The Gospel Truth

A Sally Fields Moment | June 17, 2010

The Best One Yet

This past weekend I went to my 45th college reunion at Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.  On the last night at the class dinner, they provided an open mike.

I usually never and I mean never let such an opportunity go by because no one that I have ever met in my radio experience, ever met a mike he didn’t like!

But this time I had to let it go because–first of all the first speaker–the Judge was better prepared and far more eloquent than I could have been. (I could have hung with George A.!)

And secondly I had the mental equivalent of a stimulus package of so many thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotions flooding my consciousness that I had no idea of what I might have said.

This was the 5th reunion I have attended–everyone including the 25th in 1990.

I had always had fears about going to reunions.  I think a lot of people do.  In fact I’ll wager a large percentage of alumni never go to their reunions.

I used to quip that losers–you know people with failed marriages, stalled careers, the very unpopular and miserable people many of us knew and maybe were during our collegiate years, never went to their reunions.

Who wants to hear a lot of sad stories!

I think I had not gone to any of the first four, partly because I was in the midst of trying to establish my family doing my part to coach and rear our three children.

But I think those still waters ran a lot deeper.  I was in such unadulterated awe of the people around me that I think I went around the campus with my mouth open for four years.

We had so many quality athletes and smart people that I was terrified that I would not last the four years.

So I didn’t rush to our past reunions because I did not know how well I would be accepted.

I went to Holy Cross with the anticipation of having those brothers I never had in my life.  I had no sisters either though I can’t remember looking for one of those, especially while at Holy Cross.

I remember Paul Hayes, our senior adviser saying with an intentional clever pun that there were no hazing at Holy Cross. The entire campus was one big fraternity.

That was exactly what I wanted in my search for the purple brotherhood.

During my early experience it didn’t exactly turn out that way.

My first roommates were OK guys though–the football player once told me to stop breathing.  I couldn’t help it!  The air on Wheeler Four was the purest I had ever breathed.

I did my best to accommodate him.

I think the scariest moment of my years at the Cross was when two rather imposing members of the football team came to my room seeking information about a possible breach of the unwritten student ethic.

There was a rumor that someone had a prior copy of the standard Theology test we all had to take that year and somehow they thought I had informed the administration.

The whole matter was a complete surprise to me and for a hard second I thought they were going to teach me a new word—defenestration.

I guess I got off easy–other weaker classmates suffered more than hazing under the hands of a dominant few.  Their stories are legendary and make for great conversations many years later but they still conger vivid images of there but for the grace of …!

Things improved as I advanced with the Class of ’65 however I always knew that I didn’t quite fit in with the ruling clique that usually runs things in all similar situations.

I mean the same 40-50 guys that are always at the center of all things.  Such are the ways of the world we live in.

I am not trying to suggest that this is all part of a Pat Conroy novel.  I think such cliques are part of human nature and there will always be those who want to lead and those who don’t mind following.  I don’t seem to fit in either category.  It just makes it harder when you are not part of the establishment.

One of my standard self-effacing lines is when I lead, no one follows!

While at Xavier HS in New York, a Jesuit military school then, my freshman year I was banished from the school, regiment because I was marching to my own inner drummer during a First Friday parade in February.

A neighbor a year ahead of me at Xavier, who was headed for Holy Cross got me back in the marching regiment a year later.  So it was natural that I followed him to the Cross.

While I was terribly embarrassed by the incident, it did give me a metaphor for my life–I often march to my inner drummer on many of the issues of the day.

So with all this as background I was pleasantly surprised how friendly and accepting virtually all of my former ‘mates were when I set foot on campus 20 years ago.

I have been quipping since then that they have treated me better at the reunions than when I was treated as a student.

Each new reunion, the feelings of acceptance get better.

I have had so many Sally Fields moments that I feel light-headed.  The 45th was the best.

I had at least a half-dozen ‘mates ask me about the Browns, baseball in general, my radio show and at the Sunday brunch a departing ‘mate told me he was on chapter III of my last book, The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy.

I am very prone to what another ‘mate later described in a larger context as environment applause or what they used to call,  the roar of the crowd.

I know I owe a lot to our unofficial class president of 45 years Dave M. and his trusty sidekick, Tom Mc.

Without their generous inclusions of my exploits in the infamous Poop-Dispatch, things might have been a bit different.   Half of life is good public relations.

One of the people I had missed since my first reunion was Dr. John from Rochester.  I asked him why he had not been to any since then and he told me of his bouts with melanoma that just reinforced m y feeling of the ticking nature of life and our short times together.

This reinforced my brief encounter with our quarterback, who had suffered his own physical infirmities years ago.

His eyes lit up when I recounted what a thrill his engineering of our 9-0 upset of BC the week after the Kennedy assassination.  I had stayed up on campus just to see the game and wound up seeing one of the biggest wins in our history.

I have a scar over one eye from one of our great moral victories against Syracuse the year before.

Holy Cross has meant so much to me over my life.  I think I put it best I can in the book of reminiscences they publish 20 years ago.

I wrote that for most people April 17, 1961 was the date of the Bay of Pigs (No that was not a mixer).  For me in a way it was the beginning of my life because I got my HC acceptance on the same day.

I still feel that way.  HC is a vital part of my identity. In making a new acquaintance, it takes only minutes for me to boast how I went to the Cross.

Dr. John again reminded me as to how close we both came to not becoming a part of the Class of 1965.

I remember that in 1990 we were walking near the Chapel and we started doing the math.

We had 512 in our freshman class exactly. ( I remember that because only 12 made the Dean’s List that first semester and my 2.67 put in solidly with the other 500.)

Since they started accepting women, even in the larger class of 750, the class would have maybe 375 men in it.  John was one of approximately 100 freshmen who had to live off-campus for lack of rooms.

One of my 15 Xavier HS classmates with me had grades just a bit below me.  He also resided off-campus.

The numbers did not lie.  John who is a prominent GI doctor would have had to study pre-med elsewhere and I would have had to go to BC, which had accepted me on February 3rd.

How I HATE that thought! I know my life would be far different today. (I probably would have become a lawyer.)  If the hand of God was not at work in that, nothing was…

I think the theme for this past weekend was set by the faculty lecture many of us attended on Saturday morning.  But that’s a story for another day.

To be continued…..

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4 Comments »

  1. BB, It always amazed me, how great and successful men, returning to their Alma Mater with thoughts of their struggles while in school, slowly become infused with a great self confidence and authority, only after pursuing their careers successfully in public life.
    You and your brothers are the greatest BB, and don’t ever doubt it.
    Jim

    Comment by Jim Vondras — June 19, 2010 @ 12:03 am

  2. BB, Things are not well here in Louisiana. Husband in hospital. I am worn out. Looking into assisted living. Never went to a reunion. Too far away. I finished school in Michigan and live in Louisiana. Pax.

    Comment by Mary B — June 19, 2010 @ 6:12 am

  3. Jim:

    The purple brotherhood thanks you!

    Comment by bbprof — June 19, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

  4. Mary B:

    Sorry about the home situation. Will pray for your perseverance and loving patience.

    Comment by bbprof — June 19, 2010 @ 6:33 pm


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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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