Martin Davis on: Are our battle-scarred American roads capable of carrying us toward unity?

Wilderness Church at Chancellorsville was the center of a stand made by some Union forces after Confederates under Stonewall Jackson made a surprise flank attack. (Click on the photo to learn more about the battle from Wikipedia.)

Author of 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches

In Spotsylvania, Virginia, a sign reading “Crossroads of the Civil War” greets visitors driving into the county from the west on State Route 3.

They are driving through land that Gens. Robert E. Lee and Joseph Hooker would still recognize, as it is little changed since they clashed in April 1863 at Chancellorsville, from which Lee turned north and toward his fateful battle at Gettysburg.

There is no such sign to greet visitors traveling north or south through the county on Interstate 95. And while Lee and Gen. Ambrose Burnside—who collided in Fredericksburg in December 1862—would recognize the general terrain along the interstate, they certainly wouldn’t recognize the region.

As a journalist, Martin Davis is an expert at inviting Americans of all political and cultural backgrounds to speak honestly about their lives. That’s what he did in his book 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches. Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

This is the area that I call home. In local-government speak, it’s Planning District 16. In everyday speak, it’s the embodiment of a divided America.

Travel five miles east and west of I-95, and you’ll find highly educated, well-paid, professionals; as well as college-educated middle-class citizens. Many travel 50-or-more miles north to work every day. They settled here for plentiful land and relatively inexpensive homes. They were also attracted to good school divisions, the beautiful Rappahannock River, and the city of Fredericksburg with its arts and food scene.

The explosion in growth, the accompanying money, and the educational pedigree created a class of people unsympathetic to the Lost Cause. Their economic and social dominance also created a veneer of peace over the land that once played host to the battles of Chancellorsville (31,000 casualties), Wilderness (29,000 casualties), Fredericksburg (18,500 casualties), and Spotsylvania Courthouse (30,000 casualties).

The foes of Union, however, never went away. A small percentage of residents still fly confederate flags, and a larger percentage—through either quiet affirmation or silence in the face of pro-confederate propaganda—ensured the county remained a welcome locale for the very people who split Lincoln’s beloved Union in 1861.

Alongside these neo-confederates have risen the Christian Nationalists, the evangelical fundamentalists and the Trumpists. Donald Trump carried both Spotsylvania and Stafford counties in 2016. He carried Spotsylvania again in 2020, but by a smaller margin, and he lost to Biden—barely—in Stafford. Fredericksburg went Democratic in both races. (See here and here for a closer look.)

And the tensions that have erupted match those leading up to the Civil War in tone, if not in ferocity. I’ve spent the past two years reporting on these controversies—mostly in local school boards.

In the midst of such battles, I often wonder where the next Lincoln will come from—that one voice that can craft a vision forward to put down the forces opposed to freedom, and lead those who believe in the ideals of America.

That Lincoln, however, never existed.

Abraham Lincoln’s greatest moments were great in retrospect only. The Gettysburg Address, for example, was so short that most who were there didn’t even hear it. His rise to the presidency in 1861 brought not a unified Republican Party, but rather a divided body politic and a ferocious “team of rivals,” as Doris Kearns Goodwin described in what is surely the best biography of Lincoln over the past 50 years. (With all due respect to David Herbert Donald, and his magnum opus on the 16th president.)

Lincoln doubted himself. He was prone to fits of depression. And the office rarely took as great a toll on any one man as it did him, as side-by-side photos from 1861 and 1865 make clear.

So how did this flawed, frequently politically weak, Lincoln become the Great Man we pine for today in places like my home? The answer lies in understanding what Lincoln had that too many have missed–his Quiet Fire—a side of Lincoln it took scholar Duncan Newcomer to unearth. This quiet fire was a spiritual compass born not of orthodox religion, but an awareness of his own finitude. And his connection to a higher power.

This is the Lincoln we need. And that Lincoln exists.

He lives in the collaborative spirit of The New Dominion Podcast, where the former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia sits weekly with a card-carrying progressive – the author – and interviews people in our community who understand the glue that is our local Union, and work daily to strengthen it.

He lives in the committed spirits of Nicole Cole, a member of the Spotsylvania School Board who caucuses with Democrats and has been stripped of power by a board majority of Christian Nationalist extremists, and Rich Lieberman, a parent who self-identifies as a conservative. Together, they are addressing issues related to student hunger, and challenging in court the many acts of questionable legality the board majority perpetuates.

And he lives in the life of Scott Mayausky, a Republican Commissioner of the Revenue in Stafford County who is committed to expanding our understanding of those not like us, and finding innovative solutions to taxing problems that unfairly burden the poor.

America the ideal is about e pluribus unum. From the many, one.

But the hard reality of America is that we are forever defined by the roads that we travel through our lives. Roads that bring change, and that remind us of who we once were.

Roads that once carried armies to battle, and that now carry children of all races and classes to school. Roads like Plank and Old Plank roads in Spotsylvania.

Lincoln still travels these roads today. In the lives of those who burn with quiet fire, and a commitment to union. A union of shared humanity.

