The Greatest Christmas Gift of All…

golf-mainThis being my 5th Winter/Christmas/Holiday TSTO event, I really go into these things with a heavy dose of pragmatism, which starts with the question, “How many Christmas things can you actually use every year?”  And then I look at the hilariously gigantic, incongruous Christmas display at my neighbor’s house, and realize, “more than you can imagine” being the proper answer.

When I use the word “incongruous Christmas display,” in the previous description of my neighbor’s annual display (which takes the better part of two solid weeks to put up), I mean the kind of display that has Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus right next to Santa and a mechanized Mickey Mouse in an airplane.  Ralph is an “equal opportunity celebrationist.”  And that’s just one of the things that I like about his inclusive view of the holidays.

But, it also explains why I think that the “Greatest Gift of All” in this decidedly broad definition of a “holiday celebration” of an event, is hilariously divisive while being inclusive and inspirational.

I am of course (both declarative  and recreational)  talking about The Parson.

Good, old, what’s his name…The Parson.

Let’s get a minor gripe out of the way, as it is the only thing that actually kind of gripes me about this character…he doesn’t really have a formal name. Not even the kind of traditional “God Chose Me To Serve” name, like Parson Peterson, or Parson Pilferage, or any other Parson with a surname.   I’ve looked.

One other gripe, is that he showed up, when the snow has the golf course closed for winter weather. I play in all sorts of weather, but I have yet to do the “Orange balls” in the snow bit.  And I am talking about GOLF balls for all of you out there now snickering…but I digress.

So who is The Parson (can I just call him “The” or TP for short?)? The WIKI says, The Parson is a charismatic major leader of the Presbylutheran faith practiced in Springfield. He is a close friend to Reverend Lovejoy, His world spiritual headquarters is in Michigan City, Indiana. His appearance and mannerisms are similar to those of Bing Crosby.”

Similar to Bing Crosby?? How about a direct lift of his voice and mannerisms. All that’s missing is him singing “White Christmas,” which would no doubt help squelch the (still) raging debate over the Pagan elements of this update.

Let’s face it. Even with one of the more Christian characters in the show and game, the writers continue to take subtle jabs at the divisions within a religion that was actually formed on the premise of inclusiveness. This divisiveness  has always been puzzling to me…I admit it.

Let’s start with the revelation that I was raised Episcopal.  We jokingly refer to it as “Catholic Light” or “Catholics that golf,” which should make me comfortable with The Parson’s dual personality as both a Presbylutheran reverend, and a golfer. While I am not the former, I am certainly the latter.

I am not a Presbylutheran because I am an Episcopalian, when I claim any actual denomination at all.  I was a “Super-Episcopalian” in my youth, both as a Boy’s Choir and Alter Boy (we call them acolytes, as you can serve all through high school and nobody in high school wants to be referred to as a “boy”) and even taught Sunday School and served on the Vestry as an adult. However,  I wandered away from organized religion after a Near Death Experience in the late 90s, which kind of pointed out the futility of a single denomination at the “time of reckoning.” But, I digress…again.

The schisms in the body “Christian” are well documented. There are more variations of Christianity than almost any other major “organized” religion, with an equally long history of very un-Christian-like behavior (murder, war, genocide) while everyone tried to sort out their differences. It goes on to this day.

So, I wasn’t surprised to hear this dialogue when he appeared…

Lovejoy: Parson! To what do I owe this, uh, pleasure?
The Parson: Your former congregation walks the streets paying homage to river spirits and you wonder why I’m here?
Lovejoy: I’ve tried, I really have!
The Parson: We in the Presbylutheran Church can stomach losing the occasional member to the Lutherterians. They’re a heretical lot, doomed to hellfire, but, you know, I see the appeal. I get it.

There you have it…Presbylutheran and Lutherterians battling it out for our souls. And let’s not even start with the Pagans and the Scientologists. Now THAT is a battle for your soul of epic, almost Biblical proportions (although Scientologists aren’t in the Bible like Pagans are).

Which is why I LOVE that The Parson understands that there are higher pursuits and goals than a “saved soul” in this life…like breaking 80 on the golf course.


I came to golf late in life.  Calling me a “Latter Day Convert” to the game would not be inaccurate, as I spent the majority of my almost 63 years making fun if it.  I was a football and baseball player. Manly sports. Golf just seemed silly. And besides, my little sister Molly was an LPGA Teaching Professional for almost 30 years. So giving credence to the game was just not something in my “big brother purview.”  It was more fun to make fun of chasing a little white ball over miles of green parkways, in funny clothes.

