The Miracle of Saint Peter
A mighty and mischievous roar erupted in Madison Square Garden tonight. It wasn’t because the New York Rangers were dusting the Pittsburgh Penguins in a playoff-defining open skate. Joy was channeled from Philadelphia like white smoke to herald a new era. Saint-Pierre had done the impossible for the third time in eight days. The Peacocks, across the Hudson in Jersey City, employing sensible effort, cunning and perhaps some unexplained help from the universe, rose for the moment and dispatched Purdue and their giant hurdles innate.
Eyes and necks turned to the sky and saw the scoreboard of the world’s most famous arena shine brightly with the final score and the news that the Elite Eight had its very first seed #15. The crowd collectively followed the script and joined in the euphoria. How many of them had never heard of the school a short ferry ride away until last week? This answer does not matter. There are few things better in this world than the outer scoreboard serving as the applause line. And there are few better things in this world than a dancing Cinderella who broke her clock so that midnight never struck.
Surely much of the MSG masses have been tracking the bucket-by-bucket score on their phones. Or streamed the game in a sort of multitasking sports challenge. But the dopamine hit intensifies when the analog world of content creators delivers the news in 496-point font. The real magic is found in conviviality and not in solitude. We know what to do with teams that break our hooks and then enter our hearts.
March Madness is the greatest sporting event in the world because it reinforces a universal truth that all fans would rather ignore. Nobody knows anything. The future is unknowable and the Saint-Pierres of the world prove it again and again. History cannot be written in advance, it must be cataloged in the present.
They are fate teams because they change fate. Or what the rational parts of the brain believe to be a pre-written fate. They grab the chisel and write their names on the wall through brute force and heroism. We are learning these names right now as we always do. They are forever welcomed into our consciousness.
Shaheen Holloway, the former player who sometimes feels like a sixth man with his unflappable demeanor. Daryl Banks III, the kid from Los Angeles who created a great blue nation with 27 points against Kentucky. Doug Edert, who Kevin Harlan says looks like a young Sam Rockwell with supreme confidence and poise – the mustache of a million memes.
A bandwagon has amassed on one side rivaling one of these storybook teams, surely the biggest since Loyola with record-breaking potential. Cinderellas speak to us because we all have a chip on our shoulder, no matter how hard we try to deny it. They are avatars of disrespect and constraints. Seeing them overcome, seemingly always out of sheer willpower, no matter how much physical talent is ever present, affirms something inside. We defend these Davids as they kill Goliaths, mostly, because it’s so good.
It’s harder today than ever to share a reality with near-universal approval ratings. St. Peter is that miracle, that horizon of events in a million that is welcomed with open arms and begs to cut the nets and stay a little longer.
We all look at this dashboard. Knowing that something wonderful has happened somewhere else and needing to know it now. Because waiting another minute to join this shared party would be cruel and unusual.