The minute the plane landed, I turned on my phone. Ignoring the notifications for new emails and a voicemail, I immediately wrote my sister, Natasha.
“What’s the score??”
I was flying back from Little Rock, Arkansas late last Friday night, following a panel presentation I gave for work. When the plane landed close to midnight, I had missed almost all of the VCU/Florida State game. I was anxious and worried. Earlier, during my layover in Detroit, I had rushed to find a TV to check the score for the University of Richmond game, only to find that they had lost by 20 points. Would there be a similar fate for VCU?
My sister, hanging out at Chef’s bar, told me we were up by a few points. I notified my fellow passengers on the plane, who were all wondering how VCU was faring. We had just landed in Richmond, after all. The city had been positively aglow with not one, but two teams in the Sweet Sixteen.
I sprinted through the airport to baggage claim, cursing myself for checking a bag. Why in the world would I check a bag for a one-night stay? Was having shaving cream, shampoo, conditioner, a nail file and cuticle scissors that essential? Didn’t I realize that VCU might possibly be up by a few points and I would need to find a TV, stat? Never in my life have I been so angry at myself for being high maintenance.
Natasha sent me updates every time a team scored. As I rushed through the airport, I saw security guards and janitors talking anxiously, staring at their phones. All the bars and restaurants were closed, so there were no TVs broadcasting the game. As I walked, I shared my sister’s updates with anyone who cared. Never in my life have people turned to me for the score. More importantly, never in my life have I ever cared about the score.
After grabbing my suitcase from baggage claim, I practically jogged to my car to turn on the game. It took me forever to find the right radio station – I can’t say that sports radio is saved on any of my presets. Those are all reserved for pop music, talk radio and an empty FM station through which I run my XM satellite radio – can’t miss my Cosmo Radio, Oprah & Friends, America Left and CNN, after all.
As I drive home from the airport, listening intently to the game, I realize one very important fact: I don’t know anything about basketball.
As the sportscasters described free throws, fouls and rebounds, I’m decidedly lost. You see, I’ve never liked sports. The only sport that I’ve ever cared two bits about was men’s gymnastics in the Olympics. And that’s only because I had a crazy crush on Blaine Wilson. I was convinced that we were meant to be together. I had this vision of going to Ohio (where he was from) and us falling in love and living happily ever after. Blaine Wilson was to me what Leonardo DiCaprio and the Backstreet Boys were to all my friends. Ahh, Blaine. But I digress.
Prior to this year’s March Madness, I have never watched an entire basketball game in my life. So, the things the sportscasters were describing on my ride home were foreign to me. I may have understood it better if I was watching it on TV, but something was lost in listening to it.
But then I realized that this particular sports station was Rams Radio – and the sportscasters were rooting for VCU. They were not just unbiased announcers detailing the happenings of the game. Then I knew that when they got excited, I had permission to get excited. When they sounded annoyed about a bad call, I could get annoyed too. It all made sense now.
“Why do we keep missing so many free throws!!??” I texted Natasha, while I waited for the attendant to give me my receipt for the parking. She must have had a heart attack when she read that text – who knew I was capable of any sports talk at all?
After finally making it home, I jogged up the stairs to my apartment, tugging my luggage behind me. I turned on the TV – we were in overtime.
I tossed my luggage and purse on the floor with reckless abandon, and didn’t take off my jacket or shoes. All I wanted to do was turn on the TV. And I made it. With just four minutes left in overtime, I watched VCU win by one point in the last seven seconds. In the middle of the night, me, a person who never watches any sports of any kind, a person who has never understood why people get happy or annoyed, sad or mad, at the results of a game, screamed at the TV. I jumped up and down. I called my sister and my step father, saying we HAD to watch the next game together on Sunday.
And then I watched the highlights and the recaps. Because there’s nothing like watching your team win – again.
Who knew that sports could be so fun? Who knew that when your team wins, you feel like a part of the team, too? I never understood people who talked and yelled at the TV – they can’t hear you! The only time I can remember yelling at the TV was when Hillary lost to Obama, or when the Bachelor chooses the wrong girl (all very important occasions in our nation’s history, you know). I had no idea I was capable of this much enthusiasm – all over a basketball game.
I went to VCU for college, but as I’ve mentioned before, I never really felt like I had a true college experience. I went to class, then went to work and home. I never went to any games while I was there and I certainly didn’t have much school spirit. VCU was just the school I attended to get my degree. I didn’t even buy a school t-shirt until the day of my graduation.
I found it hard to have a lot of school spirit for a school like VCU. Its sprawling campus in the heart of Richmond, with many commuter and nontraditional students, doesn’t lend itself to the typical college atmosphere. And, we have no football team. No football team, no tailgating parties, no hot quarterbacks and no school rivalries equal no school spirit. Or so I thought.
Sunday, my family, friends and I all got together to watch VCU play the University of Kansas. I found myself drinking beer, jumping up and down, pacing nervously, clapping and greatly enjoying the feeling of excitement all around me. Even when Chef had to leave and go to work, because his bar was packed and they needed some help, I didn’t really care. All I cared about was the score. When we won by 10 points, I hugged everyone. It felt like New Year’s.
A guy that I met that day hit on me, and when he did, he said, “You must have noticed I’ve been staring at you all day.” Actually, no. I didn’t notice any such thing. I was totally oblivious to anyone in the room – all I cared about was the game. I was wearing my one VCU shirt I bought at graduation, jeans and sneakers. I can’t remember the last time I wore a simple t-shirt out in public other than to the gym. I hadn’t done my hair that day. I was jumping up and down like an idiot, completely oblivious to my surroundings. And I really liked it. It’s fun not to care what people think of you.
This Saturday, I’m watching VCU play Butler at Chef’s bar just a few blocks away from VCU’s campus. I can’t wait. I even bought Final Four t-shirts for my sister and me.
Hopefully, we’ll win again. Considering I’ve never been into sports, I don’t know what it’s like when you are excited and hopeful and your team loses. Let’s hope I don’t have to experience it so soon, because it might kill my fledgling love of sports.
But you know what it won’t kill? My newfound school spirit. The VCU team has done an amazing job getting this far, and I’m prouder than I’ve ever been to have graduated from this school.
Go Rams!!! And happy weekend all!