December 6, 2013

Author’s book connects sports and faith—thanks be to ‘God’

Reviewed by Mike Krokos

When God CheersAuthor John Shaughnessy has an interesting image of God.

The God who has created each of us in his image and likeness and loves us unconditionally has a great sense of humor.

He’s also a big sports fan.

And he loves rooting for us whatever challenges we face, whether it be as a parent, child or wherever we are on our life journey.

In his latest book, When God Cheers, Shaughnessy shares the story of a father trying to reconnect with his daughter during a magical basketball season, and the role that a fan named “God” plays in helping both of them realize how precious their relationship is.

“I grew up in a family where family, faith and sports are important. Those three things have continued to be important for me, my wife and our three children,” says Shaughnessy, assistant editor of The Criterion.

“At its heart, When God Cheers is the story of a relationship between a parent and child—how we lose each other sometimes, and how we try to find our way back to each other.”

Published by Corby Books in Notre Dame, Ind., the book contains short chapters. At 134 pages, it is a quick and enjoyable read.

Shaughnessy will have a book signing at Bookmamas on Dec. 14 at 1:30 p.m.

When God Cheers—a combination of fiction and non-fiction—includes sports stories woven throughout it which are true. The main story of the relationship between the father and daughter is fictional, Shaughnessy notes, though he has used some real-life elements as part of the story.

One chapter includes one of the author’s all-time favorite sports memories with his now grown daughter, Katie, but you’ll have to read the book to experience the magical moment yourselves.

Like most parents, the father in the story has his flaws, makes mistakes and does things he regrets. He tries to overcome his flaws and mistakes as a father so he can still be a part of his child’s life. With the help of his friend “God,” he slowly realizes how he can make that happen.

“He begins to understand that the time he has with his child is precious and slipping away with each year,” Shaughnessy says. “He begins to understand what a gift it is to be a father. He just desperately hopes that the time he has left with his child—and the bond he wants with his child—hasn’t already been lost.”

When God Cheers has a similar theme to the author’s two other books, One More Gift to Give and The Irish Way of Life, Shaughnessy notes.

“The individuals involved each have a dream. Yet the only way their dream has a chance of becoming possible is through their connection with other people, including people who start out as strangers,” he says. “There’s also this element: Most of us need and want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.”

The author’s image of God is a refreshing and unique one, and he shares many qualities to form that image.

“For me, God loves to tell and share stories. He’s more than willing to stand alone in a crowd, but he loves when we stand with him,” Shaughnessy says. “He accepts us, but he also reaches out to us in a giving, creative and sometimes funny way to help us become better than we think we can be.

“I also believe that God has a great sense of humor. And I like to think that he has an amazing singing voice, along the lines of Tony Bennett, the great singer. God would at least be that good.”

An underlying theme of the book, Shaughnessy notes, is its different way of looking at sports.

“One of the main characters of When God Cheers believes that God cares about sports. He also shares his thoughts on what would lead God to cheer at a sporting event,” he said. “Those beliefs shape his rare approach to sports—and the way he cheers for people. If nothing else, some interesting conversations could come from discussing whether God cares about sports, and how and why God would cheer.”

A cradle Catholic, Shaughnessy is also a lifelong sports fan. His intent in the book “was to tell a good story about the season-long journey of a father struggling to discover what really matters in life. Sports and faith are the two areas where he has always been taught to believe that anything is possible.”

(Mike Krokos is editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. When God Cheers is available for $16.95 at Holy Family Books and Gifts in Carmel, Ind., The Celtic Cross Catholic Gift Shop in Indianapolis, the Village Dove in Indianapolis and Bookmamas in Indianapolis. To order When God Cheers, visit the website,, or call 800-397-2282.)

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