It was April of 2001 when the CatholicMatch journey began for me. I was living in Pittsburgh, having moved from Milwaukee two years earlier but still knowing very few people. I was working at a local Catholic bookstore when one day a co-worker called and told me to come down.
He had someone I needed to meet, someone he assured me was a mover and a shaker in the Catholic church. (I now roll my eyes upon hearing that description applied to Brian Barcaro, though I can’t deny its truth.)
It was in this now-defunct store filled with thick, old Catholic books spilling out of the shelves and onto the floor that I met Brian. We went off for a ride for a reason I can’t recall offhand, having what seemed to obligatory conversations about the state of the church. Was John Paul II the greatest pope in history or was he too lax on dissident bishops? What was the status of Rome’s negotiations with the Society of St. Pius X? Hot-button topics to be sure, but finally he made one statement that I simply considered a bridge too far: “There is absolutely no reason college football shouldn’t have a playoff.”
The remainder of the conversation was filled with rejoinders and sharp argument about the merits and demerits of a postseason tournament for college football.
For me it was a revelation – not that Brian wanted a college football playoff, but that there were people serious about both the Catholic faith and sports, a combination that describes me (although I would have to admit there’s probably more of the latter than the former a lot of times).
My work through the Catholic bookstore was worthwhile, but one does get tired of every conversation ultimately coming down to whether Medjugorie is authentic or when the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, as foretold at Fatima, will come into fruition.
Finding people who had a healthy and balanced faith was difficult. When he dropped me off, Brian wrote down the name of his site on a scrap of paper. It was straphael.net back then. This marked another revelation; living isolated and being loyal to a parish made up almost exclusively of retirees, I didn’t know how to find people my own age. While my reason for quickly logging on and joining the site were exclusively romantic, one of its best fruits were finding friends who had good balanced outlooks on life. It was a simple day, but one that certainly altered the course of my life.
But just for the record, Brian’s still full of it on one count: the traditional bowl system is the way to settle a national champion.