The Devil paid me a visit this week, and I didn’t wind up handling the encounter all that well.
I say “The Devil,” but it was actually more like the Blue Devils – the men’s basketball team at Duke University, which has reigned atop the sport for more decades than I care to recall.
Not that I’m jealous or anything.
As an ardent (and long-suffering) fan of the SLU Billikens, this is the prime time of year for certain disordered affections of mine to rise to the fore. It’s the season of March Madness, you see…a week before Selection Sunday, when the tourney brackets are revealed. And I know that more often than not, I’ll wind up licking my wounds as the Bills are kicked to the curb by the game’s power-brokers once again.
Because here’s the deal: while a Duke team with a sketchy resumé may get the benefit of the doubt in any given season, the Billikens NEVER do: My guys typically have to beat down the door in order get their ticket punched to the Big Dance.
As a rule, this is a lament I save for Selection Sunday. Alas, this year, the power-brokers couldn’t even wait a week to rub our noses in it.
The latest indignity? Saturday afternoon, the Billikens were putting the finishing touches on a big win versus VCU. But we Billiken fans didn’t get to see it. ESPN pulled the plug during the game’s final possession, and switched the audience to the scene in Durham, NC – so they could broadcast the pre-game festivities at Duke.
“Bedeviled?” That’s putting it mildly. I was fit to be tied when I witnessed ESPN’s utter lack of respect for my guys and their impressive victory. Almost instantly, a sweet “W” turned sour on my lips. I couldn’t savor the moment. I was too busy plotting my (admittedly pointless) protest against the basketball powers-that-be.
Amazing, isn’t it, how seductive the notion of “power” can be? And the Devil surely knows this (the ACTUAL Devil, not those loathsome wannabes who play basketball in Durham, NC). That’s what I found myself meditating upon, when I encountered the gospel reading for the First Sunday in Lent.
Power feels like it ought to be a good thing, right? Who doesn’t want to stake out a place on top of the heap?
But it’s probably worth noting who the Gospel tells us is power’s principal promoter in our broken world:
The devil said to [Jesus], “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish.”
So now I am left to consider whether the mavens at ESPN actually did me a favor. Sure, they pulled the plug on my Billikens yesterday afternoon, perhaps with malice aforethought. But in the process, they’ve given me the chance to think a bit more deeply about whose company I desire to keep in these coming weeks of Lent.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.