March Madness, meet the Black & Gold ;)

Phew!  That was one helluva ride.  A bitter sweet (16) Final Four (see what I did there?).

Ok, ok, enough of that silliness.  Bottom line?  The VCU Rams made a phenomenal run through the NCAA Tourney, undoubtedly becoming one the primary bracket busters for a majority of wannabe bracketologists out there.  I loved it.  As did the RVA (Richmond, VA) community.  The energy in the RVA community was absolutely incredible during the Ram’s Final Four run, building at each stage as the non-believers and the doubters began to take notice.  So – there are a few things to consider now that the tournament is over.

For example, is there any other team this year that delivered so many choice sound-bites and colorful expressions during the tournament?  I think not.  From the birthday bomber Brandon “the Mayor of Richmond” Rozzell to Shaka “the world” Smart, one of the most enjoyable aspects of this run has been the creative and engaging ways that fans, analysts, and the team have bonded over the Black & Gold.  Here are a few of my favorites in a completely random poll, but feel free to chime in if I missed something you believe should be included:

I heard (though I haven’t verified) that during the Ram’s bracket busting Final Four run that they – and Virginia Commonwealth University – became some of the most googled search terms, which is fantastic (who doesn’t love extra pub?  No doubt the Uni does).  However, thinking back to the social media explosion during the tournament, maybe this shouldn’t be such a surprise.  There are a couple of things to consider:

1) The Rams were considered a complete dog by the larger community (thankfully the selection committee recognized the team’s potential)

2) The Rams come from a non-power (you know, “mid-major”) conference

3) During their run through the brackets, they were easily the underdog (woof!) in each game they played.

4) The team, the coach, and the fans became part of an endearing back story

5) The Rams lit up teams on defense and rained threes like mad – which, of course, made them extremely fun to watch

6) Let’s face it – they won not only games, but hearts with their tenacity and brash play

Clearly, there are various elements of this run that appeal to audiences and the Rams delivered in a phenomenal way, legitimizing their selection and validating themselves, their coach, the team, and – quite frankly – VCU and the CAA.  One of my favorite moments centers on the “Eat Crow, Baby” banner from the Sweet 16 rally in Richmond.

In honor of their run, I’ve decided to share my own Twitter and Facebook journey along the way.  Naturally, this goes beyond just the Final Four, but I think it gives a much more satisfying context and illustrates more of the ride through the brackets.  I may not have been hitting bombs from behind the arc, but I was certainly raining bombs in the social media universe.  So here we go – my spin on the Black & Gold bringing the HAVOC, hashtags and all:

Courtesy of yours truly @driverx77 on the TWITTAH!  My personal favorites have the gold stars on the upper right side of the respective tweets.

P.S.: Don’t mind the Duke posts.  ;)

lol… I crack myself up…

As if that wasn’t enough, here is a snippet of my FB Wall, which is completely dominated by VCU links, pix, posts, vids, you name it.  I was on Black & Gold Overdrive!  Since I have my Twitter and FB linked, you will see some duplication, but rather than chop up the page to excess, I’m just going to give you the whole dealio.  I’m awesome like that. I did, however, edit out most of my FB wall posts that aren’t related to VCU or the Rams tournament run.  Also, I limited this posts I made on my wall.  Trust me, it was necessary to streamline this blog a bit, though there were some really fantastic debates on VCU’s inclusion over other teams like VT (man… did I ever stir the pot with that one online!)  =D

A lot of goodness packed up in those social media shenanigans!  As you can see, I certainly had a great time following the team, interacting with other fans, hosting viewing parties at my house, and combing the net for stories, pictures, articles and so on.  Since hyperlinks don’t work in screenshots (wouldn’t that be cool?), I’ll provide some of my personal direct-to-excellence favorites:


The first is a great Photoshop job – a new spin on the classic “Dewey Beats Truman” headline.  The rest, I believe, are self explanatory (though the WRIC van definitely gets PWND by the crowd!):


One Shining Moment – now even sweeter with a healthy dose of VCU clips – hit the 1:18 mark for some Black & Gold excellence.  How can you not love that?


As I said in my FB post, nix the overblown riot rhetoric – what’s great is seeing the VCU community so energized by the Final Four run. This piece illustrates a far more positive vibe which is reflective of the larger VCU community. Don’t confuse the destructive actions of a few with the positive actions from so many:


I will admit, however, that this piece is *very* well done.  Aside from the artistic qualities of the piece, it is both surreal and troubling.  Still, it does illustrate a darker side of the larger situation.  I don’t believe that should take away from the positive energy and all the great things that happened over the course of VCU’s run to the Final Four, but it would be a mistake to act as if everything was just peaches and cream the whole way through.  Moreover, there are lessons here… not just for the jubilation of winning, but in coping with difficult losses:


A few other thoughts – the loss to Butler was… definitely a let down.  Suddenly, it seemed as if the entire city had gone quiet, watching with a mix of disappointment, appreciation, but wondering what could have been.  From my perspective, it was particularly frustrating given the incredible volume of shots that teased the players before somehow coming *out* of the basket.  Just like I tweeted to Joey and said to a lot of my friends, that was a tough, tough loss.  That was not a friendly rim – so many “almost” buckets did them in.  I really believed when Skeen hit the late three (the one where he was also fouled) that the Rams were going to hit their stride and go on a run to pull away from Butler.  Granted, Butler did a good job setting the pace for a lot of the game and played strong half court defense to bottle the Rams up a little bit.  You have to give the Butler some credit for that.  However, it isn’t a stretch to think if a few more of the VCU shots dropped in, that the transition game would have opened up and the pace would have greatly favored the Rams.

The sting of the loss to Butler still resonated on Monday night.  By the end of the game, that sting was exacerbated by how poorly Butler played.  Not only was that a seriously ugly championship game, it was a historically poor shooting performance.  Naturally, I find it easy to believe that VCU-UConn would have been a much better game.  That may not be a fair statement and you never really know what would have happened.  Still, it is easy to think that if a few more of those shots dropped in vs. Butler (or perhaps if Butler hadn’t gotten so many favorable foul calls) that VCU would have shown up on Monday night to unleash the havoc.  Given one game under their belts to get used to shooting in the dome (a terrible place to have a basketball game, but that is a different issue), oh what could have been.  UConn may have still won.  VCU may have pulled it out and Shaka’d the World as the first Mid-Major NCAA D1 Champion.  That didn’t happen.  But what did happen is that VCU delivered a magical performance that captivated not only the VCU and RVA communities, but also a sports nation.  This is more than an underdog story or a simply a nice run in the tournament.  It is more than overcoming criticism and skepticism by sports analysts.  I believe we’ve just witnessed a transformation in attitudes, beliefs, and certainly passion.  This is, in part, a reflection of the team and the school, but above all else, it is a reflection of heart.  This is the Black & Gold.  You better be ready.

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