That is, until my wife decided that I needed a new sport after rugby and racquetball took a physical toll on my body (I played racquetball the same way I played rugby…so there were a lot of shoulder-to-wall collisions).  For Christmas in 2006, Deb got me a gift certificate for golf lessons and a set of clubs. I was not excited. I was still not excited until I took a couple of lessons, and started playing right handed, as opposed to left-handed, which is how I bat for power in baseball. A couple of “pure shots,” that went where I was aiming effortlessly, and I was hooked.

That first year, I estimate that I spent no less than 200 hours on the range, and played more than 260 rounds (I kept track), mostly at the “Executive Course” (mostly par 3s with a smattering of par 4s) in town.

Since then…I have played more than 2,00o rounds of golf…and now belong to a Country Club, because it is actually cheaper to pay a substantial monthly fee for unlimited rounds and practice balls, than it is to pay per round/session as a “public duffer.”  I have one hole-in-one, and have broken 80 just a handful of times. I have had to resolve myself to the fact that I will not likely be a “single digit handicapper” as I seem to hover between a 12 and 15 from year to year these days. Respectable…but not actually the reason I play anymore.

I do it to escape the divisiveness of regular life. Which ironically is why I suspect The Parson also plays the game. I think there is actually a deeper meaning to the phrases that were chosen for The Parson in TSTO. Let’s break them out a bit.

“I love to go to church, it’s where I like to be…I get a day in of prayin’…and still tee off by three!” – This tells me that The Parson has his priorities in proper order. Get the business done, and then get on to something that gives you joy.

“Well…well…well…hello everybody!”– This is very Bing Crosby of The Parson. It is that way of feigning polite surprise when you already knew someone was there. Bing used this approach in almost all of his movies. He could be talking to parishioners, fellow soldiers in the trenches, or even outlaws or gangsters in his role as “Father O’Malley” in the Belles of St. Mary or Going My Way.

“Mind if I p-p-p-play through?”  This actually happens more than you imagine, as it is not uncommon for me to get to the course at what is called “Miller Time” at the club(2:22pm) which is about as fast as I can close down shop and get to the course in time to play 18, until winter starts shutting down the sun early. I often play by myself, and very quickly on weekdays, which often has me running into slower 3-somes and 4-somes on the course, and asking to pass them, or “play through” to use proper etiquette.  It is basically showing proper golf social grace, while being unsociable.

“Well I hope you didn’t go to all this trouble, for little old me…”
I love this kind of false humility. It’s a platitude that says, “I’m glad you recognize that I am special,” in the same way that a church lady’s gossips often starts with the phrase “Bless her heart” just before ripping the heart out of the person they are talking about (like Satyr Willie eating a snowman’s heart).

“Well in these modern times…family is more important than ever…”
is a lovely phrase reminding us what is really important. But again, this is just a tad ironic when spoken on the golf course, where men have escaped their families for generations. “It’s not my fault honey…there was a slow foursome in front of us!” is common, after a 4-hour round and a stop at the 19th hole.

But really…it IS important to remember that here, in TSTO, we are ALL part of a family of tappers. Tappers who play the game best when talking about the game…and not the myriad ways we may find ourselves divided into clans of “believers” who have far more in common than most of us care to admit.

Presbylutheran or Pagan, on the golf course you are all the same…struggling to overcome the minor twitches and shanks that keep us from being as good as we imagine ourselves to be. We are one.

Here as TSTO Addicts, our demons are less obvious…with a “God” (EA) who gives and takes away, and speaks in mysterious, horribly ambiguous terms (when you call tech support). But, in the end…We are Tappers.

The Parson is here to remind us of that!

He only has two outdoor tasks. BOTH are golf related. One is simply practicing the swing…repeatedly…trying to perfect the form of a repeatable, smooth golf swing.

The other is just riding around in his golf cart. Fun, but I almost never use a cart. I prefer to walk the course, where I am closer to nature and my ball.  I need the exercise, and a good 6.5 mile walk for 18 holes (longer if I’m golfing poorly) is a great way to meet new people, or clear my head with a solo round. I play in league. I play with the “Old guy Senior bunch” on Thursdays, and we have an annual family golf tournament, which my team has won more often than my sister’s team.

We don’t talk politics or religion…there is plenty to worry about already. Like why I looked up in the middle of my swing, and shanked my approach shot, after a great drive, into the water hazard.

