CHRONICLING ECU & C-USA SPORTS
from the 'ville
December 15, 2005
By Al Myatt
It's East Pole or bust for
jolly ol' St. Clarence
As the collection of Christmas characters go,
he's relatively obscure, more than a little cantankerous and a lot less
punctual than say, the U.S. Mail.
He's called St. Clarence and he's a blacksheep
sort of cousin of St. Nicholas. Instead of Santa Claus, he's known as Santa
He delivers presents to folks in the East
Carolina athletic community — or at least he does, sometimes. Many years
ago, when Cousin Nick was getting a big annual gift operation established at
the North Pole, Clarence decided, he was going get a similar enterprise
going at the East Pole.
Some well-meaning family members tried to
explain to Clarence that there was no East Pole. His response was something
like, "ARRRRGH, ya must have a screw loose, mateys. It says 'East' right
here on me compass."
And finding the East Pole became Clarence's
obsession. He's sailed his vessel from Bath to Fiji and all points in
between in his search. Sometimes he's so far out of pocket at yuletide
season that East Carolina folks simply don't get their desired gifts. To be
truthful, he also has an affinity for ale and rum that occasionally gets him
off course as well.
Clarence also relies on carrier parrots as his
main line of communication, which is a lot less reliable than say, carrier
pigeons. That's not to mention e-mail, cellphones or satellite tracking. A
family member once tried to persuade him to give carrier pigeons a try.
"What kind of character would I be, if I had a
pigeon perched on me shoulder?" he bellowed. "No self respectin' Pirate
worth his salt would be caught dead with such a collection of feathers. Now
button it up if you don't want to be walking the plank. ARRRRGH."
But despite the factors that keep St. Clarence
from being as timely on an annual basis as old St. Nick, he occasionally
delivers big time, bestowing gifts — like the 1991 football season — that
can be cherished for those durations when he's simply consumed in his quest
for the East Pole. We now realize how far off course he was regarding the
2003 and 2004 football seasons.
Sometimes, in the manner of Pirates, Clarence
buries his presents as if they were treasure chests, which is another factor
that can delay the kind of athletic conquests that ECU fans cherish. It's
par for the course for Clarence to bury a bunch of presents, do a map on
parchment and then have it either blow overboard or get torched by those
candles he keeps trying to burn in his whiskers, a la Blackbeard.
Even making a list and checking it twice can
have its drawbacks, considering Clarence's vision is encumbered by that eye
patch he insists on wearing.
He's not given to climbing down chimneys,
"Landlubbers' folly," he often says. "A real
man on the high seas prepares to board! ARRRRGH. Reindeer? ARRRRGH."
A look at the Weather Channel can make one
appreciate the dangers of ocean transit that Clarence regularly deals with.
Still, ECU fans have learned that when
Clarence does get the ship into port with the hold full of gifts, the good
times outweigh the agony of waiting for him to find his way. The memory of
hoops wins over Louisville and Marquette have warmed many a winter night for
the Pirate faithful.
And regardless of the obstacles this
benevolent Pirate encounters, he seemingly always looks after baseball —
stuffing ECU stockings with a club that is practically always invited to the
Only recently did we find out about Clarence's
aversion to soccer.
"Not real football," he said. "What it needs
is a good keelhaulin.' ARRRRGH."
We have it on good authority from some
talkative parrots that Clarence has some nice presents for the Pirate Nation
— if he doesn't get blown off course or otherwise distracted.
For ECU athletic director Terry Holland
there's an imminent phone call from the Big East, asking if the Pirates
would be interested in jumping ship from Conference USA.
For football coach Skip Holtz, there will be
some shore time in store in the 50th state at the end of the 2006 season as
the Pirates nab a berth in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Don't forget the
For basketball coach Ricky Stokes, St.
Clarence is planning on delivering some perimeter shooting that will make
life easier for the big men he will be bringing into the program.
And for head trainer Mike Hanley, there will
be a span in which he feels about as busy as a Maytag repair man.
Santa Pirate's bundle also includes sufficient
prosperity for ECU fans to follow their teams in style and generously
support the Pirate Club.
It's just a matter of when he delivers.
"I'll be there when I get there," Clarence
said. "A lesser man would have been washed overboard in all the gales I've
been through. ARRRRGH."
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