Interview with

Founder & Teacher,

Audio Transcript

Today is epic, Pastor John: It’s episode 300 of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast. Episode 100 was a little less epic. Episode 200 was pretty epic. But this is episode 300 and it’s truly epic, because today, the first round of March Madness begins in Dayton, Ohio, and Pastor John, here’s the question millions and millions of people around the world want to ask you right now: Why, oh why, do we love watching March Madness basketball?

Okay, I am the least likely person to say anything about college basketball, but here it goes. I had a good time with this question.

More than Other Sports?

And I even talked it over with my wife, and I will tell you what she said. I enjoy watching college basketball. Yes, I do. More than football, because there are no breaks between the plays, and the action is fast-paced. More than professional basketball, because their hearts seem to be in it more. More than baseball.

Oh, say it ain’t so, Joe!

I don’t want to offend you, Tony. I know you are a big baseball guy, but to me, that sport is just painfully slow. I have to admit, it is evidently the intelligent man’s sport. But I am not intelligent enough to be thinking deep thoughts about what might be coming with this pitch. And I am saying, “Come on, come on, come on! Get on with it!”

Four Reasons College Basketball Captivates

So anyway, I enjoy college basketball. Why? And I think I am probably typical in enjoying it. I am going to download the NCAA app, because last year I knew they had an app, and you could listen to every one of them free, unlike these crazy Olympic apps that don’t let you watch anything. I don’t have a television, and I want to watch, so there is the app that will let me peek in. Why do we like to watch this sport?

1. The skill displays God’s beauty.

First, we love to see great skill. It is a form of beauty. We are wired to enjoy beauty. That is the way God made us, mainly so we can enjoy his beauty and all of its refractions in creation. And there are refractions of his created beauty in college basketball. There is individual artistry and beauty in the dribbling and the shooting. We love to watch the phenomenal dribbling around the opposition that drives and finishes a smooth two points.

And, by the way, I don’t value dunking. I don’t like to watch dunking. To me dunking is not very artistic. It seems to be like it is mainly height and hulk whereas an artistic, smooth layup in an old traditional way has a lot more art about it than the smashing dunks from halfway down the court. It is pretty amazing, but it is just not as artistic.

And there is team beauty — not just individual, but team beauty — when a defense is simply impregnable, or an offense maneuvers so beautifully successfully. It looks like one single organism. And then the best of all is when the individual and the team combine so that the players shine at their peak performances, but they are actually serving the coordinated effort of the team. So all of that beauty falls under what I would say is the reason we like that sort of thing — the beauty of art, the artistic skill of players and teams. This is a God-given ability, and it points the way to the way God is in his abilities. He is beautiful in his skill-giving wisdom.

2. College basketball illuminates endurance.

Here is a second one: I enjoy and admire endurance. I love to watch sports that require enormous endurance. I love perseverance in real life — people that do something through thick and thin for decades and accomplish much by little steps, you know, like chopping down a huge, thousand-year-old tree with a little, teeny axe because you hacked at it every day for fifty years. That is a glorious thing for me. So I love endurance, and I love sports that keep men running or working like the Tour de France or soccer or basketball that just keeps going. They run and they run and they run till they drop.

I mean, I’ve played enough basketball and enough soccer to know this is incredible. Or biking for two weeks at hundreds of miles a day. I mean, I just stand in awe because I admire perseverance in every legal sphere, especially in the relationship with God where we have to persevere every day.

3. Epic upsets point to the biblical model of weakness.

And the third thing I would say is that I love to see David slay Goliath. I asked my wife about this. Why does she enjoy basketball? And she said, “Me? I don’t.” And I said, “Why do you think people do?” And she said, “Because they like to pull for their favorite teams.” And I said, “Oh, I didn’t even think of that, because I don’t have any favorite teams. I don’t have anything invested at all in this.” And if that is what people are thinking about, I will just leave that for others to talk about. But what I do love is when a big, cocky team — and I am tempted to name some names here, but I won’t — gets taken down by this little college that nobody has ever heard of. I mean, I just glory in that, because I love the biblical model that through weakness and smallness great evils are undone.

4. It offers rest for hardworking Christians.

And the last thing I would say is that we enjoy March Madness and other sports because the pressure is off of us and onto them, and we are relaxing. Right? We are sitting on our couch. We have put in a hard day. We bent our brains to accomplish as much as we could in God’s will, doing what he wants us to do. We are tired, and it just feels good not to have to make this play happen. I am not the coach. I am not responsible for this. I am not the key player. I don’t have to make that basket at the buzzer. I am just enjoying their acting with skill under pressure.

In other words, sports have an unwinding, relaxing, appropriate function in the life of hardworking Christians. So if my wife is right and the reason you watch is just because you want your team to win, I don’t know how to relate to you.

Okay, so will you fill out a bracket?

No. I don’t have a clue how to do that.