The upsets have begun. Norfolk State over Missouri, and my nephew’s alma mater Lehigh over Duke. I am not a sports fan. I actually envy my friends who get giddy over the start of the NASCAR season and who are excited to watch the Super Bowl for reasons other than the commercials. I like the rhythm of a sport’s fans year. Where my life revolves around the liturgical calendar—Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ordinary time—my husband’s clock is in tune with the opening pitch of baseball season, the first Patriot’s game, first flag drop at Daytona and the first faceoff on the ice. Then of course, there is the season every four years when all other time stops—the World Cup.
While I don’t share my spouse’s year-round enthusiasm for all things sport, there are two events that always pull me in—the Olympics and the NCAA basketball championship, otherwise known as March Madness.
Keep in mind that I have the advantage of not being emotionally connected to any one team, so I can enjoy the game for what it is—a game. I like the earnest and determined looks on the faces of the young players. I like that you never know what is going to happen. Once the bracket is up, any team has a shot at the win—even the ones who seem least likely to get past the first round.
Remember when no one had ever heard of Gonzaga or George Mason? And who can forget (certainly not anyone married to a Syracuse alum) the 2003 final when Jimmy Boeheim finally won a title? And how can you not love those UConn girls—even if their amazing run came to an end last year? (My father-in-law—a die-hard UConn fan—prefers to watch women’s basketball, because he says they play with much more finesse. He claims that the women are, in fact, better players than the men, who rely too much on power. )
March Madness is a great reminder that things don’t always turn out like we planned. The underdog can come from behind to win the day. An unknown like Carmello Anthony or Stephen Curry or even Michael Jordan can become a household name.
More importantly, March Madness, can be a time of gratitude that we do not live in a bracketed world. As children of God and followers of Christ, we are not in competition with one another. In fact, we should encourage and revel in one another’s victories. We have the gift of knowing when we drop the ball, we don’t blow the whole game. And when others drop the ball, we should extend to them the same grace and opportunity for a second chance that God has granted to us.
Even if you aren’t a basketball fan, you might check in on the madness. There will be some great stories unfold, and everyone loves a good story.
–Rev. Anne Russ