How Irrelevant Are You?


It’s called the Lowsman Banquet; the 2022 annual re-enactment on June 20th, 2022 was the 47th assembly in Newport Beach to celebrate the most unlikely of honorees. Weeks before, no one would have known the name of the Man of the Hour; today, he’s one of the hottest celebs on the planet. What gives?

Paul Salata played professional football in the early 1950s. Coming out of USC he took the field as a wide receiver for the 49ers and Colts before finishing his brief career in Canada with stints in Calgary and Ottawa. He hung up his helmet in 1953 and returned to Newport Beach, California to join his family’s construction business. Who knew the road ahead, for him?

His most memorable contribution to the culture was cooked-up with his drinkin’ buddies at the Pacific Club (home campus for 25 years to The Master’s Program!). In 1976, Paul and friends zeroed-in on the annual NFL draft and set their sights on the guy at the end of the line. 

The geniuses at the bar conceived the most unlikely of schemes: plans came together around a new effort that, once birthed, captured the interest of our quirky culture and became a movement.

The maiden voyage of the Mr. Irrelevant extravaganza was back in ’76. Bring the last-guy picked in the NFL Draft to Orange County; start with a celebratory roast with some of the area’s heavyweights at the mic. Golf, free stuff, a trip to Disneyland were all in the swag bag. 

On June 20, 2022, Mr. Irrelevant was crowned at the Cannery Restaurant in Newport. Brock Purdy – fresh off his college career at Iowa State – took it all in good natured stride: where else would the least-popular person in a high-visibility beauty contest get a few days in the spotlight?

Turns out, it wouldn’t be Brock’s last round of high-fives and toasts. Leading the 49ers to their win over the Detroit Lions last week – overcoming the daunting 17-point deficit at halftime – has locked Purdy into sports history. The Lowman – “Mr. Irrelevant” – is suddenly far more relevant than the revelers in Newport Beach could have imagined. 

When Brock was handed a microphone after the game, his first words were telling: he wasn’t giving credit to Paul Salata. His shout-out – as is his now-recurring protocol – was to give glory to God for giving him the talents and the opportunity to do what he does on the football field.

The Mr. Irrelevant concept wasn’t cooked-up at the Pacific Club by some enterprising sports fans; it’s been a recurring theme for time immemorial.

About 3000 years ago, the quarterback for God’s team – His chosen people, Israel – had violated his contract with the Owner and set in motion the turnover that would eliminate Saul and his family line from the throne. God had a one-man search committee – Samuel, God’s spokesman in Israel – was on-mission to find the successor.

You probably remember the story: God set Samuel’s GPS on the little burg of Bethlehem, to the home of a rancher named Jesse. The instructions could have fit on Post-It note: one of the sons was going to be crowned as the New #1.

Samuel arrived with a cover-story; he asked to be introduced to Jesse’s sons, and Jesse started with his firstborn. Samuel had a direct-line to God allowing a real-time review of the prospect in front of him. Eliab – the oldest – got the thumbs-down. One by one, the next six boys were considered and dismissed. Samuel was increasingly uncertain: he had reached the end-of-the-line in the house, and God hadn’t given the green light. “Is this all you’ve got?” was Samuel’s reasonable question.

The runt-of-the-litter – David – was doing chores in the field while his brothers were in the spotlight. God pointed Samuel out to the barn, and David – Mr. Irrelevant – was tagged to start the process that would take him from a grudge-match with Goliath to become the first in the royal line of Israel’s kings that would culminate with Jesus. 

Hey, friend: you’ve probably pondered your own irrelevance a time or two. What’s God getting you ready to do?

Bob Shank

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