It's not easy being a fan
Thank goodness it's over. The regular basketball season at the University of Rhode Island is over. I need it to be over because it's just too hard being a fan. It wears me out and I'm ready to move on.
Last Saturday, in the final game of the season, the Rams were up by one point with nanoseconds to go and the U. Mass Minutemen scored an under-the-wire basket to go up by one. Just one, but sometimes that's all it takes. URI put the ball on the court, but with less than a second on the clock there was just not enough time to make a play. The buzzer sounded and the crestfallen Rams stood on the court in disbelief for what seemed like an eternity, then they slogged their way back to the bench. A sellout crowd—on their feet and screaming just moments before— dropped their heads and studied the empty cups under their chairs. There was nothing more to say. The season was over.
My family has had season tickets to the URI Rams games for about 15 years. When the kids were young, the four of us sat on uncomfortable bench seats at the old Keaney Gym jumping up and down and screaming at the high points. We wore our team colors and looked forward to a lively diversion on cold winter nights. Comforting each other at low times, we were fans in it together and we understood each other's joy and pain. In 1998 when the Rams made it to the Elite 8 in the NCAA tournament, we watched them on TV through a painful loss by two points to Stanford. My oldest daughter, then in high school, begged me to take her to T.F. Green airport later that night because she was afraid the team would feel bad and "we have to go and cheer them up." I think she was afraid that no one would be there because they lost. And, there was that teen idol thing going on—both kids were hopelessly in love with Cuttino Mobley and Tyson Wheeler. At first I didn't want to go. I was being too practical: it was a school night and I had to work the next day. But part of being a fan is dealing with the bad times as well as the good. So off we went to the airport at two o'clock in the morning to see the Rams return to a cheering crowd of a few hundred—all there so the team wouldn't feel bad about the loss. It made me feel better, too, knowing that everyone was there to greet and support a bunch of hard-working guys who just lost the biggest game of their lives. I was very proud to be a Rhody fan that night.
Now that the kids are grown, it's just my husband and I in our new cushioned seats at the Ryan Center. We don't make it to every game these days because we spend some time in the south each winter, but we always plan our "game nights" around the computer, where we can get a live feed for nearly every contest.
This year has been terrific. The season record was 22-9 and they won 11 of 16 games in the Atlantic-10 Conference. They are seeded number two going into this weekend's conference tournament in Atlantic City. Despite being ready to move on beyond basketball, there's just one small problem. It's called the post-season.
When they play their first tournament game tonight, I will be there in the old convention hall on the Boardwalk—the one where they held the Miss America pageants for decades. I will have on a Rhody- blue sweater and I will carry my blue and white pom-poms that I only take out for tournament play. I will be sitting next to good friends who are dressed just like me. By the end of the weekend my throat will be sore from yelling. My palms will be sore from clapping. And I will be swearing that I don't ever want to go to another tournament—it's just too stressful. But over the course of the weekend, I will spend time with all the other die-hard fans—taking over some Boardwalk watering hole so we can commiserate after each game. It's a good opportunity to get to know those people who are also crazy enough to travel to the road games and possibly get their hearts broken.
In most ways I am delighted that the season is over and whatever happens next is like frosting on a cake. I know that within the next few days I will either be elated or depressed, and either way I will be sick of basketball and ready to move on—until next year.