This blog post is SO late, but I decided to write it using March Madness—the NCAA Basketball tournament as a clever metaphor. Then two #2 seeded teams were beaten by two #15 seeded teams, something that has NEVER happened in the history of the tournament and I realized that the unexpected in a college basketball tournament is more than a clever metaphor—it is a laboratory of contemporary life.
“March Madness” is an interesting distraction that has evolved into a significant American culture athletic mega-event. It is about student-athletes, college-university economics, race, socio-economic class distinction, regional politics, basketball data crunching, and always the impact of the unexpected in a single game of “amateur” basketball. The event has created its own glossary—bracketology and “Cinderellas” and endless systems and methods of picking the actual brackets—winners and losers—of the tournament. Even the President of the United States dives into the strange process of explaining and defending his choices.
Religious thinkers do not really need me to draw out the analogies from the previous paragraphs to understand how many “real-life” experiences can be pulled out of March Madness, but the events of the last two weeks—the actual grizzly painful events, not the curious distractions of two bracket busting #2 seeds loosing to #15 seeds—the college basketball tournament offers us a momentary haven where we can communally weep in horror at how often and suddenly life stops us while we are in the midst of living.
We need to stop long enough and very quietly share with each other in our very broken and highly politically polarized communities that even now in the midst of our overly divisive discourse, the wanton vulgar murder of children will still stop us all. We need to acknowledge that there is a shared communal unstated horror that nothing, absolutely nothing will or should excuse nor justify the intentional murder of children. There is shared gasp of disgust at how cruel humans can become is an essential moral and religious foundation.
As a white man living in America, I stand shamefully and listen as African American parents gasp in a chorus of communal indictment—our sons are at risk in a country that refuses to control its handguns! We are now tortured specters of how of our decisions as a country to permit people to carry and use weapons to defend themselves with little or no standard to protect the safety of innocent people.
By the time this blog is posted the Final Four will be determined and millions of people will be determining just how badly their brackets were actually busted, two #2 seeds loosing during the first week made this a fascinating tournament, but in the end you might still have been able to choose the final champion. Happenstance does sometimes explain how one can choose a winner even when their brackets are busted! Millions of people will have spent thousands of hours trying to defy the unknowns of single games of basketball, all as a diversion—an annual distraction.
Joseph A Edelheit—Director of Religious and Jewish Studies, St Cloud State University