It is here—March.
In the United States, unless you live under a rock, or have the mental fortitude to blockout all of the media coverage and hype, this means college basketball. March Madness is the pursuit of winning the national championship. This madness is not for the faint-hearted. Having ice water in your veins is helpful.
Having grown up in Burlington, North Carolina, basketball, and the original framework of the Atlantic Coast Conference are imprinted in my heart. In terms of team allegiance, lets just say that I lean toward the North Carolina based team whose uniforms are the darker shade of blue.
As a fan, I have mellowed.
When I was a kid, if the darker shade of blue team lost to that sky blue team, I was a mess. I was beyond a poor sport. Anger, tears, mean excuses abounded.
As a mellowed adult, if the darker shade of blue team lost to that sky blue team, I was a mess. I was beyond a poor sport. Vicious, unflattering, non-Sunday school words were hurled at the TV set.
It took me a while to figure out that the players, coaches, officials, and commentators could not hear my frustrations and recommendations. But my brilliant wife, the Commander Supreme, pointed out to me that our children could.
So, at some point, I watched college basketball games with duct tape across my mouth. Now, that’s not true. However, I did for my sanity and the sanity of the family make an adjustment.
I started following games from a distance by periodically checking game progress on my computer in the basement where I write. I’m sure the TV in our den appreciated my departure. At this point, my computer hasn’t filed any complaints with the Commander Supreme. As I mentioned earlier I have mellowed.
March Madness is also famous for those circumstances that cause a team to be derailed. Only the basketball gods can explain the unexpected slaying of a giant team by the Davids of college basketball. When a power house team falls, that only adds to the madness of March basketball.
However, college basketball has some other pennies on its tracks that have the potential to really derail the game.
From my small mind, many of the challenges in college basketball are tied to money.
Recruiting of players-money, one and done players-money, admission scandals—money, contracts for coaches-money, lucrative TV contracts-money, shoe contracts-money, financial gain for the school—money, honesty, values, integrity, ethics, decency— thrown under the train—money.
Maybe, March Madness should take a year off so that the pennies on the tracks can be cleaned up. That will never happen—money.
Maybe, a different final four could be held.
Take a year off from the traditional madness.
Let the four division one NCAA teams who have never made it into the 64 team tournament play for the national championship. Or even better, let the four teams with the highest graduation rates play, or the four teams who have the most seniors. Nice ideas, but will never happen—money.
While I’m sure this 2019 edition of March Madness will consume us, and for sure someone’s favorite team will be derailed, life continues, or does it?
A derailed person created a worse type of madness in New Zealand this week as he murdered 49 peaceful people who were worshiping in a Mosque.
Back on Sunday, March 3, the madness of a powerful tornado ripped through Lee County, Alabama killing 23 people and destructively derailing several communities.
Two days later, Tuesday, March 5, a derailment was brewing at the Sherbourne Food Pantry. Their shelves were bare. Food was needed for Wednesday’s distribution to their clients. Our church was sent an urgent SOS.
On Sunday, March 10, a dear friend notified me that one of their children who has been valiantly battling substance abuse challenges— derailed. He was charged with a DWI in the college town where he attends school.
March is mad.
But in truth, March is no madder than any other month. Human madness along with its derailments persist year round, not just in March.
A basketball team can endure the last intense seconds of a game and hang on for a win.
At the exact same time a basketball team is hanging on for a win, somewhere in the world a human being is barely hanging on hopeful for a different type of victory.
If you were in that New Zealand mosque, maybe you were better at playing “opossum” during the mad rampage than the person beside you.
In Alabama, maybe the solid construction of a house allowed a family a place to hold on as the fierce winds of the tornado battered everything in its path.
Maybe the clients at the Sherbourne food pantry were able to feed their families on Wednesday night because some good hearts from a sister church brought in food.
Maybe the young college student with the DWI will realize his parents do love him as they keep hanging on for him.
On Saturday morning, the Commander Supreme and I drove over to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. We walked the grounds looking for signs of spring’s encroachment. We were not disappointed.
As I attempt to improve my rapidly aging green thumb, I continue to be impressed with helleborus orientalis, you know Lenten roses.
Somehow these perennials survive everything Mother Nature tosses at them—heat, cold, drought, dampness, even an incompetent green thumb.
Lenten roses are survivors on a bleak winter landscape. They are the first to tell us with their pastel blooms—it’s ok, winter is fading, spring is approaching.
No one is immune from being derailed in life.
When life derails us, there is a very real question asked in 2 Kings 6:33: “Why should I hope in the Lord any longer?”
In all honesty, I’ve had those points in my life when I have asked the same question.
I’m not sure why, but no matter how frustrated the entanglement of my life with the world becomes, I will hold on to hope.
Holding on to hope means while I am one, I’m not done.
If a Lenten rose can be a mark of strength, endurance, perseverance, survival and hope why can’t I?
That means making myself available to offer support for anyone whose derailment in life has left them clinging with their last pinkie for hope.
Enjoy your journey into March Madness. I wish your team the best.
But don’t forget in the madness of this world, someone is down to their last pinkie hold.
They need our hope.