Selection Time!

by | Mar 12, 2013 | Papal Election

This week there will be millions of faithful who will be waiting with bated breath on Facebook, twitter, and other social media as the selection is revealed … and no, we’re not talking about NCAA Selection Sunday. Within a few days, we should have a new pope. While the conclave will proceed in secrecy except for the twice-daily puffs of smoke from a chimney set up on the Sistine Chapel, imagine the possibilities if the Church took its cue from the ramp-up to March Madness. We could milk the papal election process for all it’s worth.

Here’s the top 5 things the Church should steal from Tourney Time.

5. Big Head Posters. Don’t know the top contenders for the Papacy? Think Urkel, Chuck Norris, or Psy (Gagnam Style) should be Pope? Or, you want to display your support of Dolan, O’Malley or other candidates?  A glut of Big Head Posters in front of St. Peter’s Square or outside of local basilicas and churches might liven up the local and international debate. Don’t know the history of the Big Heads? Check out this article by Sports Illustrated’s George Dohrmann. These Big Head posters are found at virtually every NCAA game and are used by fans as support and distraction.

4. Flash Mob in Front of St. Peter’s Square. With the Church sometimes feeling stretched in different directions, we might benefit from the unity to be found in a flash mob. At the February 16th Maryland-Duke basketball game, the Terps fans demonstrated the power of the crowd, and helped Maryland upset #2-at-the-time Duke.

If it can do that for a mid-level Basketball team, what might it do for the Church?

3. Bracketology. Millions of dollars are exchanged and lots of work-productivity is lost each March because of office pools. And yet, it galvanizes a people. Imagine if there was a bracket seeding to introduce, rank and seed candidates. CBS’s Greg Gumbel could host it, and we could see initial reactions to the seedings of various candidates. Nothing motivates Americans more to learn about something than when money is involved. So many people would learn the process, the odds, the histories of past popes, the histories of current candidates, membership growth trends and Church issues worldwide. We might even be able to suggest a portion of the winnings go to Sunday’s collection basket.
In fact, it turns out that Busted Halo’s beaten us to the punch.

Papal Madness by Busted Halo. Copyright 2013

Place your bets.

2. Gus Johnson. Think that Church business is a little too serious? No emotion or joy? Have this guy announce the election process. (To get the full effect, turn the volume UP!)

1. “One Shining Moment.” Luther Vandross, God rest his soul, wrote this song for CBS’s March Madness coverage over 25 years ago. I still get choked up every time I see it. Couldn’t we do the same montage for the elected pope? It shows the sacrifice, celebration, joy, pain, and elation of the process. It would remain a classic for years to come.

As much as this would bring viewership to the selection, its bawdiness (and for others, obnoxiousness) might not communicate the reverence, solemnity and discernment involved in selecting the next leader of the Church. The Holy Spirit’s got enough work to do in the conclave without having to struggle with a bracket on top of the rest of it. Or, God forbid, we could try to clone a sports-based playoff and end up with something like the BCS system. On second thought, let’s stick with the tried-and-true system of ballots and smoke.

I would, however, like to offer my favorite and dark horse to be the next pope (despite the disrespect he got from Busted Halo and other media outlets)….

Dick Vitale. It’d be Awesome, Baby. With a capital A!


Cover photo of “Pope Butterworth III” by Joe_Focus via Flickr.


Jeff Sullivan, SJ   /   All posts by Jeff