Martin Davis is an award-winning journalist, founder of F2S, and co-founder of the New Dominion Podcast. His first book, 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches, examined how coaches are raising the next generation of leaders. His next book will explore the disconnect between education policy, and life in the classroom. Visit him at


Care to Read More in our Fourth of July 2023 series on Lincoln?

Whatever you choose to read next, you will find the following links to the other 2023 columns at the bottom of each page:

Lincoln scholar Duncan Newcomer’s introduction to this series includes a salute to Braver Angels, a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to de-polarizing American politics that is gathering from across the country for a major conference at Gettysburg this week.

Duncan also writes about: What were Lincoln’s hopes for our nation?

And, he explores: What were Lincoln’s core values?

Then, journalist and author Bill Tammeus writes about how Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address still calls us to reach out to one another.

Journalist and author Martin Davis asks: Are our battle-scarred American roads capable of carrying us toward unity?

Author and leadership coach Larry Buxton writes about: Growing up and growing wise with Abraham Lincoln

Columnist and editor Judith Pratt recalls: Hearing our Civil War stories shared generation to generation.

Attorney and community activist Mark Jacobs writes about: How Lincoln’s astonishing resilience and perseverance inspires me today



Want the book?

GET A COPY of Duncan’s 30 Days with Abraham Lincoln—Quiet Fire.

Each of the 30 stories in this book includes a link to listen to the original radio broadcasts. The book is available from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle versions.




From Cordoba Spain: The awe-inspiring mystery of creative change lies at the core of our religious traditions

TRULY AWE-INSPIRING FOR MORE THAN 1,000 YEARS. These columns and double-tiered arches, built in the years 785-6, today are among the world’s most-recognized architectural landmarks. Their construction as part of a glorious new mosque was supervised by Abd ar-Rahman, who himself was a refugee from wars in Syria who found a peaceful new life in what is today Spain.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Martin Davis recently returned from Cordoba, Spain, where he took part in the International Association of Religion Journalists conference, “Religion Reporting—the Search for Common Ground among Monotheistic Faiths.” The conference was made possible by generous grants from the Brigham Young University’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies, as well as the  Utah Journalism Foundation and the Khosrow Semnani Foundation.



Author of 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches

The truest statement of religious faith that I have encountered was found in the movie “Rudy,” about an overachieving underdog who against all odds realizes his dream of playing at Notre Dame Stadium—the cathedral of college football.

“Son, in 35 years of religious study, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts,” says Father Cavanaugh to Rudy as he sits in a church worried that he hasn’t done enough to gain admission to Notre Dame. “There is a God, and, I’m not Him.”

It’s a humbling, awe-inspiring moment that fans of the film remember vividly.

The mosaic-decorated mihrab (center) and the interlacing arches of the maqsura (left and right) are in the extension added by al-Hakam II after 961.

Following nearly a week in Spain, my appreciation for that quote has given way to my own mysterium tremendum et fascinans (a frightening and fascinating mystery, as Rudolf Otto describes the experience of the divine) I felt at the Mezquita de Córdoba.

And it was the words of Córdoba’s most famous son, Moses ben Maimonides, that brought it all together.

That’s a lot to unpack. Let’s begin with the building itself.

The Mezquita de Córdoba—commonly known today as the Mosque-Cathedral—is one of the world’s greatest buildings. Many in the West recognize it instantly from photographs like the ones accompanying this column—even if they can’t name it.

The mosque’s arches and columns, are iconic. To stand in the center of any of the corridors and stare down a row of those columns puts one’s finiteness in perspective with the sense of infinity the corridors create.

In architecture, a building’s vertical space is often used to remind us of the divine. Steeples and minarets and domes all point skyward. But at the Mezquita, it’s these corridors and arches—built on the horizontal plane, that creates the connection with the divine. Whether that was ever the intention is unknowable, but probably wasn’t. The mosque, of course, included a minaret.

For me, however, that experience of the remaining horizontal and vertical planes instilled that sense of the mysterium tremendum Otto described.

Here’s another view to ponder for a moment. My column continues below ...

One’s appreciation deepens when standing upon one of the many black grates that are in the floor of the mosque. Look down beneath your feet, and you’ll see the remains of Roman mosaics that some claim were part of a Roman temple to Janus. Whether correct or not, the mosque clearly was built atop a Roman structure.

It also stands atop the Basilica of San Vicente Mártir, built by the Visigoths in the 6th century AD. There is mystery surrounding this building, too. The latest archaeological evidence of this site beneath the mosque confirms it is indeed from the 6th century, is certainly Visigothic, and certainly Christian, as it shows signs of having been an episcopal seat. Whether it is the Basilica of San Vicente Mátir, however, can’t be established.

The mosque that stands upon these two foundations (and one must wonder if there are still more beneath them) was started in the 8th century, went through several expansions in the Late Antique/Early Medieval period—before it was consecrated as a church in 1236 by the Spanish King Fredinand III.

