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Religion and the 16 Seed

Being Jewish has its sporting downsides: this year, for example, the first night of Passover corresponds with the first night of the NBA playoffs, which means that some poor kid's gonna get confused and ask "Is Gilbert playing?" as one of his four questions. I've definitely missed my share of big athletic moments due to religious obligations, but right now I'm sort of thankful I'm not a religious Catholic like those at Mount St. Mary's, who are unsure how to handle today's unique challenges, according to the Baltimore Sun:

Her Catholic parents generally keep days like Good Friday solemn by shunning technology, and if that holds true tonight, Mount St. Mary's University senior Maria Parker will find herself in a predicament.

Should she sneak off to watch her school attempt to topple top-ranked and No. 1-seeded North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, a feat that would be one of the greatest upsets in college basketball history? Or does she stay firm to the reasons Mount St. Mary's closed its doors and sent students away from campus for three school days -- to reflect on the Easter season and spend time with family?

Other students and staff members at Mount St. Mary's, considered one of the nation's most pious schools, asked similar questions this week, as the lure of what some fans say is the most exciting amateur event of the sports year meets with one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar.

The campus shuts down in honor of Holy Week festivities; the Sun reported it was deserted by Wednesday afternoon. One student offered that his peers will go "from Mass to the bar to the game," which certainly seems like a rational solution, while another suggested that UNC fans may actually be the ones regretting this day's religious overtones:

Students are holding out hope for an Easter miracle.

"We'll have faith on our side," said Werden, the SGA vice president. "That's something the Mount always has had an edge in."

I'm all in favor of miracles, especially at holy points in the calendar, but I'd still take North Carolina and give the points. Of course, if the Mount wins on both Good Friday and then Eastern Sunday, you've gotta figure at least a few people will convert.

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 21, 2008; 12:24 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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