Faith and Basketball

Image- Sonnett via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

For the past few months we haven’t had ESPN in the house, but we just called to re-up. Each year about this time, my family repents from our baseball-induced backsliding even as we genuflect to that marker of faith that millions across the country recognize: the start of college basketball season. For a guy who graduated from the University of Kentucky, there’s really only one team for me to root for, although I love the talent and passion found throughout college athletics.

This year, it seems, is the Kentucky Wildcats’ year to add to their top-of-the-heap championship haul. The recruiting class has been hailed as the best of all time — which doesn’t mean they’re the best team of all time. It doesn’t even mean that they’ll win a championship, or, like some are saying, go undefeated (too late for that). No, having the best recruiting class of all time certainly doesn’t mean any of that. It also doesn’t mean that Kentucky deserved its preseason number one ranking or that head coach John Calipari is a brilliant coach.

It just means that these kids were really good high school basketball players, and they’ve only just played their first college game. It also means that there are millions of people who have placed their faith in this group of 18-year-olds. And I’m one of them.

I’m not saying that this kind of faith is the “blind leap off a cliff” version that often passes as faith. Too often, our culture looks at faith as the antithesis of critical thought and rationality, and that’s too bad. Faith, at its best, requires a human being to take in all the reality that can be taken in. People who have faith require fact and sensory acuity. It requires an active mind and imagination. Faith can’t possibly get along with just a blindfold and crossed fingers. Faith requires as much of the world as we can possibly drink in.

And then it requires one more thing: a step. We can’t possibly have faith without responding to it. Faith is an active effort toward reality. It’s what makes a guy like me call my cable company for ESPN.

When the Bible says that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” it doesn’t limit faith to something only spiritual. Faith is a real-life exercise in living because we rarely ever have all the facts. The “conviction of things not seen” requires all people — whether they’re religious or not — to see beyond sensory fact into the realm of hope. Since faith requires conviction, perhaps we can claim that it also requires evidence.

We almost never know everything about a scenario, so we enter that world of “things hoped for,” where evidence stops and action begins. You know, like the beginning of college basketball season.

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