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Cup worship

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Sitting at the Players Retreat talking with a bud of mine, a regular old hippie Freemason.

"So, you guys doing anything to take over the world this week?"

Ric smiles, shaking his head.

"I dunno, it just seems a common theme in human hierarchies. I mean, look at the Catholics."

"Shoot, I can't even get an air conditioner replaced," Ric says.

I sense a light mist falling from somewhere. I mention it, eliciting laughter from the Sadlack's refugees. A subsequent investigation finds that a can in the P.R.'s voluminous beer collection, an antique from the World's Fair, has had a membrane failure, fogging me with an emulsion of 40-year-old beer. At my insistence, two skeptics stand on the seat, reach up and feel the jet.

"Gawd dayum! He ain't making that up."

The dying laughter is replaced by a strident hubbub.

"The Stanley Cup is here," someone yells. The holy shrine of hockey, a commission of legendary Freemason Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley, being carried into Raleigh's most historic beer joint? Good gawd, who knew?

The bar goes wild.

"Hold your applause until it is through the door," says an attendant at the head of the procession. The crowd falls quiet as more priests arrive. The sacred fetish, borne in an ark of blue fiberglass, is presented.

Women shriek. Men hug one another, almost weeping, nearly collapsing into heaps.

The holy of holies is reverently withdrawn and placed on the scarred round table where I drank my teens away.

"Are replicas available?" I ask a priest.

"eBay," he says.

Supplicants jostle for a chance to touch the relic. Some, emboldened, actually kiss the sacred rim.

OK, OK, I touched it, but that's all, because I know how sports people get--an apprehension that turns out to have some validity: Toronto Maple Leafs player Red Kelly once put his infant son, Conn, into the bowl for a photo opportunity.

"Conn did the whole load in the cup," Kelly later admitted. "He did everything. That's why our family always laughs when we see the players drinking champagne out of the Stanley Cup!"

"Ooh, I wanna touch it," a gal says.

"Are you swooning?" I ask.

"I am swooning," she says.

"It's very phallic," says another.

"Ten or 15 minutes, we do have to take it out," says the priest.

The time for the holy grail to continue its travels is nigh. Amid misty, spectral illumination, the relic is returned to the ark of the Canuck and vanishes out into the world.

Moments later, some of the priests return and crawl on the floor, searching. Apparently, the grail has lost its phone.

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