Friday, March 18, 2011

Ugh--a night of basketball rooting

Last night throughout the state of Minnesota boys basketball teams played in sectional finals. I was most interested in two games—Worthington versus Marshall and Plainview versus Rochester Lourdes. I grew up in Worthington and served the Presbyterian church for 16 years in Plainview, so I was rooting for both of those teams.

I found the Worthington game via the Marshall radio station on the Internet. I turned the game on with Worthington ahead by seven and with about five minutes left. With such a lead I was thinking about how I could arrange my schedule next week to watch the Trojans in the State Tournament. But as any long-time fan knows chickens cannot be counted before they are hatched. Marshall rallied, Worthington took the lead, Marshall went ahead, Worthington tied the game, Marshall scored with four seconds in the game—Worthington lost.

I haven’t followed Worthington all year and don’t know any of the players on the team, but suddenly I was despondent. How can listening to a team lose a game half a state away bring out such sadness?

I went upstairs to visit with my family, and couldn’t help think about the Plainview game. They have been rated #1 in the state all year in class 2A. The only game they lost all year was to Osseo—a 4A team that has consistently been rated in the top five of class 4A. I was certain that Plainview would win. I was already thinking about watching them at the State Tournament next week and hoping they would be playing for the state championship on Saturday. I couldn’t find the game, but noticed a Facebook post by a youth from the church I served in Plainview. He said he was losing his voice by screaming his lungs out. That surprised me. I wasn’t expecting any suspense in the game. I asked the score. He gave the score, but didn’t write who had won. I found the Rochester Post-Bulletin web site on my I-Phone. The Rochester paper gleefully had already shared the shocker—Lourdes had beaten Plainview.

This morning I woke up to read via Facebook that my sister had sat by the radio listening to Redwood Valley play Windom in the sectional finals. My sister is not at all a sports fan, but she posted updates on my wall. First overtime, second overtime, third overtime, and finally a fourth overtime. Redwood Valley won in an upset. Even she—who quite possibly hasn’t seen a game in person all year—wrote that she could hardly bear the suspense.

These dramas are being played out right now in every state in high school basketball and in the NCAA I, II, and III tournaments. The agony and passion matches whatever is showing right now at the Guthrie. The suspense is irresistible.

We leaders in the church can learn lessons from this fandom. Until we can communicate the suspense and drama of faith we will continue to look at empty chairs in our sanctuaries while gymnasiums are packed.

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