Still, the work continued, with several chapels built subsequent to the creation of a Renaissance cathedral nave and transept beginning in the 16th century. Though impressive in its own right, this structure appears to some visitors today—myself among them—as more a scar on this grand piece of architecture than an advancement in the building’s character.

Be that as it may, from bottom to top, the history of pagan, Christian, and Muslim heritage is written on this site as geologic time is written on walls of canyons.

I would argue the faith story is still evolving at this site, revealing the influence of agnosticism and secularism. Though often chided as anti-religious, the precise opposite it true of these two modern movements. These traditions recognize the power and beauty and importance of these religious markers, and Córdoba, UNESCO, Spain, and other nonreligious powers have done a remarkable job preserving this treasure.

A monument to Maimonides in Cordoba.

And this brings us to Maimonides.

Born in Córdoba, in 1135 supposedly, Maimonides remains a great influencer of Jewish thought—and his influence extends far beyond Judaism. His description of philanthropy and its levels of purity, for example, remains a driving force in today’s culture.

More important, it can be argued that Maimonides’ demythologizing of religion laid the groundwork for modern-day spirituality. The increasing belief expressed by many, including this author, that the institutions of religion and the prescribed practices thereof ultimately get in the way of the experience of the divine, may well resonate with the great Jewish thinker.

Per the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Maimonides “recognizes that when one is first exposed to Bible stories and the ritual of daily prayer, one may need anthropomorphic descriptions of God and promises of material reward.” The Torah, for example, is delivered in a way that ordinary people can understand it. “If it did not,” the writeup continues, “its appeal would be greatly reduced. But … the purpose of the religion [for Maimonides] is to get one to the point where these things cease to matter and are eventually overcome.”

With that understanding, we can see that for Maimonides, the divine is essence. And anything we do to grasp that moves us further from it.

“Know that when you make an affirmation ascribing another thing to Him, you become more remote from Him in two respects: one of them is that everything You affirm is a perfection only with reference to us, And the other is that He does not possess a thing other than His essence …”

What does this all mean?

For me, an individual who long ago gave up the practice of faith within any religious institution following years of study within those institutions, I came to appreciate that reaching a connection with the divine rests not in trying to name and define something on the vertical plane of existence. That’s a plane that by definition we can’t understand.

Rather, we encounter that essence on the horizontal plane. In moments that defy description and are beyond our ability to explain. Moments when we, ever so briefly, move outside ourselves into a deeper, spiritual realm.

For this writer and journalist, the Mezquite de Córdoba and the teachings of the city’s greatest intellectual native son, were a spiritual revelation.

The mosque-cathedral’s history from bottom to top represents the imperfect attempts by humans to understand and control the way others think about the divine. Not necessarily failed efforts, but rather efforts wrought of humans and their power trying to define the undefinable and force others to accept it. Efforts that begin well-meaning, gain clarity and power, but ultimately fall under the weight of the next movement.

The sense of eternity created by the mosque’s horizontal design, however, creates for all an opportunity to place ourselves in a moment of infinity, and recognize our ultimately limited space in it.

Rather than try and define that experience, we accept it for what it is, on our plane in our time, and move forward.

That is religion at its purist, Mainmonides suggested.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that a trip to his land brought me to the realm of the mysterium facinans.

In the realm of spirituality, sometimes, it’s best just to be fully in where we are, and appreciate those moments whenever so briefly we move outside ourselves.

Finding the divine, it turns out, isn’t all that hard.

It’s all around us. If we just sit still, and be.


The ceilings of the Renaissance nave and transept were completed by Juan de Ochoa in 1607.

PHOTOGRAPHS with this column are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and can be shared with others. You will find most of them featured in the Wikipedia page about the Mosque-Cathedral and the photo of Maimonides on his Wikipedia page.


Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Care to read more?

ARE YOU INTRIGUED by this column from Martin Davis? You will also enjoy his book: 30 Days With America’s High School Coaches.

Martin Davis is a journalist living in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he is the Opinion Page editor of The Free Lance-Star in his hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Feeding mind, body and spirit by ‘falling love with cooking again’


Rediscover Creative Connections in the ‘Totality of Cooking’


Author of 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches

Two summers ago, my friend Elisa Di Bendetto and I published a piece about our mutual love of minestrone headlined: Across Thousands of Miles, Friends Still Connect to Feed Our Families and Our World. And since that time, my friend and editor David Crumm has been asking for more about cooking and recipes people can try.

I’ve shied away from doing that because recipes and long discussions about dishes I love to make are interesting, but they ultimately fail to do something that I think our fast-food nation needs to learn to embrace.

Here’s a glimpse of a community market in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where I enjoy browsing the bounty from local farmers. (Photos with this story are courtesy of Martin Davis.)

In short, we need to fall in love with the totality of cooking again.

By totality of cooking, I mean not just the act of putting food together, but every step of the cooking process. This includes shopping for food, learning to appreciate the range of foods available, the art of preparing foods we may be unaccustomed to, the communal aspects of cooking, the act of cooking itself, and the pleasure that comes with sitting and eating together.

And yes, even clean-up.

