Faith and Basketball

For a fan and a father whose life has been wrapped up in the Davidson Wildcats for nearly twenty years, this trip to the Sweet 16 is so stunning, so rewarding, so wildly improbable that Detroit represents more than the site of the Sweet 16

Life's a journey and so is Davidson basketball.

I'm in church work, so forgive me for seeing this wondrous time in spiritual terms. But for a fan and a father whose life has been wrapped up in the Wildcats for nearly twenty years, this trip to the Sweet 16 is so stunning, so rewarding, so wildly improbable that Detroit represents more than the site of the Sweet 16.

It's the latest stop on a long, twisting, beautiful walk.

I've been on this road since our son, Matt, was six or seven and I took him to his first Davidson game at the old Johnston gym. It's now the student union. Every time I walk in and see the old bricks, it's still the gym where my kid and I started out together. A year or so later, he went to Coach Bob McKillop's summer basketball camp. I can still remember walking into Belk for the first time one fine summer's evening and watching him play in one of those little scrimmages. Who knew that a decade later, he'd be a Davidson student and that we'd build our lives together around Davidson hoops?

Sure we've been going to the home games for eight years. He wrangled a deal one semester where his student aid job was helping broadcaster John Kilgo on the radio broadcasts. But we'd also drive to Charleston and Spartanburg (God bless the burgers at the Beacon Drive-In) and Greensboro and Burlington and Boone and all the other little outposts where our team played and often lost.

We go to the Southern Conference tournament every year in North Charleston, S.C. We never know how long we'll be there, so we pack for three days and learn to live life one day a time. Not a bad lesson to take home from a basketball tournament. I remember our car getting towed once after an Appalachian State game. No wonder I love beating them. I remember The Citadel killing us one Saturday afternoon in front of all those cadets in McAlister Fieldhouse and having to make that long drive home along a dark and lonely I-26. I remember one rainy Saturday afternoon, asking myself why we were driving to Burlington to sit among maybe 400 fans total and watch our boys get creamed by Elon.
 
Now I know why.

Because to get to where you want to go, in life or in the NCAA, you often must follow a tortured path. You have to endure disappointment. You must learn patience. You have to cling to hope. You have to stick by your boys even through the rainy, losing days in Burlington.

You have to dream.

And you must always, always, always keep the faith.

Then maybe, if you're living right and cheering loudly enough, your team can come from 17 down to beat Georgetown behind a baby-faced kid with a killer jump shot. Blessings come in all forms, doesn't it?

Ken Garfield is a frequent contributor to Charlotte magazine,  former religion editor of The Charlotte Observer, and director of communications at Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte. He scalped a ticket for Sunday's win over Georgetown from a Starbucks manager in Raleigh for $150. It was worth every penny, Garfield reports.

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