It seems almost inappropriate that March Madness take center stage while the world looks for an airplane and the Ukraine is missing part of herself. According to the American calendar, March Madness has begun. Allow me to point out that March Madness has arrived this year at just the right moment.
For the uninitiated, March Madness is basketball, any way you want to spell it. March Madness is THE tournament of the year, not just for Americans, but for fans around the world. Last year, I drank a beer next to a man from Greenland. He was cheering for, of all colleges, my college, Davidson. He had become a fan back when Stef Curry and the Cats made it to the Elite 8. At the same bar, I met another fan from Eastern Europe. He, too, was rooting for the Wildcats.
While some may contend football is the great unifier of the human race, I would suggest basketball comes closer to that goal. Let me risk everything by suggesting basketball is more a game of skill than football. No wonder basketball is gaining ground around the world, and especially in Russia. While President Putin has been making his moves on Crimea and while the search for Flight 370 continues, Putin has been keeping an eye on the NCAA brackets.
I have no doubt Putin has money down on some team, despite his political leanings. I won’t be surprised if Putin puts matters in neutral once the Big Dance heats up. Something tells me Putin and his fellow KGB agents once shot hoops somewhere off of Red Square back in the glory days of the Soviet Union. I picture Putin reliving those days every spring as the tournament begins. I picture Putin wishing he had taken his basketball more seriously, even to the point of defecting to America to accept a basketball scholarship.
What the world needs, what world leaders need is a distraction from the calculated madness we inflict upon ourselves when borders are violated and commercial airliners go missing. I nominate March Madness to be that distraction. March Madness reminds us of that great lesson of life: it isn’t about winning or losing.
It’s about how you play the game.
Gus Succop is pastor at Quail Hollow Presbyterian Church in Charlotte.