The key to getting there rests in our embracing two things:

  • Shifting our view of cooking from a chore we have to do—to a creative enterprise that allows us to express ourselves and our love for those we serve.
  • Moving away from cooking by the rules (recipes), to embracing cooking techniques. Learning basic techniques gives us the freedom to use what we have, and feel less pressure about “messing up.”

These two ideas came together for me in a powerful way, recently.

First, I wrote an opinion piece for The Free Lance-Star, where I serve as opinion page editor, about a program in our community called Dr. Yum. (See the editorial here, and visit the Dr. Yum website here.) Its mission is simple: Turn people on to the value of fresh cooking. The person I interviewed described how viewing cooking as a creative venture changed everything for her in the kitchen.

And then this weekend, I returned to the farmers market in my community, which is coming into full bloom. Every week we go, I speak with local farmers who teach me new cooking techniques, or new tricks for using foods I never knew. They encourage me to take chances.

In our household, these two factors have combined. And the result is a cooking technique we often rely on: stir-frying. Best known as a Chinese style of cooking, stir-frying can go far beyond traditional Asian dishes and is limited only by your imagination.

In high-end Chinese restaurants, a sophisticated combination of sauces and spices create tantalizing dishes we’ve all come to love. But you don’t have to have a recipe to get started with stir-frying.

Pointers for Flavorful Stir Frying

So, if you are inspired by my introduction, let’s cut to the chase: Some tips for flavorful stir frying.

Here’s a common question: Do I need a wok? If you have one, great. It makes stirring the ingredients easier. Also, its large size helps diffuse the heat, reducing the chance of burning. But a large sauté pan will work just as well.

Here’s a quick glimpse at some of my “go to” ingredients when I get ready to stir fry.

What do I need in my cupboard?

If you don’t have them on hand already, I would invest in:

  • Soy Sauce, which is a good all-around sauce. It does pay to spend a few pennies more for a high-quality sauce.
  • Teriyaki Sauce. This sauce usually is inexpensive at the stores, but you also could make your own version at home. (See here.)
  • Sesame oil. Can be better for the high heats that stir fries require.
  • Rice Wine Vinegar. Adds a nice zing.
  • Corn Starch. For thickening or creating a light breading for chicken and pork.
  • Rice. I recommend buying a higher quality rice such as Basmati, Jasmine or a good wild rice. (See here for more on rice varieties.) It makes a world of difference in flavor and texture.
  • Ginger. It’s a staple in stir-frying. Consider pre-packaged ginger that you keep in the freezer. I find grating ginger root is a pain.

A Simple Equation

Remember this equation: Roots + Vegetables + Greens + Protein + Sauce = Tasty.

While you can put most anything in a stir fry, this general balance will make your dish shine.

And, here’s another tip: Try selecting ingredients with different colors to make dinner even more inviting.

A Trip to the Farmers’ Market

If you had a chance to accompany me to our Fredericksburg farmers’ market recently, you would find me choosing fresh broccoli (or broccolini), snap beans (I found a mixed basket of green, purple and white beans that looked wonderful), squash (I like to mix and match acorn, yellow and green squash), carrots (again I like a mix of carrot colors to brighten my dish), onions (purple unions are among nature’s under-appreciated delicacies), and bok choy (you can use the whole thing from green to white!).

And right there, I had my Root + Vegetables + Greens.

Now we’re down to the easy part: protein and sauce. Stir frying can make a little meat go a long, long way. We like to use kielbasa or other sausages. Chicken, of course, is great. And don’t forget pork. Want red meat? Have at it. You really can’t lose.

Cooking Tips

Now, just cook it up.

Begin by heating a tablespoon of oil in your pan. Use high heat. Stir-frying won’t work if you cook on low heat. So, mind what you’re doing! And don’t start until all your ingredients are cut up and ready to use.

Some tips:

  • Meat First—Cook your protein, then remove it from the wok.
  • Roots—Next, sauté your roots in the same pan you cooked the meat until the roots are tender.
  • Then, add some of the quicker-cooking vegetables, but save your greens for a moment.
  • Add your meat back to the stir fry.
  • Finish with those quick-cooking greens. Give the whole dish a stir or two.
  • Sauce—whatever you would like to add.
  • The actual cooking shouldn’t take more than 8 or 9 minutes if you’re using high heat.
  • Don’t leave the food unattended. It will burn. You must stir your dish constantly—hence the term, “stir” fry.

And there you have it, a quick meal that is nutritious and delicious. Serve over rice. To make a more complete dinner, I like to prepare egg rolls or spring rolls or dumplings that I buy frozen and heat.

A Final Word on Sauces

Once you get comfortable with these techniques, check out your local grocery store for jarred sauces. There are lots of options. Don’t be afraid to try them all. Also, check out cooking shows and cookbooks to expand your knowledge.

Start small. But start.

So there’s an easy way to start stir frying.

From there, let your creativity shine.




Care to read more?

ARE YOU INTRIGUED by this column from Martin Davis? You will also enjoy his book: 30 Days With America’s High School Coaches.

