Column: Cherish the chaos

Published 9:21 pm Saturday, March 21, 2015

March Madness is unlike any other postseason is unlike any other postseason in sports. It’s almost anti-climactic.

Playoffs in all other sports build to a finish where as the NCAA Tournament is more like the Sprint Cup Series. The beginning is the marquee moment.

Think about the opening lines to Luther Vandross’ vocals on “One Shining Moment.” He opens with, “The ball is tipped, and there you are. You’re running for your life…”

Shortly after noon on Thursday, the ball is tossed in the air, and chaos reigns for the next 36 hours. Upsets. Buzzer beaters. Euphoria. Mistakes. Heartbreak. Tears of joy. Tears of sadness.

Georgia State provided an ending that will no doubt be played for years to come. It wasn’t just the straightaway 3-pointer R.J. Hunter nailed that sent the Panthers to the Saturday’s third round against UCLA. It was the reaction of Hunter’s father and coach, Ron Hunter, that will be filed away in tournament lore for fans to relive over and over and over.

Coach Hunter was four days removed from tearing his Achilles’ tendon celebrating the Panthers’ victory in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

He coached the game from a rolling chair. He fell off of that chair as soon as his son’s game winner went through the net.

There was UAB’s stunning upset of Iowa State, a team many — including this sports editor — picked to advance to the Final Four. The Blazers’ 60-59 victory extended far beyond the lines of the basketball court.

It wasn’t long ago UAB president Ray Watts delivered the news the football program was being shut down. The reason: The numbers didn’t work. That was followed by video that went viral of an impassioned speech by senior Tristan Henderson, a 27-year-old Iraq War veteran. He asked the president and coach through tears what his younger teammates are supposed to do, about what he is supposed to tell his son and family.

“We are playing for a lot of people, on our campus, our alumni, and people in Birmingham,” junior guard Robert Brown told the Kansas City Star. “We had a tough sports year.”

On the flip side of that, SMU’s Yanick Moreira was the face of devastation. Moreira was whistled for goaltending on a game-winning 3-point attempt by UCLA’s Bryce Alford. The ball had little chance of going in, but Moreira tipped it away as it neared the rim.

Looking at video, I think it was the right call.

That, however, is beside the point. Moreira is devastated and on the verge of tears as he tells everyone that it was his fault. Through Twitter, he apologized to the Mustangs’ fans and said the team didn’t deserve it.

Those three examples were the high and the low of the tournament, and it was just in the first session of the first day full day.

From here, the tournament goes on. The Sweet 16 is on deck. The Elite Eight after that. The Final Four — the pinnacle of the tournament — is a special weekend.

But it is the first Thursday and Friday chock full of games and bursting at the seams with memories that make the tournament a truly unique event.