I have an expansive golf course in my Springfield. I spent extra to get extra holes. And now, finally…I have a REAL Golfer to share it with.

And for that reason, this is the Greatest Christmas Gift of all… Thank You Baby Jebus! 

What do YOU think of The Parson?  Do you have a golf course in your Springfield? Do you play golf?  Can you please explain to me what thetons do to mess up our path to enlightenment? 

So many questions. They can all be solved with a smooth swing and good contact.



49 responses to “The Greatest Christmas Gift of All…

  1. I do like seeing the parson tooling around town in the golf cart but the Der Bingle voice creeps me out. Even as a kid, I thought Bing Crosby was creepy (and he was everywhere when I was a kid…). Heretical, I know. Even worse, I was never too fond of the iconic Bob Hope who often came along with Der Bingle. On the other hand, Jack Benny just had to look into the camera to make me lose it with laughter!

    Rev. Lovejoy needs to build up his self-confidence. The parson should at least share the golf cart.

  2. It’s too bad we didn’t also get the Patriarch as a new character. And I still say that if the episode had aired before the update, we would have had a lot less fussing and fighting about the theme.

    • You are likely correct. Although the update seems to go out its way to polarize…where the episode was really more about Rev. Lovejoy and Krusty.

  3. Can’t say I’m a fan of golf really. I’m much more into soccer, rugby and most other contact sports. My brother (who’s younger than me and still in his mid 20s) has recently got in to it. He’s already asked me to play a round with him. When I mentioned that I have no clubs he said “Don’t worry, you can share mine”. A lovely thought except he’s right handed and I’m left handed which he had forgotten. So actually being a different hand conveniently got me out of playing a game that I am not keen on.

    • I agree with you as far as active sports when you are young. Golf was the perfect sport for me after my self-destructive careers in football, rugby and racquetball made my body a little less prone to contact. I do miss being able to come across a field, unchecked, and level some poor bastid in rugby though. I’ve often considered just tacking someone randomly on the golf course, and then running off.

      • Never thought of golf as a contact sport, but would certainly watch more golf if the occasional blindside tackle was part of it…”and Mickelson’s down…looks bad from here…”

        • I’m telling you…I’d be GREAT at that part. “He settles over his putt…this is for the championship…but NO! BOOM!! Miller has come from the penalty box to take him out!” And yes. I’d pay to level Mickelson. Not a fan.

  4. Great post Patric. I enjoyed golf for a few years while my younger brother lived near me. And the best round I ever had was in a driving rain…every shot stuck to the green!

    But even though I liked playing, every time I started a round I was reminded of Mark Twain’s comment. “Golf is a nice walk, ruined.” How true…and false.

  5. After seeing the picture with this article I rEAlly want the golf greens to come back into the store to set up a course. I have a block of land from my country club to the coast I could free up to create my own little links land. I haven’t hacked round anything more than a pitch and put for several years now but quite fancy ago again – except it’s dark! (UK time)

  6. I played a par-three course in college and as a young adult, but then gave it up until I was bitten by the big-course bug seven years ago at age 39. I hit the country club 101 times this year and managed 108 rounds. Got my first hole in one this year, and, as I long predicted, it came when I was playing alone, and it came on my second shot after first went in water, making it technically a three. I decided not to get technical on my scorecard.

    • LOL! Well…officially, as you know, you can’t report it unless you have a witness. But YOU know what shot it was…right?

      For me, breaking 80 is a lot more gratifying than a hole in one. It is more of an accomplishment of a complete game.

  7. “we call them acolytes, as you can serve all through high school and nobody in high school wants to be referred to as a “boy” ”
    They’re now called altar servers…my daughters don’t like being called ‘boys’ 🙂

    • Touche’ !! Yes…”the times they are a changin’…”

      There were no girl alter boys or acolytes in my day…But thankfully everyone is now free to kneel for hours on hard alter steps, while Easter communion is doled out.

      • Convert to Protestantism.
        We don the robes, walk to the alter, light the candles, walk to the back, sit in chairs at the back of the sanctuary by our youthful selves until end of services, then walk to the front, dowse the candle, walk to the back.

        • Well…again…another distinction for me. Episcopal is protestant, in that it was formed originally as the Church of England, in protest to the Pope telling Henry VIII that he couldn’t get divorced. But, I get it. “Serving” is pretty light duty these days.

        • Depends on the flavor of Protestantism. As Patric noted, Episcopalians are Protestants, as they are a member of the Anglican Communion.