You can follow Martin’s work through his personal website,, which describes his career as an author, editor and journalist. On his front page, you’ll also find a link to his recent columns for the Fredericksburg, Virginia, Freelance Star.

Look around that website and sign up to receive free updates from Martin about new columns.

You’ll be glad you did!



The Glitz of the Super Bowl Left Me Wondering: Have we forgotten the true value of sport?

What is the value of a high school team? One might spend a moment peering back more than a century at the 1896 Indiana Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home football team. The visionary institution was founded in 1865 to provide a solid education and vocational training for orphans of Civil War veterans. Once those kids were given a good start, the Home’s mission expanded to care for all “at risk” kids. Among other remarkable accomplishments of the facility, the football team was integrated.


Author of 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches

In the wake of the Super Bowl, one question continues to perplex journalists and academics alike:

How does the NFL–drowning in racism lawsuits, grossly overpriced tickets, merchandise, food and parking, player health issues, and the ongoing soap opera of team-owners-acting-badly–remain so popular?

How popular?

According to Variety, in 2021, 8 of the 10 most-watched TV shows were NFL games; so were 15 of the top 20. College football games also had two entrants on the top-20 list, meaning football accounted for all but three of most popular events people watched.

The answers to the question are as varied as the people who watch the sport. The league has perfect parity! No, it’s the unique pregame rituals! No, it’s that its something that people can watch together! No, football is “sewed into the psyche of America!”

… this could go on for several thousand words, but you get the idea.

Here’s the funny part, though. Among those who coach the sport at the high school level, the NFL isn’t necessarily all that popular.

I have no data sets to back that up. Just my, admittedly, limited experience coaching the sport—and my experience interviewing high school coaches nationwide for my book, 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches.

I, along with several coaches I’ve come to know over the years, are turned off by the sterility of the NFL game. It’s almost too perfect.

Take Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. The game was played in a gawdy—though undeniably stunning—$5 billion mecca. (The fact that it sits in Inglewood, one of LA’s poorer communities, is matter for another essay.)

The weather inside was perfect. The lighting was perfect. The freaking grass (artificial) was perfect. The fans were perfect (Hollywood moved to Inglewood for game day). The players were perfect. The uniforms were perfect. The halftime show was perfect. The camera angles? Yeah, perfect, too.

But all that perfection is rather akin to evangelical theology—all shine, no depth.

For evangelicals, all the salvation talk and dancing in the Lord isn’t enough when life’s most pressing issues face us. Just ask those who are leaving Willow Creek in drovers. (Actually, you don’t have to ask them—Willow Creek did and, to its great credit, published the results.)

Turns out that glitz can only take you so far. OK—glitz can take you really far.

But at the end of the day, it misses the bigger questions in life.

I can’t explain the NFL’s allure. I’m not that smart—or that interested, to be honest with you.

But I do have something of a handle on football’s allure. And it’s not the game. (OK—it’s the game a little bit—you don’t spend hours studying schemes and game film if the game itself doesn’t have some appeal.)

The allure of football—and I would argue any sport that requires a combination of skill, dedication, commitment, team work, and a willingness to sacrifice a lot to be able to play it—is what it asks of us.

Above all, it asks that we sacrifice everything for the other.

That’s what a surging number of NFL players are saying about their switch from playing at the highest level of professional football to coaching high school.

John Kitna, a former quarterback and now coach at Burleson High School in Texas said this of coaching his mostly underprivileged kids:

“It was just a realization that I wanted to help, do what I could do, to get them to college, to get the academic piece even if football wasn’t going to be their long-term thing. To help people chase dreams.”

At Milford Mills Academy in Baltimore, Maryland, Reggie White Jr coaches. He played in Super Bowl XXIX and had a solid NFL career. So why high school?

“I went to school here, this school system, we’re here in the Baltimore public schools, it’s family and that’s how I was treated by my coaches,” White said. “It made me want to be the person helping someone find their way, to achieve, get to college.”

That same line of thought resonates through most every person ESPN profiled in its piece about the 169 NFL coaches who now coach in high school.

That’s the part of the game that really matters. The part that most never see. Because honestly, for most people, it’s too darn hard.

It’s hard physically. It’s hard emotionally. It’s hard spiritually.

And that’s what makes it great.

In my own book, 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches, I dive deeper into the lives of high school coaches and the impact they have on their players, their teams, their schools, and their communities.

I can’t say for sure how many of them watch the NFL—or the professional equivalent in their game— but I suspect most watch some and very few are totally engrossed in it.

That’s because those who really understand sport and its value are too busy doing it to watch it.

Or they’re too busy taking the lessons they learned in sports and using those to help people in their communities in other ways.

At the end of the day, what makes the game great has nothing to do with the game at all.

It has everything to do with being fully human.

No wonder the game is so popular.



Care to read more?

ARE YOU INTRIGUED by this column from Martin Davis? Then you will definitely enjoy his book: 30 Days With America’s High School Coaches.

You can follow Martin’s work through his personal website,, which describes his work as an author and editor. On that front page, you’ll also find a link to his recent columns for the Fredericksburg, Virginia, Freelance Star.

