that he was asked to stay on after he graduated.

Mehrens’ decision to enroll at Carroll College in Helena, Montana, had been predicated upon two separate and independent factors. The first was that he really wanted to work for the FBI and was under the false impression that a law degree was a prerequisite for a career with the agency. Since Carroll had the strongest pre-law program in the state of Montana, Mehrens felt the college provided him the best chance of achieving his goal.

The second reason he selected Carroll was because he knew that Gagliardi, in just two seasons, had taken the school’s football team—which school officials were seriously considering dropping because of a losing record and a lack of interest in 1949—and turned it into a winner. In 1950, the Fighting Saints won their first-ever conference title. Always competitive, Mehrens had toiled gallantly on mediocre teams in high school but was now eager to play for a winner.

When he arrived at the small liberal arts school in mid-August for the start of football practice, his introduction into what constituted a successful football program began immediately. “Practices start at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. promptly,” snapped Gagliardi before Mehrens had even suited up for the first time. “If you’re late, you don’t start. No excuses.” It was a lesson Mehrens watched Gagliardi enforce the first game of the season when he benched the team’s starting quarterback for arriving five-minutes late for a chalk talk the day before the game.

Mehrens’ next lesson came when he sneaked a peek at his coach’s clipboard before practice one day. Every minute of the two-hour practice was broken down into compartmentalized sections. Not a single minute was left unaccounted. It was a trait Gagliardi had himself picked up from Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy during a summer coaching clinic. Leahy, who was just coming off a perfect 10–0 season and a national championship in 1949, was also instrumental in helping Gagliardi land the job at Carroll by providing him a letter of reference. Gagliardi taught Mehrens the importance of wringing out every ounce of productivity from a practice. He even insisted that every player work on their specialties before practice began. If a player was a center, he was expected to be working on his snaps. Guards worked on their pulling techniques, and running backs practiced their footwork and handoffs. Anyone caught idle could expect to find himself either running laps or on the receiving end of a stern lecture—often both.

Mehrens soon learned that his coach had the first two weeks of practice precisely sequenced. Gagliardi knew he only had so much time to prepare for his first game, and he knew exactly what he wanted all of his players to know before their first game.

The next lessons followed in quick succession. First came the fundamentals. Gagliardi went over everything from how to get into a proper stance to how to make a proper tackle. These techniques were then repeated continuously until the players could do them in their sleep. It was Gagliardi’s policy that he didn’t want his players thinking about the basics during a game. He just wanted them done.

It would have been sufficient for Mehrens to have learned these lessons on the practice field under Gagliardi’s tutelage, but he had the added benefit of having them reinforced in the classroom. For his lone elective during his freshmen year, Mehrens selected a newly added coaching course offered by John Gagliardi. It was a fateful decision because it represented a slight detour from his well thought out plan to become an agent for the FBI.

The detour widened through a series of one-on-one discussions with Gagliardi over the next two years. In the early 1950s, Carroll College had a very modest budget for football. It was so modest that the team couldn’t afford a team bus to travel to away games. Instead, Gagliardi and the few upperclassmen who owned cars assembled a caravan and drove themselves.

In addition to hitching an old wooden trailer to his car for carrying equipment and supplies, Gagliardi usually got stuck ferrying the few underclassmen who were on the team as well as his assistant coach, Father Ray Hunthausen.

On Friday, September 27, 1951, the Carroll College Fighting Saints caravan set off for Vancouver to play the University of British Columbia. Mehrens made the most of the situation and plunked himself down in the backseat. Although Gagliardi was only six years older than himself, Mehrens knew enough to recognize that he was not only a winner but also a special and unique coach. He spent the better part of the trip picking Gagliardi’s brain. The themes of discipline, hard work, and repetition were constantly stressed, but Mehrens was surprised when his coach threw in a little psychology. Gagliardi told Mehrens that it was important to treat each player on an individual basis. “Some responded better to a kick in the butt and others to a pat on the back,” he said. Still others had unique life experiences that a coach had to consider. Gagliardi knew from experience what he was talking about. For the first few years of his college coaching career, it was not uncommon for him to be instructing war veterans who were attending college on the GI Bill and were older than himself. Regardless, Gagliardi told Mehrens, “You have to treat everyone fairly. No exceptions.” Often, the conversations were made more memorable by the philosophical and spiritual ruminations of Father Hunthausen, who, later in life, would go on to become the Archbishop of Seattle.

