NORFOLK, Va. — For one week in March, the Scope becomes a basketball paradise. Starting Wednesday, there's two games every afternoon, two games every evening, and then a pair of championships on Saturday.
The sounds are constant, whether it's a school band, the Scope DJ, or raucous crowds. Those crowds come from all over. It doesn't take long to find a couple or a group with no school in the tourney, who came down just to enjoy. That sensibility goes well beyond just basketball.
Community. Unity. Family. These words populate ever answer I get about what makes the MEAC tournament so special. They specifically come to life when you find the semi hidden oasis known as Exhibition Hall.
Basketball isn't the only competition happening at the MEAC, an E-sports championship also took place during the week. The setup was fantastic, nearly every patron that walked by took an inquisitive look inside at the row of gaming consoles and big screen broadcasting the action. It's impressive enough that surely there can't be anything beyond that...or so I thought.
After taking in the E-sports room and preparing to move on with my day, one Scope employee stopped me and implored me to walk through the video game room and through the double doors on the other side.
You really could hear it before you could see it, the sounds of another thumping DJ booth. Soon after a small lobby opened up into a massive room full of...well, full of life.
Rows of vendors lead to sponsored pop-ups with basketball hoops and ring lights for pictures. Each vendor has a unique story, a unique group of items and a desire for more than just profits. Some have been coming for years, rekindling annual friendships every year, others are just getting started, greeted with welcoming smiles.
A projector screen towards the front ensures that all can still view the basketball action happening next door, they all know that the games are just one of the many reasons to come to the MEAC tournament.