Critical Mass

Once More Into The Breach, Dear Friends.

By Tom Danehy

I HAVE A friend named Phil. As in most cases in my narrowly defined life, we became friends because of basketball. But we soon hit it off and our shared interests expanded to include other things, like summer-league basketball.

He's the varsity girls' coach at Amphi. I started helping out with open gym and summer leagues and eventually applied for the vacant freshman girls' coaching job. He was reluctant to hire me, but he kinda had to when the only other applicant for the job, Carla Faye Tucker, became, well, permanently unavailable.

Danehy Phil's from Oklahoma, which ought to be worth a whole bunch of easy jokes for me. But I've got to be careful. Apparently, he's got a squadron of siblings all over the Southwest, all connected by that pesky internet thing, on which The Weekly floats freely.

One time I wrote that in Oklahoma, organized crime goes by the name of football practice. Two days later, there was a knock on my door. When I opened it, on the doorstep was a rolled-up newspaper on which was written, "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes." Inside the newspaper was a can of tuna. I guess it's hard to find fresh fish in the desert.

I was gonna show my contempt for my tormentors and make tuna salad out of it, but I kept thinking about Luca and didn't want to bite into a toe or something. Even with mayonnaise on it, that would be disgusting.

So, right now I'm going to say that Oklahoma is great. Hey, Will Rogers escaped from Oklahoma and brought all kinds of funny stories with him. The musical Oklahoma! is based in Oklahoma, I think. I'm not real big on show tunes.

Oklahoma's even a state; I checked. Of course, it was forever supposed to be Indian Territory, but how could the people who wrote that treaty possibly know that down the road they were going to discover oil there? I especially like Oklahoma's state motto: "We're Not Texas!" That automatically endears Oklahoma to the other 48 states.

Just kidding. I like Oklahoma. I like Phil's family. I got to hang out with his mom and dad when they visited recently. His dad even went with us on the Death Trip down to Sierra Vista to play Buena High. He got a big kick out of the police escort we got on the way out of town.

Anyway, Phil got married a couple years ago to a wonderful woman named Gloria, who happens to be from Colombia. Gloria has some executive position with the UA, which means she wields enormous power over all of our lives, yet walks among us as a normal human being.

Late last spring, Phil and Gloria learned they were going to have a baby. Everyone congratulated them, and then I added, "Hey, why don't you give the kid a traditional Colombian name, like 'Cartel?' "

I figured people from Colombia can't be all that sensitive about that stuff. I'm giving her one more year to laugh at that joke and then I'm rescinding it.

I pressed on with Phil. Just imagine: Cartel Reynolds. Everybody will read the name in the sports page and imagine the kid is black, like they used to do with New York Giants running back Tucker Fredrickson.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Phil is chronically Caucasian. The dude would get a sunburn if you turned the three-way lamp bulb up to "medium." And Gloria's got some serious freckles. The kid's guaranteed to do some industrial-strength SPF-ing in his life.

I kept pushing for Cartel, or even better, Car-Tel, but they decided on Leo. Which brings me to the point of all this. They called the other day and said they were going to baptize Baby Leo in a few weeks. When I asked him where the ceremony would be held, he answered, "The Newman Center on the UA campus."

A sense of dread washed over me. I had told myself I'd never go in there again. Actually, I had told myself that several times, and each time I went back I remembered why I kept telling myself that first thing.

For the uninitiated, the Newman Center is a Catholic Church on campus. Lots of colleges have Newman Centers, which is a truly chilling thought.

Back when I was in college, I used to attend Mass every Sunday at the Newman Center. It was like Hippies Throw A Catholic Shindig. Hey, I'm old-fashioned. Catholic Mass is supposed to be predictable, dependable, perhaps even a little boring. At the Newman Center, it was like, "Hey, let's try this new thing!" Every week, it was something else. Banjo music. Giant hunks of bread instead of the predictable, dissolvable host. Dancing.

After my wife and I got married, we started going to St. Frances Cabrini, and slowly the nightmares of priests in tie-dyed albs began to fade. Occasionally, we'd find ourselves back at the Newman Center, but it always made me nervous.

So when Phil said the baptism was going to be at the Newman Center, I said, "I'll bring the tambourine."

As a matter of fact, the last time we went, it was the music that ruined the day. My infant son was looking at the instruments during the Mass and this woman snapped at him, "Don't bother those things! It'll mess up my rhythm."

As the Mass progressed, I realized that with rhythm like that, this woman probably thinks Mick Jagger is a good dancer. And then she sang! It sounded like Harvey Fierstein was gargling rocks.

I know it's a Catholic Church and I'm supposed to respect it, but gee whiz. After the Mass was over, they had everybody give the musicians a hand. I hate clapping in church. It's like, hey, I stood up and knelt down at the right times, my kids served Mass without dropping anything. We don't expect applause. We were doing our part, just like the musicians.

I'm going to the baptism, and I'm sure it'll be a beautiful ceremony. But if they start chanting, I'm gone. TW

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