As memorable as those discussions were, what ultimately had the greatest impact on Mehrens was seeing Gagliardi’s coaching philosophy in action on Saturday afternoons—and sometimes before.

After the team arrived in Vancouver for its game against the University of British Columbia, Gagliardi caught the team’s starting tackle, a 26-year-old college senior who had spent two years with the Marine Corps fighting in the Pacific, smoking in his hotel room. Gagliardi didn’t allow smoking during the season and promptly benched the player, who also happened to be the team’s best and strongest lineman. Even late in the game with the score knotted at 13 and Carroll driving for what would have been the go-ahead score, Gagliardi refused to allow the player in the game. “The rules are the rules,” he said when the man pleaded to be forgiven and begged his permission to go into the game. Gagliardi didn’t budge, and it likely cost his team a victory. The drive stalled, and the game ended in a tie. The message, however, was received loud and clear by everyone on the team. No one is above the rules.

It was a lesson Mehrens learned himself the following Monday. The previous week in class, Gagliardi had assigned a paper. Due to the extraordinary length of the trip to and from Vancouver, Mehrens didn’t have a chance to complete the assignment. Because Gagliardi had been with him the entire trip, Mehrens expected his coach to grant him an extension and was shocked when he received an “F” for his failure to turn in his paper on time. Adding insult to injury, Mehrens was told that if he didn’t improve his grades he would not be allowed to continue playing football. “You’ve come to college to get an education, Mr. Mehrens,” Gagliardi said. “Football is a game. An education lasts forever. Never forget that.” Mehrens heeded his coach’s advice, hit the books, and stayed on the team.

Following the tie to British Columbia, the Fighting Saints went undefeated the remainder of the season and won their second conference title. The following year, as a sophomore, Mehrens, who was a four-year starter, helped guide Carroll to its third consecutive conference title.

The next year—1953—Gagliardi accepted the head coaching job at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, where he has remained the last half century. Over his career, Gagliardi has compiled the most victories in NCAA football history. As of the 2008 season, he had 461 victories and a winning percentage of .781.

In his senior year, employing many of the techniques Gagliardi had ingrained in him, Bill Mehrens had an outstanding year and was named to the 1954 Catholic Colleges All-American Football Team. However, it wasn’t on the gridiron where Gagliardi had his greatest impact on Mehrens. The lesson that most resonated with Mehrens was a simple one. Gagliardi always told him that “Ordinary players doing ordinary things extraordinarily well will win games.” He then added it was the coach’s responsibility for seeing that those ordinary players were taught this lesson and given the tools to do extraordinary things.

The advice led Mehrens to a new calling. J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI would have to wait. In large part due to Gagliardi’s influence, Mehrens put his pre-law and FBI career aspirations on hold and decided to pursue a different, but no less promising, career. He became a high school football coach.

Armed only with a letter of recommendation from his current coach, Father Hunthausen, and his old coach, John Gagliardi, Mehrens received his first opportunity when Great Falls Central took a chance on him and offered him his first head coaching job in the spring of 1955.

August 21, 1961

Lieutenant Colonel William O. “Bill” Dickerson arrived at Father Arbanas’s office at 8 a.m. The tall officer cut an imposing figure. His Air Force uniform was immaculately pressed, his shoes spit-shine polished, and his bearing undeniably military. The two men shook hands, and the priest invited Dickerson to have a seat.

It was not unusual for many of the officers stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base to send their children to Central. Since Arbanas had taken over as the principal, he had practically willed the school to new heights by virtue of his forceful personality. In 1959, Life magazine had rated it among the 25 best high schools in America.

What separated Dickerson from the other officers who visited the school was the color of his skin. Lieutenant Colonel Dickerson was black. “I’m here because my family and I have just been transferred from Tokyo,” began Dickerson, “and I’m looking for a school for my daughter. I visited the public school the other day, and I didn’t like what I saw.” Arbanas said nothing, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the less than enthusiastic response Dickerson and his daughter received was likely related to their race. Great Falls had very few black families, and racism, while not prevalent, was not uncommon either. “I have every intention of seeing to it that my daughter receives the education she needs to attend college.”

