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Monday, March 25, 2013

Why I go nuts during March

This is a break from my usual musings about love, life, and relationships.
This is the one time of the year every girl, person, or non-sports fan can get lost in the craze that is known as ‘March Madness’. It’s also when a sports clueless, non-athlete like myself will drop phrases like, “Did you see we’re taking on a Number 4 seed this weekend? “
"We really need to step up our defense this game."
“That conference has become very competitive. I hear their starting guard has NBA potential.”
The rest of the year I’m l like, “What is their record this year?  “So what is that guy’s position again?”

It’s so seem a little backwards and crazy that this time of year births new sports fans seemingly overnight. Offices are competing to see who can predict the winner of the big tourney. Social media explodes with college alums cheering for their schools. Bars are filled with loud, rowdy bball fans. I love this time of year, and I won’t lie I’m one of those people who catch ‘March Madness’ fever especially since I’m an alumna of the once Cinderella team known as Virginia Commonwealth University Rams.  

I’m a mediocre fan at best during the rest of the year. During the season I keep in touch with the Rams from a distance. I read a few sports pages about their season; follow the play-by-play of games on Twitter. I follow our amazing Coach Shaka Smart, the VCU fans twitter handles, and every once in a while I’ll find myself cruising the VCU sports website for highlights.  For some reason my mediocrity is pushed into full on crazy, Rams fan during March Madness. This year was no different.  
Since I felt myself yelling at television screens, and engaging in Facebook rants about how great the Ram are, I’ve been trying to understand why this happens to me and a lot of girly girls. While this may not be true for everyone, I think there is something special about seeing your alma mater play on a national stage like the NCAA tournament. Seeing fellow students, and alumni filling the stadium in their black and yellow shirts, I feel myself swelling up with pride. Seeing those guys play, duke it out, and leave it all on the paint I’m reminded of those college nights I spent cheering in our stadium in Richmond, the Siegel Center.
It was right across the street from the dorm I stayed in. I’d toss on my yellow VCU shirt, and grab a seat up close to the players. When I first started at VCU, the games were not packed, and sold out like they are now. Except for when we were playing rivals like University of Richmond, George Mason, or Old Dominion I usually had no problem finding a seat. Those nights me, my girlfriends, classmates, and guys I was feeling would cheer, yell, and enjoy all that was college life.
Players graduated, coaches left, but each year the program no one heard of was getting better and more respected. I remember when VCU beat Duke in 2007. That buzzer beating shot from Eric Maynor was golden. Man that was a good night. The pride I felt from our small program beating such a Goliath of a team was indescribable especially since I watched that game from a journalism conference in North Carolina. I cheered anyway.

For a while it felt like coaches were coming to VCU to get their cred in the college balling world only to leave us, but we kept our heads high. I remember how pumped we all were when Shaka Smart came to VCU. He had this energy and desire to invest in the team. We all knew we had snagged something special.  He pushed us to new heights, and it swept us all off our feet when we beat Kansas to punch our ticket to the Final Four two years ago. I remember how the students stormed, partied, and ran on the streets of Richmond to celebrate. Crazed VCU fans surrounded news reporters in their live shots about the game. It was amazing time to be Richmond. Bars, and restaurants filled up for watch parties. I remember being in Richmond at a Watch party during Selection Sunday. The energy the River City exudes, all routing, cheering for the hometown team, it's amazing. We didn’t take home the big prize in our Final Four run, but it was an amazing ride for everyone on-board.

Those basketball games are so much more than the minutes those players put on the court. It’s our school pride, our memories, the moments we shared, and the amazing journey we’ve all witnessed this program go through. So yes, excuse me if I go little nuts when VCU is playing in the Big Dance. That school means so much to me, and I am so proud I earned my education there. My school pride is drenched in the memories at the Siegel Center, the meals at Shafer, and the celebrations on the streets of Richmond. I’m a VCU Ram for life, but I’m a lot crazier in March.