          • They keep asking me to be a ‘server’ but so far I’ve declined. Much as I love going to my Anglican Church, I’ll stick to doing the odd reading, being involved in the odd sermon and going down the pub with the Parish Priest (who also happens to be one of my best friends and usually convinces me to be involved in his sermons). After Christmas, I’ve also been roped in for helping with the after service tea and coffee.

  8. One of the funniest things I saw near a golfcourse, was a traffic sign on The isle of Guernsey warning for low flying golf balls crossing the highway. It must have happened regularly because I spotted some bright colored golf balls in the roadside.

  9. EA has done an amazing job with animations for this event.
    * The Ralph licking the Goat statue
    * New God Burns doing a show
    * Parson spreading the word
    And I have seen pictures of Snow Suit Maggie’s animations and they are adorable!!
    I really do feel like EA has put a ton of effort into this event, especially into character development. I would be tempted to say this is the best event of 2016 in terms of visual tasks – they have blown me away!
    Thank you EA

  10. I read this while drinking my morning coffee and really enjoyed it! Thank you!

    I’ve only ever played golf on the Wii U but would *love* to play for real some day. Unfortunately there are no driving ranges or courses I can reach with public transportation so it’s out of my reach for now. Faux-cyber-golf was an option I ignored on the Wii Fit for the longest time because it seemed so dumb and useless…then I was bored and gave it a go and not only was I excellent at it, I find it really fun and centering. And it remains the only thing I can beat my very athletic sister-in-law at, and that counts for a *lot* 😉

    I almost always get a perfect or near perfect score, but have only once scored a hole in one – at a family dinner party, my last ball of 20, the kitchen timer rang as I was in the middle of my swing and I had to immediately run to pull dessert from the oven (chocolate lava cakes, very yum but very fiddly), and the room erupted in cheers behind me. A hole in one and I didn’t even get to see it! The Wii was really happy for me too LOL

    • You need to step up the the Wii big time… Tiger Woods Golf for Wii…it is really fun- very challenging, and far more realistic. Be careful though….I’ve suffered “Wii shoulder” more than once…and have had some near misses with the big screen TV when my controller flew out of my hand on a “long drive.”

      • Thanks for the recommendation! And ouch! about the near miss with the tv, I’m always afraid something like that will happen but so far I’m the only thing that’s suffered damage (too many times on the luge will destroy what feels like every muscle in your torso).

  11. impressive golf course! what building is the parson in front of? I don’t recognize it

  12. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    So says the guy that has to make dinner tomorrow because the wife has a vestry meeting.

  13. talon8770 /// rick m

    Patric, I like the Bing Parson I also play golf or used to until i had 3 discs replaced in my back. At 53 all Ive got is alot of time now for nothing. Every day is a Saturday. Had a nice set of Pinnacal clubs carbon fiber shafts. My brother who works for Titleist as an engineer in Fairhaven MA, he took them and gave me a sweet set of Titleist clubs (steel shaft ) he calls carbon fiber cheating clubs. He also let me in on golf ball trivia.. There are 181 dimples on their golf ball anymore or less and they wont fly right. I cant wait until spring when the courses open again. Maybe well run into each other on a course someday.

  14. He gets to drive on the road! Clearly a divine being.

  15. I like the similarity of voice to Shelbyville Homer (“Some thoughtless human being has parked in a hospital zone!”)

    And “Acolyte” sounds way more metal than “Altar Boy.”

  16. Nice read! I have never played golf, but I enjoy the driving range and pitch & putt. I’m decent on the range but I’m a terrible putter.

    • Putting….not so much in the stroke as reading the greens. I can’t tell you how many sub-80s rounds have been hosed by three putting on a hole you hit in regulation.

  17. Where I usually hit the ball is not where I’m allowed to drive the cart. 🙁

  18. Great religion analysis (and satire) but I want to add about Christmas and Krusyland- that land should not have snow! Amusement parks are in warmer areas so the can be open year round, its not a ski resort!!


    • Umm, no. We have amusement parks here in New England…for example, Six Flags New England in Agawam, MA, which is open from April to October. But you’re right that the rides should be shut down in Krustyland and there shouldn’t be visitors right now (although snow in April, when the park is open, isn’t completely unheard of).

    • King’s Island here in Ohio has Winterfest and they do run some of the rides. Then they are closed until April

  19. Will you share some screenshots of your golf course? I’d love to see the layout, if you’re willing to share.

  20. I like him, I was glad to unlock him just in time.

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