Arbanas looked Dickerson in the eye and replied, “I—and the rest of the staff here at Central—have the same expectation.” Never one to dance around sensitive topics, the priest cut to the chase. “Great Falls Central is a Catholic high school. That means we are grounded in the teachings of our faith. My staff and I treat everyone the same. Let me be honest with you though. At the present time, we have no other black students.” Dickerson absorbed the news without reacting to it. “What’s your daughter’s name?” continued Arbanas.


“And what grade will she be in?”

“She’ll be starting her sophomore year.”

“Does she have any special interests?”

Dickerson contemplated the question a moment and then replied, “She’s a gifted speaker.”

Arbanas smiled. “It just so happens that we have an excellent speech and drama teacher here at Central. I’ll arrange for you to meet with Father Harvey Livix right after we’re through. He’s just down the hall. I can also guarantee you that for the next three years your daughter will be afforded the same opportunities as every other student at Central.”

“How do I know that?” replied the colonel.

“You don’t. I am asking that you take my word on it.” Dickerson eyed the priest skeptically. “Let me just tell you a short story that I think captures our attitude here at Central,” continued Arbanas. “Last year, we had a wonderful boy named Joe Lloyd. He was a senior, and he also happened to be black. Lloyd was a good student and a good athlete. He was a particularly talented sprinter. This past spring he was preparing to compete for the state championship in the 100, 200, and 440 sprints when our coach, Bill Mehrens, noticed that his spikes were worn out. On his own initiative and with no prompting from Lloyd or his family, Mehrens bought the boy a new pair. He didn’t do it because he felt obligated or sorry for Lloyd. He did it because he knew the Lloyds had sacrificed to send their son to Central, and he did it because he wanted to give Joe Lloyd the same chance his competitors had.” Arbanas paused and then added, “Coach Mehrens would have done the same thing for any other kid because—like all of us here at Central—he believes in giving our students the tools they need to compete...on the track field, in the classroom, and in life.”

Arbanas then walked Dickerson down to meet Livix. The following week Valerie Dickerson enrolled at Central.

March 16, 1962

Bill Mehrens had met John McMahon once before in Choteau, Montana. The meeting occurred the previous fall when both men were scouting an upcoming opponent. Mehrens was the head coach at Great Falls Central, and McMahon was a first-year assistant football coach at Billings Central, where he served as the coach of the junior varsity team and the varsity line coach.

The two were formally introduced by “Swede” Bushly, the assistant football coach under Mehrens, who happened to come from McMahon’s hometown. Things deteriorated swiftly after formal introductions were complete. McMahon gave Mehrens the cold shoulder, figuring he was there to do a scouting job. He

didn’t have time for idle chitchat. Moreover, he wasn’t the least bit interested in comparing notes with a coach from another school, especially the head coach of a rival school.

McMahon grunted something indecipherable about having work to do and arose from his bleacher seat and stalked away. “Poncho has always been an intense kid,” offered Bushly, trying to explain away his rude behavior.

“Is this his first year of coaching?” inquired Mehrens. Bushly replied that it was. Mehrens laughed and said, “He’ll learn the ropes soon enough and come to find out that we’re not out to steal his reports. Heck, he might even find that we can help him a little. How’d he get the scar? It’s huge,” said Mehrens, referring to the large slash across McMahon’s face.

“Car accident. Apparently, he and some buddies were driving home from Carroll for the Christmas holiday a few years ago and got into a severe accident. I forget the details, but I think the driver of the other car was killed. McMahon ended up getting something like a thousand stitches to his face.”

“Really?” said Mehrens before adding, “He’s a graduate of Carroll, huh?”

“Yeah, he played football through his senior year, but I don’t think he saw much playing time that year, because, after the accident, his head kept swelling whenever he put on his helmet.”

