Faith Matters: Here’s what March Madness can teach us about disappointment and hope

Animator recreates Michigan’s March Madness buzzer-beater with Legos

Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beater that sent Michigan past Houston to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in 2018 has been recreated with Lego by an Idaho-based stop-motion animator.
Up Next
Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beater that sent Michigan past Houston to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in 2018 has been recreated with Lego by an Idaho-based stop-motion animator.

I get excited every March. I think most Americans do, as they anticipate spring’s arrival.

But since spring here in Florida is about as noticeable as the difference between tan and khaki, March Madness and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tend to monopolize my excitement for a few weeks.

My alma mater Furman University last went to the Big Dance in 1980. Of course, that same year Furman already had been upstaged by U.S.A. hockey’s Miracle on Ice at the Winter Olympics, so not too many remember the feat.

Strangely enough, I also moved away from Greenville, S.C., the same year, leaving many to ponder this strange coincidence. Perhaps too little too late, for even returning 15 years later to enroll, the curse — make that drought — has continued to this day.

And so every subsequent year since joining the proud Paladin nation, my excitement drops to disappointment during this season. Much like Janis Joplin, I continue to offer up another a little piece of my heart.

You probably don’t understand how this works, and I don’t expect that of you — unless you’re a college sports fan who matriculated from a smaller school that lacks national attention.

But this year seemed different than others. We were ranked in the Top 25. Furman scores flashed on the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen. In January, the ESPN hosts referred to Furman as one of the last unbeaten teams. With wins over two of the Final Four teams from the previous year, including 2017-18 champion Villanova, I thought we would receive the coveted but elusive invitation.

Bisons at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas, work on their passing skills during March Madness.

And then came their loss in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament on Sunday. Most likely that means millions of Americans will not get to watch the good guys in purple or learn the answer to this question: What is a Paladin?

Maybe next year? Or maybe the committee will read this and its heartstrings will get a tug or two? Or perhaps their win against Villanova will open up the committee’s eyes to true small-college greatness?

If only disappointments happened once a year and not daily. If only disappointments stayed on this trivial level. If only others didn’t disappoint us, fall short of our dreams, wishes and expectations for them. If only we didn’t disappoint others just as much.

I often use the word “hope” quite flippantly. I “hope” that Furman will eventually punch its ticket to the tourney. I “hope” they make season 2 of whatever Netflix show I liked — or at least my wife stayed awake for.

Hope becomes tantamount to wishing.

But the Bible uses the term “hope” as a tangible certainty that leaves no room for disappointment. In a previous New International Version translation of Romans 5:5, Paul writes, “… hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

Hope that doesn’t disappoint. That’s what we need.

I tend to get over my Paladinian disappointment fairly quickly once the NCAA Tournament finally commences. The tournament is so much bigger and glorious than my dreams, fame or even my school’s glory.

We’ve probably all been disappointed by a church in our lifetime. I know I have.

But when a church gathers each week to tell the grand story of the gospel, our hearts collide with something bigger.

The story of redemption overwhelms our short-sighted dreams and our disappointment goes its appropriate way. We come to a time and a place, a when and a where we can dream with other equally disappointed folks.

C.S. Lewis once claimed that our desires end up disappointing us not because they are too big, but because they are too small. The weekly rhythm of gathering together with your church family to redirect your wishes, and replace those with a certain hope, can truly alter the trajectory of your week.

We can walk in a hope that never disappoints.

Contact Pastor Geoff Henderson at or follow him on Twitter @theapostleGH. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Bradenton Herald written by local clergy members.

Related stories from Bradenton Herald