By Shedrick Byrd
March Madness started early in Norfolk. During the week of 14 March the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) held its basketball tournament in downtown Norfolk Scope. This was the tournament’s third year in Norfolk and was the best attended. Since coming to Norfolk the tournament has grown from an echo sounding arena to relative successful attendance for each game.
There are 11 Historical Black Universities (HBU) in MEAC. The match ups were competitive and gave fans something to cheer about. Hampton University won the men’s championship and Savannah State University won the women’s championship. North Carolina Central men and Hampton women entered the tournament as favorites, both teams lost in the semi-finals.
During the games there seemed to be a battle of the Pep Bands. The ones with the most Tubas are usually the loudest and who I consider the winners. I personally enjoyed the tournament although my alma mater, Norfolk State University’s men and women lost in the semi-finals. I was sad and disappointed but I just continued eating those three meats hamburgers and other foods that I should not have been eating and said, “Oh, well, we have next year.”
From my point of view it is good to have the tournament in Norfolk. I don’t know how well the city of Norfolk fared financially. Based on the number of people attending the games, I suspect they did very well. It seemed that everybody there enjoy the tournament.
Although in Norfolk for three years MEAC, to me, still has growing pains regarding the convenience and entertainment for fans. More variety in food and other vendors inside of Scope, and better entertainment during the games are needed. Organized professional entertainment after games would give fans, especially those from out of town, more to do. MEAC had advertising throughout the city but I did not see any in the local Black press. Being a resident of Norfolk and a reader of the Black newspaper I believe such ads would win more fans and affection for the tournament.
The tournament is more than an athletic event it is also like a social event. Attendees meet classmates and old friends and enjoy chatting, eating and drinking. There is also a lot of handshaking hugging and kissing. Many fans take the opportunity to sport their school and fraternity garb. It’s a party!
I look forward to early March Madness next year. In my bias, the hope and expectation is that Norfolk State University will be the tournament Champions. So I can loudly shout “BEHOLD THE GREEN AND GOLD.”
Shedrick Byrd is a frequent contributor to the New Journal and Guide and a member of the Norfolk State Athletics Foundation.