Field Notes From Attending March Madness

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Issue 166: Field Notes From Attending March Madness 

We’re one day into March Madness and already things are…well, mad.

Kentucky, a popular champion pick for a lot of brackets, lost to Saint Peter’s, a team that had never won an NCAA Tournament game before.

Iowa, who one week earlier scored 112 points in a single game, only mustered about half of that in a 67-63 loss to a team full of spiders.

In all, four double-digit seeds won games, while two others had leads in the final minutes. Per usual, it was pandemonium!

Well, except at the games I attended. You see, the NCAA selection committee decided Fort Worth would get two 1/16 and 8/9 matchups, which means we saw a whole bunch of blowouts. Baylor beat Norfolk State 85-49. North Carolina crushed Marquette 95-63. Kansas defeated Texas Southern 83-56 and that was the second-closest game. Woof.

If not for Creighton’s 72-69 overtime victory over San Diego State, we would have witnessed nothing but games that were over by halftime.

Yet we all still had a great time. Here are five notes from the field…err, arena.

There are a LOT of people on a basketball staff

When you think about a basketball team, what do you picture? A head coach and players, most likely. Yet there are like six assistant coaches, trainers, maybe some scouting folks, and one guy who I believe is only there to pull out the chairs during timeouts, and then put them away when the game resumes.

That’s not even counting the band, cheerleaders, and mascot, all of whom I’d consider integral parts of the live basketball experience.

It’s a heckuva lot of people, and the travel arrangements are understandably complex. I mean, have YOU ever thought about how to pack a tuba or a mascot head?

You can probably sit anywhere

One of the reasons I know how many people are on a basketball staff: We were sitting right behind Creighton’s bench.

We had gone down to get a picture with Billy, the Creighton blue jay mascot (more on that in a bit), and stayed to hang out and watch the action from up close.

On multiple occasions, the security guard in that section mentioned something about us being with the team. Neither myself nor my friend Sean had any Creighton gear on, and we weren’t even wearing blue, their team’s colors.

Yet we got to sit there without worry. It wasn’t until a Kansas fan who happened to actually have those seats came and awkwardly stood next to me before anyone seemed to notice or care.

Realistically, we could have just moved a couple of rows back. So many teams play on a given day, but a lot of attendees only come to see one school. They either leave early or arrive late and miss the other game of the session.

That means there are plenty of empty seats. Why not mix it up between games and see the action from another perspective?

People’s decisions for standing in line are very questionable

If I’m waiting in a line and see a shorter line for the same items, you better believe I’m making a beeline for that shorter line.

Yet NCAA Tournament attendees would much rather wait in a line of a dozen people instead of walking 30 feet over to another concession stand that had zero people in it.

I’m sure the staff enjoyed the breaks, but still. The logic is astounding!

The action off the court is just as entertaining

A basketball game has a lot of delays in it. We have media timeouts every four or so minutes of action, and coaches can also call timeouts.

We have replay reviews to see whose fingernail the ball rolled off of before tumbling out of bounds.

In one game, we watched a player maybe(?!?!) injure his Achilles, which also caused a delay, understandably.

Maybe the ball gets stuck in the backboard and you have to call on cheerleaders to knock the ball out.

So, you gotta get creative in what you’re keeping an eye on. The Jumbotron can’t catch it all. Peer around the arena to see fans dancing. Check out what players and coaches are doing. If you happen to be in a pavilion area, schmooze with some of the other people who are more interested in drinking than basketball.

On a related note, shout out to our bartender. The arena was selling canned whiskey and soda drinks for $16. She said if we ordered it as a mixed drink, it was only $12.

Doesn’t take a genius to enjoy that deal.

Mascots rock

Anytime I attend March Madness games in person, I try to get a picture with every mascot. It’s a silly, wonderful tradition.

San Diego State let me down by not having their Aztec Warrior in the house, but everyone else delivered. Texas Southern’s Tommy the Tiger was probably my favorite, and absolutely eviscerated Kansas’s Baby Jay in a dance-off.

Being in a mascot suit is not a comfortable experience. Yet whether they were bird, tiger, or spartan, they all took some time to snap a few photos. Say cheese!