Substance of Things Hoped For
There’s something refreshingly unique about how Jerome Tang wears his faith on his lavender quarter-zip sleeve.
It is not contrived, and he is wise enough to know that if he says what’s on his heart out loud, he will gain more than he loses. Not in the basketball game sense, but in the bigger developing of goodwill. He lived long enough in the Bible Belt to know the unspoken secret connected to his beliefs.
Most people in these parts feel that way too.
Because the lines between bigtime D-1 college sports and their academic institutionalized patrons have never been brighter, Tang is insulated from any 21st century cultural blowback, in a way that an associate professor of macroeconomics, whose salary can be traced to a taxpayer-supported line item in an appropriations bill, would not be.
Sure, it’s a risk for a first-time head college basketball coach to be this vocal about his faith at a state-funded university, but the ROI will be immeasurable.
Tang talks openly of his faith, the marketing gurus in the athletic department, which for all practical purposes is a private sector corporation, spring into action, brand it as #crazyfaith, and the digital benevolence is spread across the land. From the awareness perspective (read: recruitment) it also doesn’t hurt that so much of this was magnified in the biggest media market on the planet.
Tang’s faith also gives those of us upon whom this manna falls who feel the same way, a reason to start acting like it. He’s not only a role model for impressionable 19- and 20-year-old athletes, he’s a role model for all of us.
At this time of year, my faith offers a structure to cleanse my soul and reset. I’ve chosen to give up social media for Lent, which can be traced to 40 days of purification and enlightenment. While I would like to believe I have the skills and experience to discern social media drivel from that which will enlighten me, when I give it up for 40 days, I have faith that I will be at least a little bit purified.
It helps me find my way to compassion and tolerance, to love my neighbor, to think about somebody else and act first from a position of service. Thomas Aquinas said faith builds on reason. Since faith and reason are both ways to get to truth, faith is consistent with reason. If we understand like Aquinas did, there is no conflict between what faith and reason tell us.
I’ve been a season ticketholder since the Asbury era. There was something about this season that was unlike all that came before. Tang’s enthusiasm for his dudes is palpable. The players circling the Bramlage perimeter high-fiving fans and taking selfies with kids was a master stroke. Wabash Cannonballing in the student section may be hype, but it’s the best kind of hype. When it comes from the heart, hype works.
One more thing I like about Jerome Tang. He wins basketball games, which brings us all together and offers the opportunity to talk about this stuff out loud.
Like any fan who bleeds purple, I felt blue after losing to Florida Atlantic and frustrated that we’re oh and 9 in Sweet 16’s since the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. But now, as of this season, there is something larger in play.
The substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen seems reasonable to me. Faith that transcends the transfer portal, lateral quickness and attacking the lane. The peace of mind in believing that it all has a good ending.
And that basketball can help us understand that.
That seems sweet, elite and final.