For the remainder of the game, Mehrens sat in the stands and did his own scouting. As he was filling his notebook with reams of notes, sketches, and diagrams of various offensive and defensive alignments, occasionally he would spot McMahon on the far sideline or in the end zone. He was impressed with what he saw. McMahon was studying the teams from a variety of angles and perspectives. Mehrens could tell he was the kind of coach who wanted to uncover every advantage to help his team.

The following month Mehrens encountered McMahon again. This time he was lined up on the sideline opposite him as his Great Falls Central Mustangs faced off against their Catholic school rival, Billings Central. Mehrens’ front line was the more physically talented of the two, but his Mustangs were worn down by Billings Central’s smaller, nimbler, and more aggressive line. Great Falls gave up two late touchdowns and lost by a single point. In reviewing the film afterward, it was clear to Mehrens that Billings Central’s line exploited the Mustang’s Split-6 defense and had benefited from superior scouting and some excellent coaching.

The third time the two encountered each other was in the spring of 1962 at the divisional high school basketball tournament in Billings. Both Mehrens and McMahon were assistant basketball coaches for their respective schools and were biding their time until their teams played in the evening’s later rounds.

Mehrens reintroduced himself to McMahon, who was easy to remember because of the large hockey puck-shaped scar that covered his face. Mehrens was pleasantly surprised to find him in a much more agreeable mood than the first time they met. McMahon even invited Mehrens to have a seat next to him.

He soon discovered why. Although John McMahon also coached basketball, it was clear that football was his true love. He would talk about it with anyone who would listen—any time of the year. Mehrens was no different.

“I like your team’s chance to win the divisional championship,” said McMahon, referring to the basketball tournament.

“Me, too,” replied Mehrens. “They call themselves the Running Runts.”

“I like it. You can tell your players are in excellent shape,” said McMahon, who although he didn’t really care for the sport, refused to take his eyes off the action on the court. His intensity and competitiveness was evident in the way he twisted the tournament program into a rod and smacked it against his left hand

whenever something displeased him on the court. “Height in basketball, like size in football, is overrated. I’ll take a well-conditioned team any day of the week. I noticed that most of the guys on your team are juniors and sophomores. Think you’ll have a good football team this fall?”

“I honestly don’t know,” replied Mehrens. “I’m only returning two starters. My line is going to be pretty green.”

“You can overcome that. Just make sure they’re in top shape when they arrive for the first day of practice and then pound the fundamentals into their heads. Next teach ’em how to get into a proper stance and how to fire off the ball. Just keep working on those things until they can do ’em in their sleep. Even if they’re

small, if they can get into the neutral zone first and put the defense on the defensive, they can control the line of scrimmage.” McMahon was now engaged in football, and there was no stopping him. “That was your team’s problem this year. You had some really big guys—they just weren’t quick enough. They

thought their size would be enough to control their opponents. It’s not. They needed to work on their quickness. They needed to learn how to anticipate things and make adjustments.”

Mehrens didn’t like hearing this critique from the younger coach, but he had to admit that McMahon was right. The offensive line on his 1961 team was almost as big as the starting line for the University of Montana, but he couldn’t maximize their potential. Part of the problem was that his current assistant coach, Bushly—who also happened to be the head basketball coach—was more interested in and more knowledgeable about basketball than football. He simply wasn’t grounded in the finer techniques of football.

Mehrens, however, was never one to lay blame elsewhere. “I agree,” he replied. “We had some other problems as well. Our seniors just didn’t assume leadership...and that was my responsibility. You said earlier that you’d take a better conditioned team over a more talented team. Well, I’d take a team that has some leaders who know how to get their teammates to work together over one filled with talented, individual stars.” McMahon concurred, and for the remainder of the weekend whenever their teams weren’t playing on the court, the two football fanatics found each other in the bleachers and talked shop. They didn’t know it at the time, but each had found a gridiron soul mate.

June 1962

Swede Bushly’s decision to retire from coaching was not unexpected. He was getting older, and his seniority earned him the right to focus on his true love—teaching science. When his 1962 “Running Runts” captured the Montana Western Divisional basketball championship, he decided it was time to call it quits on all of his coaching responsibilities. Mehrens wasted little time lobbying Father Harvey Livix for his help in hiring a new assistant football coach.