Look around that website and sign up to receive free updates from Martin about new columns.

You’ll be glad you did!


Martin Davis shows us how great high school coaches shape the lives of millions of young Americans



I’ve never stood in a more sacred space than the sidelines at Riverbend High School on a Friday night. The epiphanous moment occurs just as the final note of the National Anthem wanes, players and coaches don helmets and headsets, and 22 young men move to the field for 48 minutes of unrelenting struggle.

No place to hide. No one to blame. It’s you and your men, vs. them and their men.

I love that moment …

… and I hate it.

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

I hate it because too many who follow sports believe that this moment is the apex of sports and represents athletic competition is all about. On the other hand, too many who dislike sports see in that moment the glorification of values they dislike or fear.

The truth is, that moment is special not because of what’s about to happen, but because of everything that led up to it. The countless hours that players and coaches spend together. It’s not sexy. It’s not always fun. And it involves more work than most people can begin to imagine.

But it’s this stuff outside of the epiphany that matters. And it’s the stuff that my new book is all about.

In the pages of 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches, sports fans in the stands who wish they could feel the energy in the huddle just before kick-off will meet Coach Marvin Nash. An up and coming coach in Texas High School football, he is a sight to behold on Friday nights. Who wouldn’t want to be him?

But who would know how to deal with the tragedies and struggles he’s faced. He has watched one player die of a brain tumor, and lost another player to suicide. He has taken stands on grades that have gotten other coaches fired.

“I get to know every player,” he says, “by name and by need.”

That’s what great coaches do.

Fans and readers will also meet Coach Allie Kinniard and former coach, now athletic director, Pam Bosser. These two resurrected a field hockey program, and in the process stared down administrators, ungrateful parents, and others who said they couldn’t. They fought tooth and nail for years just so the women at Lancaster High School in Ohio could grow as athletes, leaders and human beings.

And for those who feel sports are overvalued, you’ll rethink that position when you learn about the thousands of lives Coach Maurice Henriques has set on a firm path to reaching the stars—quite literally in one case, a young woman who earned a spot in NASA’s astronaut program.

Or, when you learn about to the hundreds of men and women Coach Barry Wortman has set on a path to a successful life in countless fields through the simple game of basketball—most of whom never progress beyond the JV level, if they even play at all.

In my career as a journalist, I’ve traveled the world looking at institutions, nonprofits, schools, clubs, and more all trying to do the same thing–give kids a chance at a better life. And I can attest, no one does it better than high school coaches.

That’s not hyperbole. Everyone obsessed with data will be pleased to learn that that decades of research back up the conclusions drawn from these stories.

Appreciating all that coaches do will help you understand the incredibly tight bond that forms between players and coaches, and the life-altering changes it sparks. You’ll also find that the very same tactics these coaches use can be used by anyone who works with high school-aged students.

It’s true—not everyone gets to experience that Friday night epiphany (or Saturday night, or Thursday night, or any night two high school teams face each other on America’s field, courts, and tracks). But everyone can come to a deeper appreciation of why this moment is as intense and pure as any moment in life. It’s a celebration of what’s to come, but a moment of appreciation for everything we’ve gone through together to get there. And it’s a testimony to growth that everyone in that group has gone through.

At the end of the day, anyone who works with high school kids is working toward the same end.

Whether you like sports or not, the lessons here will move you and make you a better mentor.

After all, when it comes to raising our children, we’re all on the same team.

Care to learn more?

Front Edge Publishing has created an 80-second video that captures the excitement we all feel surrounding this book’s launch, this week. Please, enjoy that video, share it with friends—and order a copy of this book that celebrates dozens of coaches nationwide.

In an era of isolation, a community of writers is a creative catalyst

The statue of the prophet Isaiah holds a pen in Rome’s Piazza Spagna, near the Spanish Steps. This photo is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


A Minister, a Psychotherapist and a Football Coach Walk into a Zoom room

Contributing Columnist

What is the value of a community of writers?

Click the cover to visit the Amazon book page for Martin Davis’s 30 Days with America’s High School Coaches.

During this past year of the pandemic, I have learned a great deal about such creative circles, thanks to an unusual friendship that has formed among myself and the authors of two other books in the same series as mine: Larry Buxton (30 Days with King David), and Duncan Newcomer (30 Days with Abraham Lincoln).

Front Edge Publishing Editor David Crumm brought us together. Then, over 2021, we began a dialog that has stretched far beyond the confines of the publishing house. The topics that we discuss in our weekly meetings are broad, ranging from the personal to the ethereal, from the writings and life of William Sloane Coffin to the beauty of a football playbook, and from the mythic power of biblical characters to the long shadow of Abraham Lincoln who led America’s Second Founding.

Mostly what happens is that we—admittedly three older white men who many would quickly stereotype as white, liberal cis males—grapple with the very broad gulfs that exist among us in an attempt to better understand one another.

A brief example from my perspective goes to show what we are teaching one another.

