Posted on Leave a comment

One Shining Moment(s), 2015.


The song, One Shining Moment, written by David Barrett and performed later by Luther Vandross has become synonymous with college hoops. (CBS airs it every year during March Madness.) It’s what a lot of people assimilate with the Underdog stories of the tournament. They are always special.

I have to ask: Did you catch any of the start of March Madness last weekend?

I hope you did. It’s been quite spectacular since Thursday.

If not, that’s okay. There’s still the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4, and Championship in Indy before us.

(Please don’t let my basketball excitement scare you away from my posts. I promise to venture back into other subject matter…soon.)

There’s just something so contagious about filling out the brackets each year, seeing underdogs pull off upsets (‘Thank yous’ go out to yesterday’s upsets…you know who you are), and witnessing the passion with which these young players play with, knowing each game could be their last.

The example I give of a ‘shining moment’ was one you might’ve seen over the weekend. (If not, don’t let me spoil it for you.)


There was a small, unknown team by the name of Georgia State given a 14-seed and expected to play the 3-seed, Baylor, in their region’s initial round. (Before this, the head coach (and also the father of the team’s star guard, had torn his Achilles tendon during the celebration of winning a previous conference leading up to the NCAA tournament.)

Coach Ron Hunter, and his son, R.J., made magic in the initial round of March Madness by knocking off the favored Baylor, with a last-second, deep 3-pointer by R.J. The crowd erupted, the upset was made, and Coach Hunter, who was stationed on a swivel chair, applauded and leaped/fell from it to the court. With the torn Achilles (and cast) already, and the fall, there was lots of concern for the coach’s well-being, but he admitted it was excitement, he was okay.

Hunter and his son celebrated the victory and put a team on the map…literally. Fast forward to the next round, and there was a close effort against Xavier, but Georgia State fell to them. The Cinderella experience ended. But, we discovered it was about so much more. As the press interviewed Hunter, R.J. and the other Georgia State players, we saw it wasn’t about their loss or shortcomings at all. It was a season to celebrate the memories made along the way. The people around the game!

Coach Hunter’s response is best seen (rather than told) as he reacts to the year, his team, and his son:

It’s EPIC for all the right reasons.

These things are what make the round of 68 (formerly, 64) so great. Now, we wait for Thursday’s match-ups of more evenly matched teams. But, we won’t forget the magic of the initial rounds.

They TOO are what make March special.


Posted on Leave a comment

Underdogs Must Win.


Saw McFarland, USA in theaters today.

Was reminded of the amazing story of the underdog.

Kevin Costner plays coach Jim White (based on a true story). He moves his family to a predominately Latino community of California and takes over within a P.E. teaching capacity, which, in turn, leads to him creating a track team. The local players we discover do so much more than just compete, as it’s shown how they wake up, work in the fields, run to and from school, and participate in practices after school.

Their work ethic is unparalleled to other athletes across California, and the movie showcases how the coach’s family becomes immersed in a community that embraces them, even when he is reluctant to plant deep roots.

Like many true stories, this one reveals its scope to be larger than the 2-hour film itself. It was uplifting and inspiring sure. But, this one had more than most sports classics. I’d put it in the elite category of sports film greats like–Rocky and Hoosiers.

The underdog story rang true with a lot of life lessons thrown in, and (as is often the case with good intentions) Jim White’s family gained more from the move to McFarland than those they lived alongside that first year.

It called to mind a formative, final year of high school basketball for me. I remember the 2002-2003 senior year at my alma mater (Monticello High School) and playing basketball, as if it were yesterday.

We had a small squad, only won 1 game all year, and that season was the hardest of my life. I remember losing a game and our record moving to 0-10, and I felt like the world had stopped turning at that tournament in northern Kentucky.

I remember our coach not taking it out on us; he knew it was just nearing the middle of a tumultuous storm that wouldn’t let up until mid-February. Going 1-25 was less than ideal…but he stayed with us.

The illnesses, wearing out 3 pairs of shoes, experiencing bad foot problems, broken bones, and broken hearts were just the beginning of what would be the longest year of our lives. But, I was thankful for the teammates I had.

I watched those 7 runners from McFarland High School, and their perseverance made me reflect (if you can believe it…I hardly can) fondly on my own torturous year. FONDLY. Yes. You read that right.

We lost and lost and lost some more. But, somehow our team learned something in the midst of all of those beatings: we were some tough sons of guns.

Some nights we were down 30 points by half-time and some games we lost by a last second 3-pointer that was partially blocked. But, lost we did until the last game of the regular season (and my last home game ever) at MHS (same initials as McFarland, too).

McFarland’s perseverance was in overcoming all of the negative opinions other districts had of them and balancing the hard livelihoods that their families expected of them.

Our perseverance, at Monticello, was similar in regards to the poverty aspects, because we were listed as being the 2nd poorest district in the nation. (Today, we are officially closed as a school system. Our school didn’t have a place to host our 10-year reunion in 2013.) Yet, we didn’t face the finality of not being able to go to college or work in places that we could largely pick on our own accord.

Our options were still fairly limitless.

I’m thankful for the underdog story of McFarland, USA, and it reminded me that my own Monticello, USA story is unique and apart of me, no matter where I go.

Now if I could just get Costner to lace up his Nikes and play Coach Shane Blevins on the big screen we’d be in-business. Does someone know where he can be reached?