May 20, 2013

A Priest, a Cruise Ship and the Kentucky Derby

What do a priest, a cruise ship and the Kentucky Derby have in common? Well, probably nothing. But I thought of all three during Mass this past Sunday.

In his homily, our pastor said that before Mass he was in the sacristy getting ready when the sacristan noticed him wringing his hands. So the sacristan asked him, "Are you nervous?" The priest said, "Yes, even after 20-plus years of doing this, I'm always nervous right before Mass."

He said he usually worries that suddenly he'll forget what to say. Then he went on to say that his biggest ongoing fear or nightmare is that one day in the middle of Mass, someone will stand up and yell at him, "I don't agree with what you are saying."

That's when my mind drifted a little bit. (Yes, I confess to zoning out a little bit during the homily on occasion.) Hearing the priest say he has the same nervous fears before every Mass reminded me of this story I heard on NPR a couple of years ago. I don't follow horse racing, but it was still a fascinating story.

Tom Durkin, the guy who'd been calling the Kentucky Derby and the two other Triple Crown races on NBC Sports for a decade, was retiring because the stress of the job was taking its toll on his health. He said for three months every year, he would walk around with a pit of fear and worry in his gut.

He said calling the Kentucky Derby was the same level of stress a baseball player (now he was speaking my language!) feels while at bat in game seven of the world series with a 3-2 count, two outs, a runner on second and his team down by one run.

Also, he said he had nightmares all the time about suddenly not being able to see the horses during the race (spray paint over his binoculars, the lenses of the binoculars falling out during the race, etc.).

But his funniest nightmare (can you call a nightmare funny?) was this one: As the horses were coming down the stretch, all of a sudden a giant Norwegian cruise ship was sailing down the track and obstructing his view of the finish line.

Yes, it sounds like it was definitely time for him to move on. But hopefully our pastor will stick around for a few more years.

Tom Durkin  (Courtesy: NPR)

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