As magical as having season tickets had been during the 2012-2013 season, being free to play musical seats in 2013-2014 had some unexpected and amazing surprises. My first game back I was a little sad to see strangers in “our seats” but it didn’t take long for my normal game day enthusiasm to return. I took in the now familiar sights and sounds as we searched for general admission seating.
Around holidays, when students are off campus, they sometimes need to fill empty spots where the Rowdy Rams reign and November 29, 2013 happened to be one of those occasions. The spot wasn’t far from our old seats, and just being in the building was like coming home. I gladly accepted the challenge to be one of the most enthusiastic fans in the building. After all I was also back near my favorite pep band. After a disappointing 84- 80 tournament loss in Puerto Rico to Georgetown, we were ready to give our boys back their home court advantage. True to form fans welcomed back the team with The Peppa Effect and a loud collective voice and we were rewarded with a 79 – 66 win over Northeastern.
The Eastern Kentucky and Fordham games were spent in general admission seats on the opposite side of the Stu. The benefit of a smaller arena is generally the views from anywhere are pretty good. There are just those where the view is amazing (lucky fans). The main drawback to general admin is the A/C situation. I was shivering shortly after we chose our seats. It was like sitting in a restaurant freezer because it’s directly above the section. A myriad of other fans tried to sit nearby, but none lasted long. The perk here was I learned that sounds and voices travel amazingly well across the court, especially when coming through the band director’s megaphone. Also some cool fans call this side home. VCU Pav and Batman are great rowdiology leaders and very entertaining to watch.
We stood in for season ticket holders at the George Mason game whose seats across the court in the opposite corner of our old seats but not as far back. This area was not nearly as rowdy as our previous ones, an unexpected and strange experience in itself. I had my work cut out for me but with Pav in sight below I was inspired to stay loud. The fans in this section left their seats a lot, mainly due to small children. I imagine I resembled a bobble head as I tried to keep up with the game, but it was a minor inconvenience to experience Havoc.
After losing to St. Louis on their home court, I really wanted to be part of the rematch at the Stu. We tried desperately to find tickets but everyone else was attempting to do the same. I was sadly resigned to watching from home when an inspired last minute attempt was suggested…”Why don’t you post something on Twitter”. Willing to try anything I gave it a last ditch effort. Best decision EVER because I received a message from a fellow fan we’d become friends with and they had been given 4 tickets. I would have taken standing room only just to be in the building for this one. One of the 2 luckiest and most exciting moments of the season was about to happen – as we headed to the seats I realized we were courtside! I could have talked to the players we were so close. My new friend’s wife was thrilled to have someone just as excited about the game as she was to cheer with her. We spent the entire game yelling at the top of our voices and jumping out of our seats. We even made it into the background of an end of game photo featuring Briante Weber in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Havoc fan experience meter – OFF the chart!
Our final adventure in the Stu was supposed to be a “white out” with all in attendance in shirts featuring the new VCU Athletics logo, unfortunately with all the winter weather issues the shirts didn’t arrive in time. While it’s difficult to find a VCU fan not in black and gold, it might be more difficult to find one in branded white apparel. Fortunately I had one shirt that was white and my husband opted for a white polo and his VCU cap in an attempt to keep the white out alive. We were rewarded for following directions by an invitation to sit behind the basket by another fan. He said they could use us since they were going to be on TV “a lot” and needed everyone on camera to be in white.
That moment where it goes dark and the magic starts – I was holding the edge of the “Havoc Lives Here” parachute and loving every minute of it. We had to be prepared to jump around and shout every time the news crew turned around and we were Logistically this was the hardest game to watch from where we sat because the hoop post obscured the view, but it was also the most emotional. It was the last time we would see Juvonte Reddic and Rob Brandenberg play on this court. We were also sitting in front of JeQuan Lewis’s family. When I cried during the highlight video post-game one of them sweetly asked “Are you graduating too? Even though I said no she replied “Come here” and gave me a hug. I’m not sure what shocked me more being mistaken for a student or the extreme kindness of a stranger caught up in the moment with me, but it was memorable. Sometimes you just need to remember that the fan experience is full of tiny unexpected and magical moments.