The Evidence of Things Not Seen
I've been used to thinking of Gonzaga University as a tier three law school (which is it), but this winter and early spring, it has also been a basketball force to be reckoned with.
I've been slowly getting my feet wet in the sports world, not pushing myself too hard. Basketball is hard for me, I can't tell which shots are worth more points, and I'm distracted by the squeakiness of the players' shoes. As February came to a close, I would have had to have been living under a rock to not be aware of how great Gonzaga (or the Zags, as we affectionately refer to them) was doing.
It was contagious.
When I bought my car, it came with a Gonzaga decal which is located (unfortunately) right over the rear defrost strips on my window. Even though I have no affiliation with Gonzaga, it sure looks like I do. During this time, I got a lot of nods, thumbs up and "Go Zags!"
Everywhere I went, people were wearing Zags gear. Facebook was covered with news about each game (from a wide range of people). The local newspaper sent out "Go Zags" signs and people had them up in their windows, or on their front doors. Businesses used their signs to wish the Zags good luck.
I began to follow the games. I got excited and started talking about it with people, because it's exciting to be number one, especially for a town that has no major league sports teams. The Zags are our boys.
My copy of Sports Illustrated came, complete with a front page picture of the Zags (some of you are trying to figure out if you read that sentence about me getting Sports Illustrated correctly, yes, yes you did).
Then, we played a game against Wichita. After work, I went to a sports bar to watch the game with my dad. It was close, too close, and we were behind too often. As it happened, we were behind at the crucial moment: when the game ended.
Stunned, we, the fans, left the bar. In an instant, our number one team had been asked to step out of the dance. What would we do now? What would we talk about? For weeks we had been stopping people in #1 t-shirts and Zag hoodies in grocery stores to crow triumphantly. All this success had created a community.
This is my first real March Madness, and I waited to see what would happen next.
After a while, I noticed that the signs were still in my neighbors' windows, the local businesses had not removed their tributes and well wishes, people still wore their Gonzaga gear. It reminded me, a little, of the way that Christmas lights stay up, long after Christmas is over. Eventually, those lights will be forward thinking, something you don't have to hang like everyone else does in the midst of falling snow.
I am still learning about what it means to be a sports fan, and this March has taught me something about that, and about faith. The signs, the gear, the stickers and deposit checks written for season tickets are an investment: they are an expression of faith. Gonzaga will not play basketball more this season, but they will play next season. Our time is not right now, but it will come.
I think that this is another thing that I, as a Christian, can learn from the world of sports. Sometimes, things do not look good: they end, they change, they fail. Sometimes I take this to heart. I forget to keep wearing my faith, the evidence of things unseen, even in the face of present defeat.