EDMOND â€” Father John Metzinger knew something wasn't quite right when the new associate pastor moved in at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
â€œI brought all my orange clothes to the rectory,â€ said Father Dan Letourneau. â€œI think Father realized I was an OSU person.â€
Right then it was on, a House (of the Lord) Divided.
The Edmond priests share the faith and the word and the bread, yet no common ground when it comes to Bedlam.
Father John: â€œI gave you a condolence card once. â€˜Sorry for your loss.' I don't remember which one that was after.â€
Father Dan: â€œI don't either, there's been so many. I haven't enjoyed an OSU victory as a priest. I've seen it happen, but not as a priest.â€
With Father John â€” last names are far too formal at St. John's â€” his Sooner spirit developed during 16 1/2 years in Norman, including 11 as the pastor at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, where none other than Bob and Mike Stoops were parishioners. When Father John can break free from church responsibilities to attend a game, he's on the list for tickets through Stoops' office.
â€œI got to know coach a little bit,â€ said Father John, who was born in Kansas and grew up in Joplin, Mo. â€œI think he's a great guy. I admire what he's done for the program. That's another reason to continue to be a fan today.â€
Father Dan was born in Ponca City and attended Oklahoma State, served as the drum major there from 1979-81 and played in the basketball pep band during the Paul Hansen era. Last January, he attended the Cotton Bowl with the grandparents of former Cowboys quarterback Zac Robinson, who also went to St. John's. Last week, he was pushing popcorn and hot dogs at a Gallagher-Iba Arena concession stand, working on a night off to benefit the OSU alumni band.
Talk about Live Orange.
So it was in Stillwater in the late '70s, when Letourneau was a scholarship music student attending the local Catholic church, St. John The Evangelist University Parish, where the late Reverend Bob Schlitt pushed God and the Pokes.
â€œI was his music director,â€ said Father Dan, â€œplayed the guitar at masses in Stillwater. He played the fight song, sold barbeque in front of the church.
â€œHe would wear orange. I do that, kind of thinking of him.â€
Both priests bare their allegiances proudly, which has livened things up a bit at St. John's.
Parishioners at the church are fully into the Bedlam bragging being waged beyond the pulpit.
One recent tradition involving the church's school, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, has featured a Bedlam food drive, with students donating food items as fans for either OU or OSU. To the winning side: the losing side's priest forced to wear the other team's color while working the lunch line.
For the first time this year, OSU won. Yet Father John couldn't quite bring himself to go full orange, opting instead for a gray t-shirt sporting the helmets of both teams.
â€œI said I would wear orange,â€ said Father John, â€œI didn't say I wouldn't wear red also.â€
There's a bit of a competition, too, when it comes to decorating the Christmas tree, with ornaments representing both sides strategically placed among the limbs.
Father Dan: â€œI have my Pistol Pete tree ornament that I bought at the student union. One year I slipped it on the Christmas tree when Father John wasn't looking. It went from down low to up high.â€
Father John: â€œHe kept putting it higher on the tree. He'll probably want Pete on top if they win.â€
Almost on cue each fall Sunday, at least at the masses led by the Bedlam priests â€” Father Long Phan, another associate priest at the parish, carries no allegiances â€” there are references to the previous day's games leading into each priests' sermons, whether at 7:30, 9 and 11:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m.
An at-ease moment of sorts, before breaking into the lessons of scripture.
â€œPeople just sort of expect it when you do it for a while,â€ said Father John. â€œOf course, you try not to show too much favoritism, or people say, â€˜Why don't you talk about my team?'
â€œIt's not a sports report. If you want a sports report, you read the paper. But just a little comment.â€
The playfulness of the priests has started something.
Fans of all schools, Cowboys and Sooners, but also Longhorns and Aggies and Cornhuskers and others, wear their own school's logo shirts and outerwear following big wins, particularly wins over OU and OSU.
â€œWhat's also been fun here is the Friday morning mass,â€ said Father Dan. â€œEverybody, if they want to, wears their college shirts. There's a couple of OSU gals who always sit in the first row, right in front of the pulpit.
â€œI've decided to let Father John say the mass and I'll wear my shirt and sit with them. We try to do the wave.â€
Said Father John: â€œA couple of weeks ago, I anticipated them and I brought my sunglasses. And just before I started to preach I said, â€˜I came prepared.' So I put on my sunglasses so I wouldn't be blinded by the orange.â€
It's even opened new lines of communication between parishioners and priests.
â€œHere, the fun part is to kind of skirmish with the OSU fans, especially this year,â€ said Father John. â€œThey've been doing a little more sparring, a little more trash talking than usual, anticipating a victory.
Would a priest return trash talk?
â€œI wouldn't put it that way, of course,â€ said Father John, before laughing a bit, â€œbut I make an occasional remark.â€
This is the week for it.
And there's some thought, with the Cowboys favored in the game, that this is the year for an OSU breakthrough.
Father John: â€œIt may be hard to contain him if it happens this year.â€
Father Dan: â€œIt's in the bible, â€˜The Lord is my shepherd, He leads me to still waters.' Psalm 23. Not our bible, butâ€¦ Should be on a t-shirt.â€
Father Long has been a godsend to St. John's, not only in helping to serve a large parish, but in filling gaps in Saturday schedules, like when two certain teams may be taking the field.
Serving the people comes first, of course.
â€œI've had people come to confession,â€ said Father Dan, â€œand say, â€˜Well, Father, they're up by seven.'â€
Still, when time allows, the Bedlam priests get out to see their squads.
They've watched the Bedlam game together â€“ once â€“ driving to Stillwater for the 2008 game, a 61-41 Sooner win.
Neither has tickets for this week's game, but if a pair might happen to fall their wayâ€¦
â€œI'll be up there in a second,â€ said Father Dan.
â€œOh, yeah,â€ said Father John.
Father Dan figures he'll go anyway, to tailgate parishioners who favor orange and maybe luck into a ticket.
After all, for a change, the vibes are good concerning the Cowboys.
They've got a better record. They're ranked higher. The game is in Stillwater.
â€œPeople have said, â€˜Boy, Father Dan is wearing his orange everywhere,'â€ said Father John. â€œI said, â€˜Well, you have to understand, for OSU fans, this kind of year doesn't come along very often. We've had these years before, but for OSU fans, this is a big deal.'â€
Smiles are exchanged across the table as he fires off one more subtle Bedlam jab. For both, clearly it's all in good fun.
When it comes to gifts, they frequently go for items of one another's favorite team.
Father John has given OSU jackets and sweatshirts; Father Dan has given books and framed pictures celebrating the Sooners.
â€œWe enjoy it,â€ said Father John. â€œFather Dan and I, at least as far as I know, we get along pretty well.
â€œThe reality is, while we both have our teams, and we're much happier when they win than when they lose, life does go on. It is just college football. But it's a lot of fun.â€