Mehrens was confident that he would find a receptive audience in Livix, who in addition to his responsibilities teaching speech and drama had also been asked by Father Arbanas to focus some of his attention toward improving Central’s extracurricular and athletic programs. Livix jumped at the opportunity, and in his first year he and Mehrens had struck up a solid friendship that was based in equal parts on their shared faith, love of football, and commitment to excellence. Livix, with Mehrens’ assistance, reinvigorated the Mustangs’ football booster club, the Roundtable, by hosting an end of the year event in which he used his impressive networking skills to land some of the games top keynote speakers. In 1960, he brought in Frank Leahy, the former Notre Dame coach.

Mehrens had told Livix: “Harvey, I need a football man for my assistant coach. I have a great deal of admiration for Swede, but if we want to compete for a championship, I need a guy who knows football inside and out.”

“I take it you have someone in mind,” replied Livix, who appreciated not only Mehrens’ passion for football but his competitive drive. He was also impressed with how Mehrens used sports to reinforce the school’s mission of preparing Central’s students for life beyond high school.

“I do. There’s a young coach at Billings Central. He’s got an economics degree from Carroll College, so he can teach, but he also—”

“Knows football,” said Livix, completing the sentence for Mehrens.

“The guy really knows football.” The enthusiasm in Mehrens’ voice was like that of a small child describing to his parents the gift he most hoped to receive from Santa. Livix promised to speak with Arbanas about the matter. Arbanas, who had only recently been informed by the Archbishop that he was being sent to Billings Central to turn around that school, allowed Livix to conduct the interview.

Mehrens called McMahon and sounded him out about the job. Because Mehrens was only offering him a comparable position, McMahon said he would consider it only if the pay was better. On the spot, Mehrens offered him the possibility of living with him for the entire year. “It’ll save you close to $500 a year in’ll have your own room in the basement and the run of my house.” It was a gutsy move, especially since Mehrens hadn’t yet cleared it with his wife, Shirley. McMahon remained noncommittal,

but at Mehrens’ insistence he agreed to don his best suit and drive to Great Falls for the interview.

Father Livix had been thoroughly briefed by Mehrens on McMahon’s football prowess, and based on his own inquiries into his teaching performance at Billings Central, he knew he would probably offer him a job. Livix was confident enough in his skill as a negotiator that he could convince McMahon to accept the

job. But before he made McMahon such an offer, he wanted to get a sense of who his newest teacher and coach was as a person.

“So why do you want to teach at Great Falls Central, Mr. McMahon?” asked Livix to start the interview.

McMahon took a moment to size up the solid, crew-cutted priest before responding. “Let me be honest, Father. I want to coach football. I understand my primary mission is to teach. I have a degree in economics and am happy to teach that course or any other subject for which you think I’m qualified, but my career goal is to become a head football coach.” McMahon was unsure of how the priest would react to his honesty, and in the ensuing silence he tugged at the thin black tie that was uncomfortably laced around his large, thick neck. It was clear McMahon was not a guy who either enjoyed wearing a suit or would ever look entirely natural in one.

Livix was instantly taken with his forthrightness, but he still wanted to know what made McMahon tick. “And why is that?” he asked.

McMahon pondered the question for a moment. By his nature, he wasn’t a reflective man. He was more emotional, and football was his passion. It just made sense to him to follow his passion, which was evident in his response. “I love football. I love everything about it. I love the contact. I love the hard work, the discipline, and how players have to work together as a team.” He then stopped, but it was clear he wasn’t done answering—he was thinking.

“You know,” he said, continuing, “my dad died when I was four. Sports—especially football—was all I had. I wasn’t a big guy. I wasn’t a particularly fast guy, but I had a coach who convinced me I was a football player...and because of that I think I’m a better man. The discipline I learned on the football field helped me make it to college—and I’m the first person in my family to have done that. And the toughness he instilled helped me survive my accident. There wasn’t a day I didn’t think I’d make it through that ordeal, and I’m convinced it was my experience as a football player that helped me persevere.

“So I guess I’d say I want to become a football coach because I think that’s where I can do my best teaching, and because it is where guys like me—guys who don’t have all the tools or who aren’t necessarily book smart—do their best learning. I believe I can reach kids on the football who might not be able to be reached anywhere else.”

