It’s strange. 

Maddening almost. 

Well, it is March after all. 

Digesting March Madness has been difficult for me this year. I’m the guy who skipped class in college on Thursday and Friday to watch tournament games all day. I then transformed into the guy who would make trips to sports books to bet on March Madness games because it is one of my favorite events of the year. But this year obviously felt different. 

The biggest difference has been the lack of crowds, which dramatically affects the atmosphere of games.

So when I first flipped to CBS to watch Florida vs. Virginia Tech last Thursday, I couldn’t help but want more. 

The squeaking was more noticeable in what felt like an empty gym. This is March Madness. Where’s the roar? Of course, as you know, fans were limited to 25% capacity for games. That included players, coaches, essential staff, and family members of players and coaches.

The players did a fine job of getting into games and creating a sense of urgency that normally seeps through the television. But it simply wasn’t loud enough.

Now, this might sound like a petty gripe, but when the audio doesn’t match the visual of postseason ball, it feels more like a poorly attended off-brand tournament rather than the real thing. It didn’t sound like that roller coaster ride we gravitate toward every March, and I’ve heard from some sports fans, who have said they didn’t watch a single dribble. 

For those of us who still did, we saw a lot of great action. Sure, there were great games, but more than that, we saw exhilarating upsets.

Imagine how loud the crowd would have been when No. 14 Abilene Christian knocked off Texas. Or when No. 15 Oral Roberts upset No. 2 Ohio State.

And that’s why we tune into this tournament every year. We fill out our brackets and try to pick which lower ranked team will upset a top dog, and bracket pools offer great entertainment value. 

But part of that is tuning into the game, where let’s say a crowd that’s gathering for the next game begins to root on the underdog. For instance, Kentucky fans will show up early and root on the underdog for what becomes somewhat of a hostile environment for the favorite. It’s awesome every single year. (We sure did miss those Kentucky fans this year, didn’t we?) 

Because the crowd was effected by the limitations set by the NCAA, March Madness could have been an all-time stinker. Thanks to nine double-digit seed upsets in the first round, it was far from that. But it was also far from an overwhelming success. 

Some might say, “Hey, at least we got to see the tournament this year.” And to me, that sounds like a Texas player saying, “Hey, at least we got a swag bag for making the trip.” 

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