I arrived at the Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium parking lot in Negaunee earlier than usual on Monday.
Parking is always tight for Negaunee High School varsity basketball games there, especially when the boys play.
I figured with Munising meeting the Miners, parking would be at a premium. I didn't have too much trouble sliding into a spot, however.
It was about 30 minutes later when I got a surprise: there were some empty seats in the gym when the game started.
Empty seats? For a key boys contest? Not possible. Not in basketball-crazy Negaunee.
This was no ordinary game. Though it was a non-conference contest, Class D Munising was ranked No. 1 in the Upper Peninsula and in the state. Class C Negaunee was No. 2 and No. 8, respectively, heading into the game.
Between them, they had just one loss in 21 games, with the lone defeat suffered by the Miners - 40-35 at Munising on Dec. 9.
The game featured Mustangs senior guard Kenya Oas, perhaps the best player in the peninsula in Class D, and a solid Negaunee starting lineup of Tyler Jandron, Tanner Uren, Zach Marshall, Brock Weaver and Tyler Beaumont.
Talk about your prep hoops talent. With such a lineup, there shouldn't have been an empty seat at Lakeview. Fans should have been packed in like sardines.
In the "old" days, cars would have been lined up all along Croix Street when parking was legal there.
But those empty seats got me to thinking. Why weren't they there? The game was a makeup on a Monday night and perhaps some fans didn't realize it had been rescheduled from an earlier postponement.
Or maybe it was because NHS also hosted two girls games, another boys game and a girls gymnastics meet against Marquette last week after the Munising-Negaunee boys tilt.
There are only so many events fans can attend in one week. It can get costly, too, attending so many sporting events.
The weather wasn't a factor, either.
I'm not picking on NHS. The school has a lot of rabid basketball fans and has long been known for its big crowds. The people there do a fine job as hosts and the school's pep band is one of the best in the area.
But for any fan to miss a game like the Munising-Negaunee matchup was surprising to me.
Actually, I've noticed a decline in attendance at many Superiorland prep sporting events this winter season.
An area athletic director told me attendance at that school has been "flat" for its winter sporting events.
Some teams have even had trouble attracting athletes for their squads in the first place. Marquette, Gwinn and Newberry, for instance, started the season with just eight varsity girls basketball players on the roster.
Several teams, boys or girls, sport just 10 players, whether it's a coach's decision or not.
Has interest in basketball dropped this season, or is it just a couple of isolated incidents not worth thinking about?
I don't know.
I do know this, though: I expected an overflow crowd at Lakeview Memorial Gym last Monday night to see the Miners post a 55-40 win over the Mustangs.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is email@example.com.