Regular readers know that I have a relationship with religion in general, and Christianity in particular, that can be generously described as troubled. Larry is a retired United Methodist minister. Over the past year, we’ve had discussions about faith that left both of us frustrated, irritated, and yes, at times, even hurt.

In our tensest moments, however, we also have come to a better understanding of our unique experiences. We have reached a point where a minister who truly believes that faith is a critical component to human life can understand how the trauma I’ve suffered in my experiences with faith has for many years made re-embracing faith impossible—while he holds onto his own faith. We both have deeper appreciations for the complex ways people wrestle with faith’s eternal, and ultimately unanswerable, issues.

Into this mix comes Duncan, a retired educator and psychotherapist who pushes me to understand the depths of my own personal struggles with religion, while appreciating the ways that coaching and working with youth has become a critical community for me that occasionally fills religious-like needs.

The results of these interactions are plentiful. The most important, I believe each of us would say, is how our friendship has helped us break down our stereotypes that we came to the table with when we first met, and allowed us to experience a fuller experience of what it is to be human through appreciating one another’s lives.

As I move into 2022, I owe a profound “thank you” to my two new, close friends Duncan and Larry.

In a world where more people than ever are writing to tell others what to think and do, I’ve had the good fortune to wrestle with two other men on a range of issues that have forced me not only to expand my ways of thinking, but have allowed me to write with a deeper knowledge of and appreciation for the people I hope to connect with.

We think this friendship is leading us toward engaging more fully with readers via words that better reflect the potential of shared community.



Care to read more?

ARE YOU INTRIGUED by this column from Martin Davis? Right now, our publishing house is close to a nationwide launch of Martin’s book filled with uplifting stories about high school coaches and players nationwide. In his book, you will meet men and women, black and white, famous and unsung heroes alike.

His book will appear soon in our series of 30 Days With under the title: 30 Days With America’s High School Coaches.

You can follow Martin’s work through his personal website,, which describes his work as an author and editor, as well as his background as a veteran journalist for national publications.

Look around that website and sign up to receive free updates from Martin about new columns and podcasts. You’ll be glad you did!

And, Care to See One of Larry Buxton’s Short Videos on Leading with Spirit?

You’ve just “met” Larry in Martin’s column. We’re featuring one of Larry’s short videos, this week, in our Front Edge Publishing website. Please, take a moment to hear from Larry via this new video. It’s just a few minutes long—and you may want to share this message with friends, as well.

AND—if you are aware of like-minded writers who might like to connect with us, email us at [email protected]



A Spiritual Revival in the Field of Dreams

Kevin Costner welcomes players to The Field of Dreams. If you missed it, I’ve got a link to the video of the opening moments of that broadcast, below.


“Is this Heaven?”

I’m not sure how I would have answered that question, this week, because I’m not exactly sure what that word means—but the events surrounding that question sure felt as close to Heaven as I’ve felt in a while.

You need to understand: Baseball has been there for me at so many critical moments of my life, often surprising me with its power to revive my spirits.

Take this past Thursday, which began like most days. I got up at 6 as my wife and daughter prepared for school. By 7 I was outside walking my dog Dexter, and by 8 I was fixing his and my other two dogs’ breakfasts (Boiled eggs and sausage). I was at my desk working by 9. And at 2 I was off to the local high school for football practice.

There’s a comforting daily rhythm to my days. Even the music is routine, thanks to the Alexa playlist I’ve put together. I cook to Looking Glass singing “Brandy,” and I start work about the time Don McLean is playing the first chords to “American Pie.” I leave for football practice to the sound of Modern English singing “Melt with You.” It gets my blood pumping.

This daily routine is comforting, allowing me to move from one day to the next with a feeling of calm. It also numbs me–all of us–in ways that are not good. It shuts us away from the wonders that surround us, and the larger rhythms that define life.

On Thursday, August 12, 2021, however, a bit of wonder broke into my day. An event that will forever set this Thursday apart from all the other Thursdays in my life.

Field of Dreams

As I sat down Thursday night to eat the pizza we’d picked up from Sam’s, an institution in Fredericksburg that’s been here longer than the 20 years I’ve lived here, I tuned in to Fox to watch a baseball game.

That, too, is routine in my house. Most days from late April through October we have the Washington Nationals game playing on our family television. If we’re not at home when they’re playing, the game is on the radio in the car.

Thursday’s game was different in several ways, however. We tuned out the Nats to watch the White Sox play the Yankees in Dyersville, Iowa.

Even the uninitiated know that Dyersville isn’t a Major League City.

Dyersville, however, has come to play as large a role in America’s baseball mythology, however, as has Cooperstown–the heralded town where baseball was born (it wasn’t born there, but it’s still a great place to visit). Dyersville is where 30 years ago Kevin Costner and his Hollywood crew took a novel by W.P. Kinsella and turned it into the now-classic movie Field of Dreams.

There were the predictable made-for-television theatrics Thursday night. Kevin Costner walked out of the center-field corn toward second base and stood. Then, in small groups the members of the White Sox and Yankees made their way out to him and shook his hand.

Then Costner took to the microphone and asked, “Is this Heaven?” to which the crowd of 8,000 folks lustily cheered.

