My view from the bleachers

Thursday 16 April 2015 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — National High Five Day (No, really)

Readers frequently ask how I come up with topics for this column. The answer is that concepts seem to come out of nowhere. 

Today’s column, for example, began last night when my cell phone twanged. A message had been sent from Boston’s TD Garden. Actually, it was a “selfie” photograph from my good friend “Showboat” Jackson of the Harlem Globetrotters. He had been at the Celtic’s game with several of his Globetrotter teammates and happened to meet our parish Religious Education coordinator, John Cabral. Of course the Globetrotters wanted to send me, Father Peter John, and especially Father Francis X. Wallace, their warmest regards. I often travel in the same social circles as movie stars and professional athletes, so I didn’t think twice about receiving personal greetings from TD Garden. Far be it from me to boast, dear readers, but this sort of thing happens to me all the time.

Well, don’t you know, early this morning I was sipping my cup of Dippin’ Doughnuts coffee when I happened to notice the Styrofoam cup. On the cup was printed, in Kelly green ink, the official logo of the Boston Celtics (I always pronounce it kell-ticks rather than sell-ticks. It gives the impression I know something more than ordinary sports buffs. It catches them off guard). Dippin’ Doughnuts is also the official coffee of the Patriots, Red Sox, and the Bruins.

At any rate, suddenly there it was — the topic for this column. Now all I needed was a title. The problem was that The Anchor already has a regular sports column, “My view from the stands,” written by none other than our worthy editor Dave Jolivet. I needed something completely different. Father Peter John suggested “My view from the bleachers.” See what he did there? Inspiration can come from the most unlikely sources, I tell you.

Like every other kid, my interest began with early involvement in youth sports. Although not very good at first, I practiced constantly until I reached a certain level of athletic skill in multiple sports. I happened to choose the games of badminton and croquet. Nobody thought to inform me that these were not Olympic events. 

My rude awaking came in what they used to call junior high school. We had mandatory gym class twice a week. I was soon taught the important life lesson that I was a complete and utter klutz and always would be. I learned my lesson well. 

For some strange reason, I grew to despise gym class. “No pain; no gain,” they say but running lap after lap around the indoor track always did me in. I was more than six-feet-tall and weighed only 90 pounds. I had pain everywhere and at the same time. My body just couldn’t take it, no matter how hard I pushed. Meanwhile, my cousin earned the state championship in, of all things, track.

I also hated dodgeball. I would stand there perfectly still until I had the good fortune of being hit. Then I could go sit down. I would soon get over the stinging welt. I was always tagged out early in the game. If I didn’t know better, I would suspect the other kids were targeting me as an easy score. 

Then there was rope climbing. I just couldn’t get the knack of it. I would hang there like one of those Peking ducks you see suspended outside shops in Chinatown. After a while, the gym teacher would take pity on me by loudly shouting, “Next!”

Come spring, the gym class moved outside. I had no idea how baseball was played. I was always the last chosen for the team. And I was always assigned to left field. I would spend my time out in left field praying that the ball wouldn’t be hit in my general direction. You might say that it was in left field that I learned how to pray sincerely from the heart.

In high school, it was no better. But at least there were no mandatory baseball games. The school was in the center of the city and had no playing fields whatsoever. 

Canada, where I attended college, had a government-required exercise regime called 5BX. We were broken into groups based on athletic prowess. Each group chose its own name. I will not repeat the name of my assigned group since the word has since become politically incorrect. It has been replaced with “persons with disabilities.” The latter, however, would be a poor choice for a sports team.

After ordination, lots of guys played or followed sports. I was not one of them. When it came time during priests’ retreat for the annual baseball game, I would take my afternoon nap.

Having spent more than 40 years in the priesthood, my life in sports hasn’t hurt me none. At the church door following Mass, I can usually fake the required sports banter with the guys. 

And that’s my view from the bleachers — or, more likely, from the concession stands.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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