“I see,” replied the priest. He did not let on that he was deeply impressed by what he had just heard. Nor did he share with McMahon that his own father had died when he was young and that he had benefited from a teacher much like McMahon. “If I were to offer you the position, you will need to conduct yourself within the spirit of the Great Falls Central. Our primary mission is to provide our students with the academic and spiritual tools they’ll need to achieve future success.” McMahon nodded his head in agreement. Continuing, Livix said, “I agree with what you said about the values that football can instill in young men. But I also think some coaches these days go too far. Young men need models, not critics. Too many coaches lose focus on what’s truly important. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as competitive as you, and I want to win. In fact, I expect Great Falls Central teams to win. But as I told Coach Mehrens when I came here a few years ago, I will not sacrifice either the values or principles of this school to win a football game. I want the students of Great Falls Central to win at the game of life.

“Let me put this another way, John. The Bible says that ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.’ Does that make sense?” McMahon had prepared himself to answer questions about his coaching skills and his teaching experience, but biblical and philosophical questions were beyond his scope. He began tugging at his tight collar when, much to his relief, Livix let him off the hook by speaking again. “What I’m saying is that it’s fine to be tough on our players, but I want you to remember at all times that you aren’t just here to make them better football players—you are here to transform boys into young men.”

“I understand.”

Livix knew that McMahon did understand, and he knew that his understanding came from the best source—personal experience.

Now that Livix knew he had the right coach and teacher, he wasn’t about to let him out of his office until McMahon had accepted the position. Aware that Mehrens had already invited McMahon to board at his house, Livix felt he still needed to sweeten the $2,500-a-year job offer a little. “If you commit to the job today, I’ll give you a onetime bonus of $500.” Livix didn’t have the money yet, but he always subscribed to the “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” philosophy.

McMahon’s eyes lit up at the prospect. He had been ready to accept the position before Livix even made the extra offer because he wanted the opportunity to coach under Bill Mehrens, who had already won two state titles. He quickly extended his meaty, calloused hand to the priest. “It’s a deal,” he said.

“Welcome aboard, John,” replied Livix. “You’ve made a great decision. I know that you already know that Bill is an excellent football coach, but I want you to know that he is an even better person. And, to my mind, the two go together.

“I want to tell you a story about Bill Mehrens because I think it captures this point. A few years ago, we had a freshman by the name of Frank Kohanek. He was a big, strong kid. Probably weighed 240 pounds and was 6'3" in ninth grade. I mean the kid was huge. But he also had some real problems at home. His mother died when he was seven or eight, and his father took to the bottle too much. Sometimes when he came home late at night, he’d take it out on the kid.” Livix’s voice tapered off. If there was one thing he despised it was bullies, and when confronted with such people, the force of his otherwise warm and magnetic personality could grow stern. “Well, to make a long story short, Kohanek dropped out of school his sophomore year and enlisted in the army. He was only 16, but because he looked like he was 21, he had no trouble getting in. He served two years, and then last summer he returned to Great Falls. The first person he called was Coach Mehrens. He told him he wanted to return to school. Kohanek also wanted to know if he could still play football. Since he wasn’t yet 19, Mehrens told him that he could.

“On the second day of practice, Mehrens arrived for practice at 6 a.m.—he’s always the first to arrive and the last to leave—and he was surprised to see Kohanek’s old, beat-up car on the street outside the school. He went over to investigate and found the kid asleep in it. Turns out Kohanek had no home or family to go to when he got out of the army. That day after practice, Mehrens took him aside and invited him to live with his family. At first Kohanek declined, but Mehrens told him it was not an invitation—it was an order. He told Kohanek that the only way he’d let him play was if he agreed to the arrangement.

“I’m telling you the story because I want you to know the kind of man you’ll have the pleasure of working with. Coach Mehrens didn’t have to do that. He just did it. The great coaches don’t just see their players for their athletic skills and talents, they see them as people.”

