Facing Crisis, Pope Urges Renewed Emphasis on Basketball

VATICAN CITY.  Facing a crisis that threatens to bring down his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI today urged a renewed commitment to NCAA Division I men’s basketball, a source of pride and comfort to Catholics down through the ages.

“Nothing but net!”

“We started out with eight schools on the Road to the Final Four,” the pontiff told a subdued Holy Week gathering from his balcony in St. Peter’s Square.  “Notre Dame, Siena, Georgetown and Marquette–four gone in the first round.  Let me tell you, my bracket sheet ran red with the blood of the martyrs!”

St. Mary’s Gaels:  A regional final counts as a miracle.

The overall record of Catholic colleges in the tourney was 8-8, with Xavier and St. Mary’s advancing to regional finals.  “That’s fine for a Division III religion like Islam,” the Pope shouted forcefully, “but not for the One True Church.”

“How many of you had Villanova going all the way?”

Villanova, the highest-ranked Catholic school in the tournament at the number two seed in the South Region, was eliminated in the second round along with perennial overachievers Gonzaga.  “Every year, the Zags are the darlings of March Madness,” the Pope said.  “This year–they crapped the bed.  If you only win one game, there’s no cool name for your round.  You’ve got Final Four, Elite Eight, Sweet Sixteen, but no Few Thirty-Two.”

Asked by a lay reporter at a press conference whether there were any other critical issues facing the church, the Pope’s face grew pale and he hesitated before speaking.  “In these troubled times,” he noted somberly, “our bingo receipts are waay down.”

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