If you're a basketball fan in Maine, February vacation week is almost certainly marked on your calendar.
No, I'm not talking about Carribean cruises or trips to Mexico. I'm talking about tournament time. The week when basketball fans and media alike descend on Bangor, Augusta and Portland for a week.
Heck, it was all those years climbing up and down the bleachers at the old Bangor Auditorium when my father covered games that jumpstarted my interest in writing about sports for a living.
The games are fun for all of those involved, whether you're a player, coach, fan, or heck, a sports journalist.
The experience is great, but all it takes is a few bad apples to ruin it for all involved. So, for each group, here's how to truly make your tourney experience memorable and positive.
PLAYERS: Soak up every moment. Enjoy every moment with your teammates, win or lose.
These are the moments that carry with athletes for a lifetime. The heartbreak of defeat in a championship game can sting in the moment, but when you look back on the experiences you had with your brothers or sisters, you'll keep them in your scrapbook for a lifetime.
Play with a purpose. Represent the name on the front of your jersey with pride
FANS: Yes, there's a lot of "hometown pride" for all Maine high school hoop fans, whether you're a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or longtime resident of a small town who loves the game and follows that school's success.
But try to remember, it's not about you. It's all about the players on the floor.
So, let the players play. Let the coaches coach. Let the officials officiate. No matter what happens when the final buzzer sounds, be proud of your son or daughter. This is their moment, not yours.
Ohh, and let the media do their jobs. Any sports scribe in Maine will tell you this is far and wide their busiest week of the calendar year. When I led the girls' sports coverage at the BDN, I was working in upwards of 50 hours per week, living at the Bangor Auditorium and Cross Center, only returning home to eat or sleep.
We sports scribes work hard to provide fair coverage to every team and every game, so fans, try to respect that, and if you see a reporter on press row with earbuds in, probably best to let them bang out that game story, feature or upload those photos. And if you go to an area restaurant after the game, don't complain if you have to wait 20 minutes for a table. Every establishment in Bangor is going to be busy. Be patient, be kind, and tip your server!
JOURNALISTS: Yes it's a long week, but it's fun. So enjoy it. Covering sports for a living is a darn fun job. It goes by fast. Before you know it, it'll be championship Saturday.
And if you're covering multiple games at one site in a day, stock up on somewhat healthy snacks before the opening games. My wallet always stayed full throwing refreshing beverages and snacks in my computer bag in lieu of those $5 hot dogs. And MPA officials likely won't give you a hard time if you're walking into the morning session with fresh cup of Dunkin' coffee at your perusal.
When it comes to postgame, patience is a strong weapon. Yes, we're all on deadline and we have to bang those stories out in this digital-first era, but if a coach doesn't come out of the locker room right away, don't sweat it. If a player wants to hug their parents before discussing a championship moment with you, let them.
Enjoy the games. Maybe next year, this free agent will be back courtside at the Cross Center. But perhaps it's time to chase my own son up and down the arena steps for a few sessions while I still have that opportunity.