Blog: Bingo Was His Name-o

Burt Ross

The problem with being housebound for too long is that you start to imagine things. I might have been hallucinating the other night when I turned on my television set only to see what seemed to be Matthew McConaughey playing virtual bingo with the residents of a senior citizens facility outside of Austin, Texas.

“I-24, I-24,” the superstar cries out soon to be followed by, “Richard Pletsch is waving the hammer up high.” Then I hear the Lincoln man shout out, “We got Charles King in the iPad up high. We got two winners!” The participants seemed to be having an absolutely wonderful time, so hats off to McConaughey for making people laugh during this pandemic.

My limited experience with bingo was anything but wonderful. When I ran for Mayor of Fort Lee at the ripe old age of 28, I had a brilliant idea to campaign in the basement of the Madonna Church on Wednesday night, better known as bingo night.

I got there and it might as well have been a senior citizens facility.  Almost all of the participants were elderly women, and not one of them was smiling. They were  playing for money and concentrating as if they were chess grand masters. Many of them were playing with several cards, and it didn’t take me long to realize that unlike Matthew’s audience, these women were deadly serious.

I made the unforgivable mistake of interrupting one of these ladies, “Hi, my name is Burt Ross and I’m running for Mayor.” I reached out my hand, but rather than being greeted with something resembling reciprocity, she gave me a dirty look and quickly returned to her business at hand.

In the Catholic Church, sins come in two basic types: mortal sins that imperil your soul and venial sins, which are less serious breaches of God’s law. There seemed to be little doubt among those gathered in the depths of Madonna Church that I was committing a mortal sin by interfering with their bingo game. I had gone into the lion’s den, but sometimes going into the lion’s den is not an especially brilliant move.

Not a single parishioner shook my hand, and although I won the election in a landslide, the one group I did not win over were Catholic women over 60. I have a sneaking feeling though that had I looked like Matthew McConaughey, I might have gotten a few of them to shake my hand.