The Spirituality of March Madness: Grace and Dwayne Wade
Thanks to Vincent Strand, SJ the author of "A Jesuit Confesses His Love for March Madness and NCAA Basketball," I no longer feel the need to fend off questions like "Does God care who wins the Super Bowl?" No, I now have a valuable resource in my pocket, an ace in the hole. Not only is it a witty and yet meaningful reflection on the significance of the NCAA tourney, it captures what my class Sports and Spirituality is really about. Here's how, here's why.
Strand, an alum of Marquette University, begins the piece by quoting the legendary Al McGuire who won a national season while coaching his final year for the Eagles (1977). His words are confusing. He writes "Al had said 'God didn't miss any of us'." Not only did I not know who Al was, I had no idea why he—or anyone—would say that. As one of my colleagues says all the time, "Confusion is the first step toward real learning." I read on.
Strand's hook arrives early—as a student at Marquette who loved what he was studying, but loved the Golden Eagles even more (thank you, Dwayne Wade). He writes of the the conflict most sports fans can understand. "I wanted to set out on a contemplative journey to God and to watch March Madness, and I saw no way of doing both." The good news folks, is that through the lived example of his professor, "a paradigmatic old-school Jesuit" he realized he should, would and could.
His teacher decided to speak and teach about basketball in a new way. He said, "I remember something my old professor said to us the day after Marquette punched its ticket to the Final Four in 2003: “The experience you are having cannot be reductively explained by the effect of a ball going through a hoop. No, something else, something beyond the material—dare I say, something transcendent—is at play.” This experience offered Strand an understanding of grace, one that is not mystical, poetic or idyllic. He states "God is found in the interstices, I tell my spiritual directees. That is, in the nooks and crannies and the spaces between. In the gaps, the breaks, the areas where things just don’t line up."
This grace accounts for the agony of defeat AND the thrill of victory. Not either/or. No, this Grace is both/and. I get it when he states "(four game) losing streaks will cause you to question just about everything: pick-and-roll defense, your star guard's usage rate, the spiritual principles that orient your life." In those raw moments, the reality of sport and of spirituality are equal bedfellows. I too will have to speak to my maker about my inordinate attachments (all things ND). And, to read "the experience you are having cannot be reductively explained by the effect of a ball going through a hoop. No, something else, something beyond the material—dare I say, something transcendent—is at play" captures what the madness, the frenzy, and the fanaticism is all about. I really do believe on the seventh day, God said "let's play two!"
Strand reminds all of us who seek, that we shall find. He found a vocation with the Society of Jesus and a deeper understanding of what March Madness—and its spirituality—does to us and for us. It's a great insight into all we can learn from studying Sport AND Spirituality and the relationship between the two.....All sports fans can benefit from this reflection. Enjoy
Post a Comment