August 16, 1962

Father Livix made good on his promise to find an additional $500 to lure McMahon from Billings to Great Falls by finagling it out of a more well-to-do member of the Roundtable. With the money, McMahon could have easily afforded a small apartment in town, but he still chose to take Mehrens up on his offer to live in the basement of his house because he wanted to save up enough for a down payment on a home of his own some day.

McMahon moved in with Bill and Shirley and their two daughters on the evening of August 15, 1962. The next day, Amos Alonzo Stagg, football’s most famous coach and the “grand old man of football,” turned 100 years old. Mehrens saw a mention of the milestone in the Great Falls Tribune while reading the morning paper and used it as an occasion to talk with his new assistant coach about the upcoming season. The pair would soon find that they didn’t need any such artificial prompts to talk about football. It would soon be all they would talk about at meals—much to the consternation of Mehrens’ wife.

“Look at this,” said Mehrens, pointing to the article. “Coach Stagg is turning 100 today.”

“No kidding? I’m just lucky that I’ve made it to 23,” replied McMahon with a laugh. His infectious smile reached up toward the massive curved scar in his forehead and appeared to make a full circle on his face.

“I’ll be lucky if I can survive this season,” added Mehrens. “I’ve already told you our line is going to be pretty green. What I haven’t told is that we’ve lost our starting quarterback for the first two or three games of the season. Gary Wolf broke his left arm last month. Our backfield still has a lot of potential, but now our line will have to work that much harder.”

Mehrens then did a little coaching of his own on his new assistant coach. “I don’t know if it was Stagg or my old coach at Carroll College, John Gagliardi, who said: ‘If you accept a boy as he is, you’ll make him worse. If you treat him as though he is capable of becoming something more, you’ll help him reach that higher capability.’” Mehrens paused and then added, “But that’s what we’re going to have to do this season. We’re going to have to convince our boys that they are capable of becoming champions.”

“That’s why I’m here,” replied McMahon.

August 17, 1962

The bluish-purple mimeographed letter, produced with the help of Bill Mehrens’ wife, had arrived in the mail of all prospective Mustang football players two days earlier. It directed the players to report to the school gymnasium on the evening of August 17. The recipients of the letter were reminded to bring $2 for a mouth guard—a relatively new safety device mandated by the Montana High School Athletic League for the first time in 1962—and a jock strap. Scholarships were available for those who could not afford the fee. The letter concluded with a reminder that each player was also required to donate two white towels to the locker-room kitty.

By 4:55 p.m., 70 boys were seated in the bleachers. Each was aware of Mehrens’ legendary penchant for punctuality, and none wanted to risk being even a second late, especially for the first meeting of the year.

At precisely 5 o’clock, Bill Mehrens and the new assistant football coach, John “Poncho” McMahon, entered the gym and walked to the front of the seated congregation. Looking like an older version of James Dean, except with a flattop haircut, Bill Mehrens began with a few welcoming remarks. His firm, authoritative voice then dropped a note as he turned to the business at hand.

“Football is more than just a game,” he intoned, scanning the eager, anxious faces before him. “It is about life. It is about life because football teaches us that even people of limited talent and ability can play. It teaches us that if ordinary players do ordinary things extraordinarily well they can become champions. More important, it teaches us that because we’re a part of a team, we have an obligation to play to our highest ability—not just for ourselves, but for our teammates.

“It’s my job as head coach to get all of you to play to your highest potential. Once Coach McMahon and I have done that, it’s our responsibility to get you to come together as a team—a team whose sum is greater than its individual parts. And when we have accomplished that, it is our job to give you the confidence to succeed on your own.” Standing ramrod straight, with his solid gray T-shirt, clipboard, coaching shorts, and Converse sneakers, Mehrens looked every bit the high school football coach that he was. “But it starts with a decision: Do you want to contribute? If you do, you will contribute.” Mehrens stopped to let his words sink in. “Let me make this as clear as I can. It’s not complicated. If you want to contribute, I will find a spot for you on this team.” Mehrens again stopped to survey the faces in the bleachers. He

held his gaze on the long, angular face of Greg Steckler for a second longer than everyone else. He was surprised to see that the quirky and somewhat rebellious senior had decided to go out for football.

“You might be slow, you might have limited skills...but if you stick your nose in there, I promise you, you will get better, you will play, and you will help this team.” Mehrens repeated the last phrase. “And you will help this team.”

