The Sunday Morning Dilemma on London Time

It’s Saturday afternoon and the first of October at Monty’s Barber Shop in Lake Wobegon. Elmer and "Suds" Swenson are talking Goofers and Vikings during the Big 10 pre-game show. The buck-tooth rodents are playing Purdue‘s snipes today (if you’ve been in the Navy, you’ll get it) but it’s Minnesota and we don’t really obsess about college sports here unless we moved from somewhere else like Oklahoma or Alabama, where they actually have a great college football tradition and didn’t name their team after a rat that eats gardens and torments wannabe Bill Murrays. In those places, NCAAF is the only football they have; thus they miss out on the angst of being life-long obsessed fans of a just-barely-above-average-for-the-last-forty-years Vikings.

Elmer once had a temporary job at the Love Box Factory in Tulsa, and was astonished that his female-coworker could pretty much name the 3rd-string right guard on the Sooners 1978 team, AND that they went 11-1 and got revenge for their only defeat by beating the CornBoys in the Orange Bowl. Elmer's not sure, but he doesn't think the Vikings have ever even had a third-string right guard.

Anyway, now there is a dilemma.

Elmer is a practicing Catholic, more or less, and he’s trying to decide if it’s a venial sin or a mortal sin if he skips Mass tomorrow morning and watches the Vikings game. Suds is a practicing alcoholic, and he’s upset that tomorrow’s game is going to start a couple of hours before he usually gets his first Suds’ Special (a Bloody Mary with a Shmidt chaser) down the hatch and starts his road to recovery from Saturday’s blurry haze.

Suds has had a few already, getting ready for the Gophers game (and also beating back the cobwebs from Friday night). After the beatdowns the U of M laid on Colorado and Michigan State, Purdue ought to be a happy walkover. So, he predicts the Goofs will lay an egg and announces he has bet twenty bucks on the Snipes. Suds knows what Snipes are because he was one. He enlisted in the Navy to be a jet engine mechanic but answered "yes" on the security question test that asked if he’d ever used marijuana. This disqualified him from every job in the United States Navy in 1970 except Bosun’s Mate ("deck ape") and Boiler Tender ("snipe"). Four years in the bowels of a Kidd class destroyer, half of it on Yankee Station off Vietnam keeping steam up for the gas turbines, taught Suds pretty much everything he needed to know about how to turn virtually anything made of carbon into a delicious alcoholic beverage.

Suds likes the early start for the Goofers. It gives him an excuse, because, you know, it’s half-time somewhere and therefore the drinking light is on. He actually thinks the Gophers will beat Purdue pretty handily, but is betting against them because he is so bad at betting that he now bets the other way from what he really thinks, in order to improve his odds. But he hates the earlier start for the Vikings, because it's Sunday morning and he's not sure if he can stand that first Bloody Mary and Shmidt big mouth chaser in time to start yelling at the teevee to get revenge on the Saints for bounty hunting.

This is not alcoholic haze talking. It’s very logical in a Suds sort of way.

Elmer, though, is struggling with the Sin problem. Father McClintock doesn’t have that problem regarding the Vikings and Mass conflicting with each other. He wasn’t born in Minnesota. He’s a big sports fan … of futbol, not football. Father McClintock is Scots-Irish, a direct descendant of Braveheart William Wallace. He studied at the seminary in Glasgow, and is addicted to Heart of Midlothian Football Club in Edinburgh. The Hearts unfortunately are presently so terribly bad that Father McClintock has almost, not quite, given up praying for them. Now he tends to pray for their poor losing souls more than for victory.

It’s just that hopeless. He thinks it does help him to understand his parishioners' angst over the Vikings and Twins, and has thought about forming a sports codependency group because honestly he and his flock need some help when their teams don't perform up to expectations, hopes, and wishes.

One of the hard things about going to Mass on Sundays is when Father McClintock goes into his announcements and gets off on a tangent about the rotten state of affairs in the collection plate and how members of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow are failing to commit to their obligation to support their church, which needs both repairs and more contributing parishioners. When Father gets off on that subject, Elmer kind of winces inside because he’s seen this movie before and knows what’s coming next, with McClintock working up a head of steam about this faithless godless non-tithing community to which he has been condemned by God for his prior failings and sins. Basically, he’s telling the congregation, "You are my penance." What’s worse, he says it all in a brogue, which makes the fear of hell all the more weighty, consequential, and actually more or less indecipherable especially when he does the Latin parts in that Scots accent.

And also, he’s not offering alternative times for Mass just because the Vikings are playing in London tomorrow morning.

Elmer kinda already knows what he’s going to do. He fears damnation, but thank goodness the confessional will be open later in the week. Elmer thinks of it as a "Get out of Purgatory Free" card.

"Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been three weeks since my last confession. I swore a few times. Maybe quite a few, even. I got drunk a little bit when the Gophers beat Michigan State. And …. …. Um ….. I missed Mass on Sunday to watch the Vikings game. "

Elmer rushes through that last part, hoping the priest and God won’t quite catch what he said.

There is a long pause on the other side of the hidden shadow screen.

Father McClintock doesn’t quite know what to say. He doesn’t want to be a hypocrite. Once when he went home to Scotland he skipped Mass to go to a Hearts game.

After all, he might never have had that chance again, buy there’s usually time to confess your sins. Then you do penance. That’s called expiation.

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