It all started yesterday. The Sunday I’d been waiting for. The night we discovered what the future will hold.
Selection Sunday. March Madness begins.
It might sound ridiculous, but I can’t talk about the tourney without mentioning Holy Week. Every three years or so the tourney overlaps with the culmination of our church year. And who hasn’t snuck out of Good Friday services to catch the games at the nearest sports bar? On those afternoons, at the bar decked out in my Sunday best, I can’t help but notice the connections between March Madness and the build up to Easter. Here’s six examples:
- Surprise of the Resurrection: What’s more surprising, finding an empty tomb or VCU in the Final Four?
- Sorrows into Joys: The heartbreaking disappointments of last year are no more. We all get another chance to dance in joy. (Blue Devils, I’m looking in your direction).
- Upper Room: Like the disciples, we hide ourselves away and huddle together in a room, not knowing what will come next. And Lord knows you don’t want to be the one guy at work when George Mason takes down UConn. Yeah, Thomas, I wouldn’t believe them either.
- Casting Lots: Romans cast lots for a shot at Jesus’ seamless garment. We scribble in brackets casting our bets for 3 billion dollars each year.
- Waiting on the Sabbath: Just as the disciples had to wait out Saturday before they could check on Jesus Sunday morning, the NCAA makes us wait three days between rounds.
- Culmination of History: Obviously, the regular season sets the stage for the tourney. But each March is years in the making. Can you imagine Gonzaga’s last decade of success without the magical elite eight run of 1999? How about UNC’s recent strength without the 2003 hiring of coach Roy Williams? It’s not just the choices of the players on the rosters that have led us here. Teams owe their presence to generations of players and coaches and administrators all the way back to the invention of the game. Just as the Incarnation fulfills the potential of God’s covenant with the Jewish people, March Madness fulfills the potential of James Naismith’s genius.
Crazy and unlikely connections? Sure, but if Easter really is the center of our faith then I guess it’s no surprise that I can’t look at anything–even college sports–without seeing the Easter mysteries.