His gaze moved. It came to rest upon the wide-eyed, thin shouldered, 135-pound frame of John O’Rourke. Due to GaryWolf’s injury, Mehrens had only recently informed him that he would be his starting quarterback for the first game of the year. “As coaches, it’s not just our job to make you better football players. It’s our job to make you better people. And that is precisely what Coach McMahon and I intend to do. The next two weeks are not going to be easy. In fact, this entire season isn’t going to be

easy. But few things in life worth pursuing ever are.” Mehrens’ eyes moved on. They settled on Glenn Fish, whom Mehrens expected to challenge for a starting position at guard. “But you will find over the course of this season, if you work hard, persist, and keep your nose to the grindstone, good things can—and will—happen.

“But the first trick to having good things happen is knowing what good things you want to happen. And the first step in that process is to set clear, firm goals. Before the beginning of our first practice this Monday, I want everyone to write down their goals for this team as well as your own personal goals on the 3x5 card that is being handed out.” He nodded to John McMahon, who efficiently divided up the cards and handed a stack to each player seated in the first row.

“Pass ’em to the person behind you,” McMahon grumbled. It was the first time any of the players had heard the new assistant coach speak, and his deep, raspy voice seemed to fit perfectly with his scarred face. His vocal cords sounded as though they were bruised.

“My only request,” added Mehrens, “is that you set the bar high. I want your goals to be realistic, but they should also challenge you.”

Next, the 1962 Mustang football playbook was handed out. Over 60-pages thick, Mehrens stated that he expected every player to know every play for his position. For those who had grown up in the Great Falls Central feeder system and played grade school football at the likes of Ursuline Academy, St. Thomas, St. Gerard’s, Our Lady of Lourdes, or the handful of other Catholic schools, it wasn’t as daunting as it looked. Mehrens had successfully woven his offense and defense into the grade school system, so that by the time they reached high school most of them came with a solid base of standardized knowledge. Still, the addition of a number of new plays together with Mehrens’ admonishment that there was to be a graded quiz—with punishments meted out in the form of laps and sprints for every incorrect answer—caused even the seniors to thumb through the contents of the fat playbook with a look of dread.

For the remainder of the meeting, Mehrens ran through his expectations for every player on the team. He began by reminding them that football was like life in another important way. “There are boundaries on the football field, just as there are boundaries in life. And I expect every Great Falls Central player to abide by the rules of this school and by my rules. Any player late for practice or a game will not start and will not play until the second quarter. No exceptions,” said Mehrens, looking at Wally Berry, the team’s star fullback.

Mehrens then informed the players that the Friday before every game he would conduct a comprehensive quiz to assess their knowledge of specific blocking and running assignments. The only acceptable score was 100 percent. Any player scoring less than that would not start. Again, there would be no exceptions.

“Everyone is expected to know his job!” said Mehrens.

He concluded with a warning that his players were to accord themselves to the highest standards at all times. “Remember, you are representing this school. Any action on or off the school grounds not in keeping with those standards will be grounds for disciplinary action and, possibly, suspension or removal from the team. This includes maintaining at least a ‘C’ average in every class.” And unlike the inflated grading systems prevalent at so many schools today, a “C” average at Great Falls Central in 1962 required real effort.

Only at the very end of the session did Mehrens take a moment to introduce McMahon. The new assistant coach remained silent. All he did was tilt his head to acknowledge that it was he about whom Mehrens was talking. For most players, an introduction no longer seemed necessary. They felt they had learned everything they needed to know about their new assistant coach from hearing his gravelly voice and feeling the glare of his intimidating stare. For the last hour, McMahon had simply glowered at them with a look that seemed to say, “I can’t wait to get you on the football field.”

Upon the conclusion of that first session, there was a general consensus among the players as they quietly talked among themselves after the session—well out of the earshot of either coach—that the new assistant coach seemed to represent a new and decidedly tougher era in Great Falls Central High School football.

They further agreed that Coach Mehrens was setting a higher standard for this year’s team. They had little idea how right they were. Both coaches were preparing to light a fire in their players that would not be extinguished.