Have you heard the one about how I dumped a bag of ice water on my crotch before a news conference?
July 25, 1997. I had dislocated and chipped a bone in my left pinkie while playing softball — klutz move, there. I had an appointment to get the finger pinned back together.
The orthopedist numbed my hand and drilled two pins into place. Then he gave me a bag of ice to wrap around the hand while I drove to Riverfront Stadium, where I’d cover a news conference that the Reds had just called to introduce Jack McKeon as their next manager.
When I arrived at the stadium parking garage, I opened the door of my car and grabbed the bag of melting ice with my left hand to move it out of my lap.
Well, I thought I’d grabbed it. I forgot about that numbness thing.
Sploosh! Slipped out of my hand and fell right in my lap. Upside-down. Ice water everywhere.
You think the Ice Bucket Challenge was cold? Not like this! Try dumping ice water down there!
The worst was yet to come.
I had to walk into the news conference looking like I’d downed six pots of coffee and failed to make it to the men’s room in time. The other writers stared at me, and I could read the thought bubbles in their brains: “What … the … “
Yep. A klutz. And, at that moment, a very cold klutz.
Then there was the time as an adult when I broke both wrists playing softball. The time as a college student when I gashed my forehead open while playing football and needed a dozen stitches. The time when I was serving Mass in elementary school and fumbled with the incense holder and dropped charcoal on the altar carpeting, which set it smoldering …
You name it, I’ve tripped over it, broken it or set it on fire. And it’s not just objects.
We klutzes dent lots of things. Body parts and car bumpers. Openings for honesty and opportune moments to do something good. We trip over conversations. We stumble through relationships. We can’t seem to avoid losing our balance in so many areas of our lives.
Actually, if you think about it, we’re all something of a klutz, aren‘t we?
And something of a saint, too.
Basically, a saint is someone who falls down a lot and recognizes that they always need help getting back up. Someone who needs to be stitched back together constantly. Someone who doesn’t criticize others for falling down because they’ve been face-planted so many times themselves.
Someone who learns how to get back up and how to extend a hand to help someone else get back up, too. Someone who becomes adept at stitching wounds and people back together.
(I’d ask for a show of hands on who agrees with this, but I’m afraid we klutzes might accidentally poke each other in the eye.)
On this Super Bowl weekend, when we marvel at the unbelievably coordinated among us who can make one-handed catches while running at top speed without falling down and breaking something, maybe we ought to take a little time to appreciate our klutziness, too.
After all, klutziness is next to saintliness, though maybe not saintliness as it’s sometimes portrayed.
When I was growing up in Cleveland, my church depicted saints with life-size statues and beautiful stained-glass windows. And the saints were always so perfect-looking — peaceful expressions, great posture, glowing complexions, unstained clothes.
Maybe we should depict our favorite saints wearing brightly colored plaster casts. Perhaps with a welt on the forehead, a bruise on the knee. A burn mark here or there. Some scar left behind by a row of stitches.
Show them in all their klutziness as well as their gracefulness.
Oh, but make sure to keep them away from the baptismal font. Only bad things happen when a klutz gets too close to cold water.
Trust me on that one.