Musings on the Papal visit and New York sports fans.
I’m really feeling Pope mania, which has descended on Washington like a bright sunshiny day in the middle of a nuclear winter. It is, in a word, lovely.
Though not raised Catholic, I’ve often visited Catholic churches and cathedrals and found them good places to pray and meditate. One of my earliest spiritual experiences was watching a dramatization of the miracle of Saint Francis in the movie Tortilla Flat, based on the novel by John Steinbeck. Frank Morgan (best known as the Wizard of Oz) plays a hobo called Pirate who lives with his dogs in an abandoned chicken coop. There’s a beautifully filmed sequence where he has a vision of Saint Francis:
When it comes to feeling good about Catholicism, it always helps if there’s a kind and lovable Pope installed. Pope Francis is perhaps the kindest we’ve seen, and it’s hard not to be moved by the spirit of unalloyed joy which his visit to the U.S. has occasioned and fostered.
While the mainstream media often fail to “get” anything to do with religion or spirituality, there are so many reporters and politicians with strong Catholic roots that the Pope’s visit is one story they mostly get right. The fact that this Pope is so gifted at delivering his message also ensures the media can’t majorly foul it up.
Amidst the unalloyed joy, there are also things to laugh about. Time magazine reports huge sales of Pope Francis bobbleheads. For those not inured to this particular tchotchke, a bobblehead is best known as a staple of fan giveaways at baseball stadiums. On June 18, 2015 the first 18,000 fans at Yankee Stadium reportedly got this free Thurman Munson bobblehead, which mercifully doesn’t portray his fatal plane crash, but does give him a somewhat ambiguous expression, not unlike a butcher or axe murderer who’s just used the last of the suppositories. The AT&T logo on the base is a fitting addition:
It would not go unnoticed by my readers (who are of above average intelligence) that the chief commending feature of the bobblehead is a head which is outsized and out of proportion to the body, yielding an occasionally comic effect. According to Time, the Papal Bobblehead was designed in consultation with Catholic scholars, and the head was made “slightly smaller than normal to be respectful of the religious leader.” I’m assuming Catholic scholars dug deep into the Vatican catacombs to unearth bobbleheads of the first Pope, Pope Peter, who threw out the first discus on opening day of the Roman Games, 53 C.E., then stormed out in a huff when he learned the franks they were serving weren’t Hebrew National. (Yes, Peter was Pope at a time when Christianity was still a sect of Judaism, and keeping kosher was a big deal.)
The Time article references the Washingtonian, which adds this morsel about the Francis bobblehead:
“We wanted to make sure everybody understood that this was our way of showing respect to this historic figure,” Warren Royal said. “It doesn’t bob as well as it would have otherwise, but we’re happy with the decision we made and how it came out.”
Collectors nota bene: The smaller head doesn’t bob as well. When queried on this phenomenon, Sen. John McCain, Washington’s premier foreign policy expert (and bobblehead) had no verbal comment, but simply began chanting:
Bob, bob, bob
Bob, bob, bob
Though not widely reported, corporate infighting at Royal Bobbles between the “big bob contingent” and the “small head contingent” was brutal. Local onlookers were relieved when, after seventeen ballots, plumes of white smoke finally began wafting from the rooftops, and it was formally announced that the small head contingent had successfully elevated their candidate.
But despite a good faith effort to keep the head size down to something smaller than a Fiat, I doubt the faithful will be lighting votive candles before this representation of the Pontiff:
More worthy of veneration is this picture drawn by Sophie Cruz, the little girl who squeezed past barricades to make personal contact with His Holiness:
The lettering says “My little friends and I love each other. It’s not important the color of our skin.”
She sees the Pope with a child’s heart, as another child — a playmate who brings all the children together. Now that’s a holy vision! (no joke).
Returning to the funny side… This whole intersection between Papal fandom and sports fandom has got me going. Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow played clips of crowds at Andrews Air Force Base welcoming the Pope with American-style football cheers like:
Ho ho, hey hey
Welcome to the U.S.A!
We love Francis, yes we do!
We love Francis, how ’bout you?
Now, the D.C. area may have its share of political dogfights, but it’s still touched by some remnant of Southern hospitality, so these crowds were enthusiastic but respectful. The trouble brewing ahead concerns the Pope’s next point of embarkation: New York City. What sorts of cheers from New York sports fans might greet the Bishop of Rome? I had a fit of giggles pondering exactly this question. Granted, I didn’t spend much time on it, but these two chants came immediately to mind:
Non-Franciscans eat shit!
If you don’t love the Pontiff,
Then go to hell you goniff!
As usual, the actual rudeness of native New Yorkers is bound to outpace any satirical flights of fancy. 😉