This 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.