“I don’t think I heard you,” Costner said, repeating his question: “Is this Heaven?”

The response was thunderous: “Yeah!!!”

For an emotional baseball softie who choked up watching the movie–several times–in theaters 30 years ago, it brought back a lot of fond memories. For the uninitiated, I’m sure it was probably as corny as the corn field the game was played in.

There was nothing corny about the game, however. In the top of the 9th, trailing 7-4, the Yankees hit two two-run homers – one by Aaron Judge, who had homered early in the game to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead; and the other by Giancarlo Stanton, who to that point had been 0 for 4 on the night.

It looked like that the Yankees would ruin it for the home-team White Sox, the team that also had a starring place in the movie. But in the bottom of the 9th, Seby Zavala walked, and Tim Anderson hit a massive blow to the corn in right field to give the Sox a walk-off, 9-8 victory.

[You can find the box score, video clips, and in-depth interviews about the Field of Dreams game at]

It was as good an ending to a baseball game as I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen something in the vicinity of 5,000 Major League games in my life.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE SNAPSHOTS is this 1990 photo of me running the bases at The Field of Dreams.

There When You Need It

The recently retired, legendary sports writer for the Washington Post, Tom Boswell, once said of baseball that there’s something that’s available to people during the baseball season that isn’t there the rest of the year. “It’s not that you have to watch the game,” he said, “but it’s there if you need it.”

Baseball has been there for me at many critical times in my life. Indeed, my life is marked by it. In April 1974 I walked–ran, really–home from school to catch the great Henry Aaron hit his record-tying 714th home run in Cincinnati to tie Babe Ruth for the Home Run King crown. I can’t remember most trips home from school. That one, however, will always stay with me.

There was the afternoon in 1976 when I sat in my grandfather’s house watching Mark “The Bird” Fidrych pitch during his rookie season. My grandfather, pipe in hand, telling me stories about the great pitchers he had seen and read about growing up in the ‘20s and ‘30s. My grandfather died in 1989, while I was in graduate school in Chicago. I finished my thesis early and drove to North Carolina for the funeral. I spent the night in Cincinnati and attended a game between the Reds and the Giants. I could think of no other place to be. It was a 13-inning marathon that the Reds won. For that night, he was with me one last time.

The game was there for me in August 1990, when my wife and a close friend from graduate school made the trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and watched Nolan Ryan win his 300th game. A feat that until then had only been accomplished 20 times in Major League history. I remember every moment of that game like it was yesterday. Mostly I remember the evening my wife, our friend Dan, and I had together.

It was there for me in 1994. The game itself was not in a great place that summer. Tensions between the owners and players was high, and eventually there would be a strike that led to the cancellation of the World Series. For four hours that summer night, however, none of that mattered. My wife and I had had our first child that May. Together we watched the All-Star game, taping it for him, and celebrating with glee as the National League (our favorite) finally took one. The late, great Tony Gwynn scoring from first base off a Moises Alou double to win the game in the 10th inning.

ANOTHER OF MY FAVORITE SNAPSHOTS is me with my 4-year-old son Andrew on my shoulders outside Orioles Park in Baltimore in 1998.

My forthcoming book is dedicated to my oldest son, Andrew, who helped me see the game anew. While the country turned on the players and the game during the strike, the memory of that All-Star Game, and the

Baseball As Religion?

I do not attend church or affiliate with a religious tradition–regular readers of my columns are well-aware of that fact. Some believe that baseball (or sport) has become my religion. That assumption would be as wrong as the assumption that I see no value in faith.

The animating question for me about faith has always been, what purpose does it serve?

I was raised in a tradition that framed faith solely as something to ensure a good life after this life. That was why we had faith. That was all that faith really mattered for.

I’ve been part of traditions where faith was the animating factor for political agendas, left and right.

All of these have proven deeply disappointing and shallow to me.

Baseball is not a religion for me. But baseball has something to teach religion. Baseball is a constant in my days. I don’t always need it, but it’s there when I do. And there are games, moments, that serve as markers for me. Markers that turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Days that allow me to see, and remind me of, the wonder that is life itself.

No judgment. No requirement to convert. No guilt.

Just a moment that opens my eyes to the wonder around me.

When religion can offer that, I’ll be in the cheap seats. Beer and dog in hand, keeping score and basking in the moment.

I’ll save the seat next to me for you.


Care to Watch?

Here’s the YouTube video posted after the event, showing the dramatic opening minutes of that broadcast:




Care to read more?

ARE YOU INSPIRED by this column from journalist Martin Davis? Right now, Martin and our editors are completing on a book filled with uplifting stories about high school coaches and players nationwide—men and women, black and white, famous and unsung heroes alike.

His book will appear soon in our series of 30 Days With under the title: 30 Days With America’s High School Coaches.

You can follow Martin’s work through his personal website,, which describes his work as an author and editor, as well as his background as a veteran journalist for national publications.

Look around that website and sign up to receive free updates from Martin about new columns and podcasts. You’ll be glad you did!