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View from the 'ville
Thursday, 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 Pirate.

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, either.

"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 NCAA Tournament.

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 sunscreen, Coach.

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."

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 12:33:54 AM


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