Wineskins Archive

January 21, 2014

Cheers: A Minister’s Fantasy Ending (Apr 1993)

Filed under: — @ 2:08 pm and

by Mike Cope
April, 1993

11When I visited Boston last year, there was enough time for only rushed visits to the essential stops: Walden Pond, the Freedom Trail, Fenway, the battle sites, Harvard, and (of course) Cheers. It’s the only bar I’ve ever had my picture made in front of. (Such poses are discouraged in seminary.)

But somehow I felt like I knew the people inside—that I should be able to walk in and see Coach or Woody, Diane or Rebekah, Sam, Norm, Cliff, Frazier, Lilith, and Carla. For eleven years they’ve entered American homes with the inviting theme song asking, “Wouldn’t you like to get away?”

In many ways Cheers is a place many would like to get away to. In a recent column, Bob Greene tells of being in an airport corridor in Kansas City:

I heard the sound of laughter…. The laughter was coming from what seemed to be a bar/restaurant. I had a few minutes until my flight, so I went inside. The person laughing was a customer. He was talking to what seemed to be two men sitting at the bar with their backs toward me.

As I walked further, it became apparent that the two men being talked to by the customer were not humans. They were robots. Robots sitting at a bar—robots constructed and dressed to resemble characters from the television series “Cheers… This bar looked just like the bar in “Cheers.” The man who was talking to the robots seemed to be having a swell time. I asked him why he had come in. “I don’t know,” he said, a smile on his face. “It just reminded me of home.”

And because “Cheers” is like the home many people would like to have, there are similar life-like bars in St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Minneapolis, Anchorage, and Christchurch, New Zealand.

But the time has come for the award-winning series to end. The original set will be moved to the Smithsonian.

My fantasy is that NBC comes back in mid-summer with one last episode in which Jesus Christ walks down the familiar stairs, strolls through the door, and has a seat on the barstool adjacent to Norm. (Keep in mind, this is one minister’s fantasy. The chances of this being the writers’ selection for the final episode are rather, um, slim.)

I can’t help but wonder: What would he say to Norm? First, I think he might commend him for his fierce loyalty. Even though Norm is a willing accomplice, if not organizer, to any prank, he is still a loyal friend. Perhaps Jesus would tell him about some of his friends—people who often seemed clueless as to what his real mission was—their experiences together.

Second, I think Jesus might commend Norm for his sense of humor. Everyone is funny at cheers: Sam for his one-track mind, Carla for her barracuda barbs, Cliff for his mastery of trivial pursuit, and Woody and Coach for their kindergarten minds. But Norm is the clown, the master of one-liners.

“Norm, what’s going down?” “My buns on this barstool—pass me a beer.”

“Hey Norm, what are you up to?” “My perfect weight if I was eleven feet tall.”

“Norm, how’s the world treating you?” “Like a baby treats its diaper. Where are the beer nuts?”

“What do you say to a cold one, Norm?” “It’s a dog-eat-dog world and I’m wearing milkbone underwear. Toss me a beer.”

Jesus could appreciate this sense of humor, I think. After all, he threw in a line now and then that would have made people chuckle.

But maybe he’d ask Norm what lies behind his humor. Some people—Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld come to mind—just are funny. But others use humor to cover deep reservoirs of pain: the cut-up in class who’s been stung by his parents’ divorce; the office clown who’s dying inside; the “life of the party” who’s thought many times about suicide.

This is where (in my script) Jesus would tell Norm he seems to be running from something. It could be from his marriage to Vera or from his job where he’s always having to be bossed and belittled (when he’s employed). Or maybe he’s running from a world where the ideal man is thin and fit, while Norm is, well, “proportionally challenged.” Perhaps this is why he keeps escaping to his barstool, his beer, and his buddies, to a place where “everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” Cheers is a place where you can be a failure and it’s all right.

And there are two messages I think Jesus would have for Norm (and the others). The first is that God accepts you just as you are. Your body may not be proportioned right, your marriage may be in shambles, you may be confused about your sexual identity, you may be guilty of unconscionable sins. But God desperately loves you. God doesn’t measure people with the same standards that society uses. Jesus might explain that the very reason he came was because God is eager to receive people who are “failures” in one or more areas of their lives.

The second message would be that your life can have a purpose. There’s more to life than downing a mug of beer and a bowl of beer nuts. God wants to place you with another group where they can know your name and always be glad you came. This group of dreamers is formed around the belief that they are continuing the ministry of Jesus Christ—a ministry that taps into the eternal desires of God.

My episode would end with two sentences on the screen:

“If you are Norm, keep an eye out for Jesus Christ.”

“If you know Jesus Christ, keep an eye out for Norm.”Wineskins Magazine

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