The Gospel Truth

Going to See the Russian | January 13, 2015

Nearly 10 years ago, my thespian daughter had a supporting role in a play, Going to See the Elephant. She played the traveling wife from a larger urban community with a sick husband. The lead character was an older woman, who was tied to her farm in Osbourne County, Kansas shortly after the end of the Civil War.   Though her life was the personification of routine and drudgery, she still had a vivid imagination of someday being able to visit foreign lands.

The title of this 1982 play, which my daughter’s short-lived theater company, The Orange Girls produced was an American idiom that indicated overwhelming emotion, and according to Belle “Maw” Wheeler it was a colloquial term for daydreaming that created a reverie that gave people a respite from the boredom and drudgery of their mundane lives. Presumably the Elephant represented exotic travel to faraway lands…from Kansas, such as India or maybe even Africa.

I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to most places that I have always longed to see such as Rome, Dublin, London and even Malta, I never had any desire to go see any elephant in India or even in the San Diego Zoo.

But recently I had this yearning to see the Russian…Vladimir Tarasenko, who is the latest young phenomenon to skate for the St. Louis Blues Hockey team. Vladimir Andreyevich Tarasenko was born on Dec 13 1991. in Yaroslavl, Russia.   Only in his 3rd season, Tarasenko, the team’s leading scorer with 23 goals was just named to the NHL All Star Game.  He is also a former Russian league scoring champion and a Russian Olympian to boot.

There seems to be something special about him that inspired my Elephant Moment.  Perhaps it was his Russian origins, his size or the cool grace with which he plays the game.  Perhaps I think he will be the next Wayne Gretzky, the greatest player in hockey history, whom I saw lace up his skates twice.

I am not what you call a hockey fan by any stretch of the imagination. The last hockey game I attended was probably in the last century. The Blues changed players so often I could not develop any attachment or interest in any special player. I did see the aforementioned Wayne Gretzky when he briefly played here as well as stalwart, Brett Hull whose father I think I saw play when I was young.

Well last night my yearning was satisfied when I saw Tarasenko lead the Blues to a 7-2 victory over the same team, the San Jose Sharks whom they had beaten by an identical score just a week ago.

What impressed me most about him was not just his size, but also the smoothness and fluidity with which he transversed the rink. It was more of art form, germane to the European game than the pure brute strength of North American hockey. In fact virtually the whole team demonstrated the grace and speed with percise passing in stark contrast to the type of goon hockey that has characterized the sport in the NHL for so long.

The influx of several European players is largely responsible, including several Russians. They have taught the North Americans how to really played the game.  This reminded of one of  late comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s best lines: I went to a boxing match the other night at the Garden and a hockey game broke out!

Last night’s game was almost uninterrupted by penalties and there were no fights at all.  The crowd was energized and very much alive but not angry, drunk or rowdy.

While Tarasenko did not score a goal for me, he did assist on the first two scores and was always lurking around the maw of the goal for a scoring opportunity.

I went to the game with an unusual combination of multi-generational family, including my younger son, my youngest granddaughter and my only son-in-law.   While we had the complete family out for dinner the evening before, this evening had a special meaning for me.

There was a diversity of family relationships, each with its own innate character and hierarchy.  While I was the patriarch of the 11 family members at dinner, this night I was not only the “patriarch”– in reality the family matriarch rules the family–I was a father, grandfather, and father-in-law.  My son Matthew was a son, uncle, and brother-in-law.  Tim was a father, a son-in-law and a brother-in-law.  Olivia…now 12 was a daughter, granddaughter and niece.

Even though I was “plugged up” to protect what little natural hearing I have left, I was able just to feel our special family aura in my soul.

At the first period intermission, my son and I went on a hunting expedition—there were no elephants in the trade center that night to see the exhibit on the third level, dedicated to the St. Louis Browns, a team with which I have had a strong posthumous relationship.

Over 30 years after they left for greener pastures in Baltimore, a few others and I founded a Historical Society (1984) in their honor.  Four years ago I joined with announcer Bob Costas, St. Louis Cardinals’ owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and the late Tom Phelps, in funding the exhibit as part of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.   This had been my first chance to actually see the exhibit and my name on the plaque that joins the two-glassed cases that is stocked with Brownie history, legend and lore, including two of my short histories of the team.

The entire evening was one of those moments that I will treasure until the end of my days. I guess I had one of Véronique Vienne’and Fr. Richard Rohr’s Naked Moments.  (see last Post) I owe it all to the Russian.

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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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