Following Thursday, March 2, NBA action on TNT, Inside The NBA replayed Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith copying some of MC Hammer’s dance moves. I feel like the halftime/postgame panel of Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Barkley, and Smith are just as entertaining as any late night talk show.

Their production and support staff are loaded with quick-witted graphics and video wizards to enhance the show’s comic vignettes. I’m still fast-forwarding the final minutes of most of the televised games that creep into my scheduled Inside The NBA recording to get to my favorite late night entertainment.

This least productive office workday arrives Thursday when the NCAA men’s basketball round of 64 launches around noon Eastern daylight time. Offices all over the country will have folks alt-tabbing among bracket pool standings, scores, and even some streaming. Thanksgiving week seems to be the only time period where office productivity dips.

Social network activity leads me to believe area basketball fans are rooting for former Tiger head coach Al Rhodes, his Penn Kingsmen, and Mr. Basketball candidate/Notre Dame signee Markus Burton to make a deep playoff run all the way to Gainbridge Fieldhouse over this and the following two weekends.

Can you blame them?

Burton is very likeable, and Rhodes was a huge part of the area’s rich basketball history. Jaxson Gould spoke very highly of Burton in last year’s postseason interview, and Burton was classy enough to console Gould’s younger brother Carson, who was visibly upset about his brother’s injury during the Warsaw-Penn January 10 regular season contest.

This is the first boys’ basketball season since the 2019-2020 season where no area teams brought sectional title hardware home to their school’s cases. No one in the state was on the hardwood the Saturday following that season’s sectional round anyway, as the scholastic sports year was abruptly ended dude to the pandemic.

There were a handful of energetic, nearly-full crowds in high school gymnasiums this year, but average crowd sizes by view of the naked eye have not reached anything close to what we witnessed in the years leading up to the pandemic

The sharp media products, particularly the Tiger Broadcast Network and Triton’s sports media coverage, have likely made it easier to balance demands away from the gym, stadium, diamond, and pitch for area sports fans.

Area football crowds seem to draw single event crowds closer to, if not greater than, those currently populating area gymnasiums. Obviously, aggregate attendance for basketball is still greater due to the amount of home games ranging from at least nine to twelve events per school, per season.

Paid soccer attendance also seems to be growing in the Lake City. I’ve experienced greater crowd energy from my perch in the press box each season since I started announcing soccer matches as a back-up in the fall of 2020.

It seems recent athletic conference resets and other moves have been more football driven, evidence of Friday Night Lights’ increased role in entertaining Hoosiers statewide. Is one of the factors contributing to growing gridiron attendance a comparably greater comfort people have about outdoor post-pandemic close gatherings?

Can the same be said for soccer? The beautiful game has not leap-frogged basketball attendance, but Tiger matches’ student sections, and the fans who choose to sit under natural shade are visibly greater these days.

I’m sure Mishawaka welcomes its bigger Northern Lakes Conference (NLC) football and basketball guest attendance, making it worth road trips where the Cavemen’s average mileage is an average of at least 2.5 times greater than their days in the Northern Indiana Conference, where a school like South Bend Clay might travel with less than 50 fans in Steele Stadium.

My Buckeye relatives marvel when I tell them Warsaw’s 4,896-seat Tiger Den capacity still lay outside more than 30 of the largest Hoosier high school gyms. There are so many diversions for school-aged kids these days, and schools who recently broke ground (Northridge), or completed new gymnasiums (Columbia City, Homestead) did not significantly increase their capacities.

It appears attendance levels between 2,500 and 3,000 will be as good as it gets for a while in area Hoosier basketball temples. Crowds near those sizes at Northridge (Tigers-Raiders girls’ basketball thriller in January), and the aforementioned Tiger-Kingsmen boys’ clash at Lakeview Middle School (the OG Tiger Den per se) had great energy.

Warsaw and Tippecanoe Valley fans still travel well, and they’ll settle into “your house” with a commanding presence.

Once again we move our clocks forward at 2 a.m. Sunday. All the other states where I lived before moving here in August 1996 followed Daylight Savings Time (DST).

I’m hoping one of these years we just stay in DST. Our mornings will be dark almost the entire year, but I’ll feel like I own more of the day with more early evening daylight in December and January.

It’s the time of year to show some love to your school district’s athletic department staff. Spring sports schedules, most at the mercy of nature’s elements compared to fall sports that only stop for lightning, are all set, but not written in ink.

Cold temps occasionally result in the cancellation or postponement of track meets, but managing all the other spring sports can be like herding cats.

We’ve certainly had an up and down winter, and it leads me to believe there are some lousy climes coming our way through Mother’s Day.

Give props and a thumbs-up to the athletic staff, because they will do so much behind the scenes to get their coaches, athletes, and buses lined up for all sorts of schedule changes.

Sometimes, within a few hours on the morning of a softball game, for example, a school’s athletic staff will call its opponent to find out whose field is in the mast playable condition, and prepare to relocate the action based on some quick decisions.

Bus drivers will turn on a dime, and umpires at work in mid-day will change course and reroute their late afternoon schedules to make sure first pitch is still a go.

I’m sending good vibes among all the athletic departments in our Times-Union readership area for bearable weather and little or no cancellations and postponements.