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The Beauty of March Madness
March 24, 2014 - Al Stephenson
It didn't take long for my bracket to be busted. I knew Dayton was capable of beating an inconsistent Ohio State team, but I couldn't pull the trigger on an upset in the first game of the tourney. As the next couple of days unfolded, that was not the only game that busted my brackets. But that's OK. The beauty of the NCAA men's basketball tournament is the fact that a David will slew a Goliath.
This year was no exception. As I found my eyes glazing over from watching so much hoops action it was hard not to smile. There was Stephen F. Austin pulling out a win and North Dakota State saying we belong. How about Harvard? The list goes on and on. At the top of the list is the Mercer Bears from Macon, Georgia. When the underdog upset perennial power Duke in Raleigh - The Blue Devils backyard - many people were sent to the internet to find out just where Mercer is located.
There was a number of outstanding plays in the last four days. One was a dunk by a player I can't even remember. He was some 10 feet from the hoop and suddenly he was slamming it down, causing me to shout from my couch seat. There was also an equal number of not so intelligent plays. With some four seconds left and a four point lead, one does not foul an opponent attempting a three point shot - does one?
But back to the title of this piece. In any given year a series of highlights will come to mind. Usually there is one shining moment, so etched in your memory that everything else pales in comparison. I believe that this year's beautiful moment has already occurred. And yes it involves the Mercer Bears, only not what you might be thinking.
For many people, the highlight of this tournament may well be Mercer's upset of Duke. For me it was their 20 point loss to Tennessee.
When the game ended and the postgame handshakes were finished, the Volunteers went to the locker room to celebrate. The Mercer Bears hung around to share a moment of love with their fans. Several bus loads of fans made the trek from Macon to Raleigh and they were treated to some outstanding basketball moments. After the loss to Tennessee, the Mercer fans wanted to show its team what they thought of them. A standing ovation after a 20 point loss? You bet.
The Mercer players returned the affection, standing on the court and applauding their fans. It was a touching moment for me. Too many times you see celebrations turn to violence or fans chanting for the firing of the coach after an unexpected loss. Not on this night. Mercer's fans and players got this one right. The experience was something to be savored. People can learn a lot from this moment.
The view from my seat suggests that shining moments are still forecasted for the remainder of this tournament. For me though, the most beautiful moment has already taken place.
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