By Patrick Murphy

Fans matter.

After spending most of year covering sporting events with fans few and far between, it is nice to hear the roar of the crowds again.

The subdistricts, districts and now state tournament have been fun because the sounds fans make are so much better than the deafening sound of empty bleachers.

Even the annoying cheers made by opposing fans are appreciated. To see students, parents, grandparents and fans in general fill up gyms all over is a welcome sight.

To hear so many amateur referees gently point out when they think there is a mistake on the court makes me happy, and I’m sure those trained officials are glad to have the help. I’m sure they missed it.

Of course, as I watch staff spray and wipe down seats, handrails and anything else people touch and then wrap rows of seats with plastic so people do not sit too close together is a reminder that having fans in gyms does not mean we are anywhere close to normal. Not to mention everyone is required to wear masks inside the buildings.

Despite all the new protocols during what has become our normal - at least for the foreseeable future - there are fans, and they are excited to be watching basketball in person.

During the games it is almost like nothing has changed. The players, coaches and fans all in unison, playing their roles to make for a beautiful choerographed scene.

When you watch these games and get caught up in the drama you forget everything else. Any worries or concerns vanish as we are all entranced by what is going on, on the court. That’s the way it used to be, and that’s the way it should be, and that’s the way it will be again some day.

I don’t know what life will be  like in a few months or by the end of the year, or years to come, but right now it is a breath of fresh air to watch these games again.

I found myself gleefully getting caught up in the action, sitting amongst other journalists all covering the same game, and talking it over afterwards.

I would sit there going through the emotions of the game while trying to pretend to be an unbiased reporter who doesn’t care who wins or loses, just like the good, old days.

It is refreshing how quickly we fall back into our old routine of enjoying a high school basketball games, emotions going up and down with each basket.

It feels like a break from what we have been living through for the past year, a timeout maybe.

Attendance was limited, but the people there did their best to make up for capacity crowds, and looking around the gyms, it was obvious people were glad to be to out and enjoying the games.

It’s been a long year for everyone. At one time sports was shut down locally and nationally, and then brought back with limited fans and health protocols.

There is a still a ways to go, but this is a nice step toward normalcy.

Who says sports don’t matter.

Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor at The Telegram.