“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott
Pepperdine hosted the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball West Regional Final matchup between Florida State and Michigan on Saturday at the STAPLES Center, and I was most grateful to be in attendance to watch Michigan secure a berth in the Final Four. The fans in maize and blue dominated the arena but not the game and yet the Wolverines held off the scrappy Seminoles down the stretch for the victory and a trip to San Antonio this weekend.
This was not my first NCAA tournament experience, but it had been fifteen years since I sat with my daughter, Erica, in the rafters of the Louisiana Superdome to watch a teenager named Carmelo Anthony lead Syracuse to a thrilling victory over the Kansas Jayhawks in the last game Roy Williams coached for Kansas. This experience was quite different.
Fifteen years ago I won the right to purchase overpriced tickets in a lottery. On Saturday my ticket was the gift of a gracious friend.
Fifteen years ago I needed binoculars just to look down and see the Jumbotron. On Saturday I had to crane my neck and look up to see the big screen from my amazing seat.
Fifteen years ago I prepared for a nosebleed by stuffing napkins in my pocket. On Saturday I prepared for the game by stuffing my face with pizza.
Fifteen years ago I waited for the captain to turn off the seatbelt sign before safely moving about the stadium. On Saturday I leisurely wandered around Pepperdine’s suite prior to the game and sat among friends from upper administration.
Heck, this time my friend, Rmani, sang the national anthem! It was a great night from start to finish.
Truth be told, I still feel that my place and my people both hang out in the rafters, but I confess that it felt awfully nice to sit in prime stadium real estate. Once I got past the feeling that a security guard was going to kick me out that is, I had a really good time.
Grace is pretty cool on the receiving end once you give yourself permission to accept it. It might be what a few young men feel like this weekend when they look up and discover that they are in the Final Four.