The good news is college basketball is back. The bad news is – it’s not what we’re used to.
The Tar Heels took the floor at the 21,750 seat Dean Dome with roughly 50-60 family members on hand. For anyone who has attended a game in Chapel Hill, you know how electric the atmosphere can be. A typical season opener would start with House of Pain’s “Jump Around” blasting before tip-off as the student section gets riled up. It continues with a swag surf that’s questionably executed and ends with Tar Heel fans cheering after the win.
House of Pain blasted, but instead of the student section rocking video footage of them was played on the jumbotron. Swag Surf was played, but of the minimum crowd of players’ family on hand just one group of four participated. The roughly 60 fans in the stands cheered at the end, but it paled in comparison to the thousands of onlookers we’re used to.
“It was not as much fun,” Coach Williams said after the 79-60 win when asked about playing without fans. “I still love the competition part when the game started, but our players have always talked about what a thrill it is running through the tunnel, hearing all those people and seeing all those people. You take that away and I think it took something away from the game.”
Sophomore Armando Bacot and Senior Garrison Brooks commented to each other about how weird the environment was during the game and how instead of feeding off the fans they’ll have to bring their own energy.
“It was really different,” Bacot said. “Me and Garrison were talking after the game about how it didn’t feel the same. Obviously we have to motivate ourselves and the bench has to get into it more. It definitely was a different vibe, but at least we got a good crack at it today.”
“Most of the time we get out energy from our fans,” Brooks added. “But luckily we were able generate our own energy off the bench and come out enthusiastically.”
Right now this is what we have. An empty gym, with ambient noise that feels more like a scrimmage than a regular season game. But the alternative – not having basketball – is worse. So we do what we have to do to keep each other safe.
“This is the world that we’re in right now,” Coach Williams said. “We have to understand that. I love seeing you guys wearing masks. I wore my mask the entire game. I think we’ve got to do these kind of things to get the numbers going in the proper direction. If we do that, perhaps by the end of the year we’ll have some fans in the stands.”
More simply put…MASK UP!