Everything is almost ready. At last. The largest church in the world sits dormant, but only for a a few hours–for this evening the world will experience the very reason for its existence.
Nothing will compare to this.
Entire counties of people will swoon, caught in the exhilaration of what can only be described as the most intense experience of their lives. And as the power consumes them, nothing will stand in their way: marriages will fall, money will be useless, and the logic of reasoning will never be more meaningless. For tonight, oh blessed night, North Carolina will play for a national title.
For a relatively non-involved observer, as this story can only be told, the resulting hysteria is one that the human mind can barely comprehend. Let us go back five months to the beginning of the season…a time so rich with expectations that you feel like you might explode trying to contain all of it. Because even though your team collapsed at the end of last season, you know that these same guys will never let that happen again…but why, you ask? Well, because in between now and then these players have taken an average of five classes each, and there is no way these guys are letting that academic experience go for naught. They have a transcript to protect. But even more than that, you know that these five enormous men are your five enormous men…it’s doubtful that even their own mamas love ’em more than you do. ‘Cause they’re your Tar Heels, baby, and you’ve got more emotion invested in them than anything else in else in your life. You even stopped donating to the American Red Cross each February because you felt the whole experience left you just a little too drained come tournament time. Good thing that is a worry of the past.
But tonight, as the lights click on and the court floods with the buzz of anticipation, you feel like this just might be the year it’s all worth it. That maybe you were right to name your kid Dean. That maybe no one will remember that you graduated from community college, not from the University of North Carolina…because at some point you can earn a degree just on love, right? Of course you can! And most of all, you finally think the world is actually a good place to live, and that God (the bitter Tar Heel fan that he is) has finally broken down and will let the guys win another one. I mean, come on…everyone knows that God is the master of creation, and would never reward a team with the most uncreative name in college basketball: the Illinois Illini.
So you get the trash talk lines ready (all of which are variations of something you originally heard in high school), electric with excitement and ready to paint the town blue. This is your night, baby! You change into your weakest pair of jeans, knowing that when the final horn sounds and Sean May bearhugs Jawad Williams, and it seems like they’re almost there, in your living room with you, you will leap off the couch and tear those jeans all the way down the back. And then you can laugh maniacally, hang them in the living room, and tell everyone who comes over that, “Yeah, see those pants right there? That was when we won it all, and I tore a crack in my ass I was so happy.” That story just never gets old. Never.
As for me, well, I wish I were part of this inner circle of 4.5 million Tar Heel fans (Georgia, by comparison, has 11 thousand nationwide). If only I could feel the joy of knowing a love greater than the world itself! Because even my love for Jack Bauer, felt as I watch him terminate people on “24”, just doesn’t feel enough on this night. I feel like an athiest at the most emotionally draining Pat Robertson speech ever.
But wait…an idea slowly creeps into the back of my mind. Yes…of course! Didn’t I just say that you can earn a degree based solely on love? Don’t I have a pair of blue jeans somewhere around here, just barely held together at the seams? And as the initial jump ball rises into the air–beautiful Jawad soaring toward it–I desperately beg God to help me decide what to do with this life he’s given me.
And as I wait and wait, I suddenly realize…of course he’s not listening. He’s already watching his boys play ball.