There are two reasons you might "just hope for a good game" when you watch any sporting event: you're not emotionally invested in either team, or you're invested in both teams. Last night it was the former: in my quest to see as many local mids as I can, it was off to the (other) RAC, the Retriever Activities Center. This RAC is on the campus of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where the Retrievers were hosting the Rider Broncs. The Broncs were coming off a one-point loss to Princeton, so as an Ivy League partisan I was naturally intrigued. But mostly, I was hoping for a good game - as we all know, it's one thing to watch an ugly game, it's another thing altogether when you have to watch an ugly game between two teams you aren't invested in.
After scoring General Admission tickets numbers 1 and 2, we took seats in the second row behind the Rider bench. Though our ticket numbers made me nervous, a good-sized crowd made its way in, suggesting that the giant signs outside the arena that read "REMEMBER! Retrievers Athletic Events This Weekend!" had their intended effect. I was glad to see that, in addition to the 30-odd cheerleaders/dance team members, the UMBC band was there, and they were excellent.
In the row in front of us, three elementary-school aged boys were already installed, one holding a sheet of blue printer paper with "GO UMBC!" written in red pen. (The Retrievers' colors are black and gold. I don't know.) In the row behind us, a middle-aged couple who'd made the trip down from New Jersey to support the Rider Broncs soon joined. The first half wasn't exactly a thing of beauty, with Rider's zone defense seeming to stymie the Retrievers but not leading to many points; Rider looked like the better team, though, and the halftime score was 25-19 in their favor.
In lieu of a good game, though, our neighbors kept us entertained. Sitting behind the three kids in the front row turned out to be like watching an MST3K version of ESPN: the kid on the left had Bob Knight's Rain Man-like ability to keep stats in his head ("We've missed seven free throws in a row!"), punctuated by the kid on the right giving play-by-play ... of all the things other people in the section were yelling ("During the last free throw, that kid was yelling 'Deck the halls! Deck the halls!'"). The kid in the middle was most focused on scheduling the trio's trips to the concession stand, but was convinced to stand when things eventually got exciting.
The couple in the row behind us also provided some (perhaps less enjoyable) entertainment, answering the question: what would it be like if there were a Real Housewives of New Jersey Mid-Major Basketball? The accent, of course, is unmistakable. It went beyond that, though. Any time a Rider player stepped to the free throw line, the woman's voice rang out: "C'mon, [insert player's first name here]! Get two!" Followed by "Take your time!" (I haven't heard that one since I played grade school softball, myself.) Then the "analysis" to her husband: "If we'd made all our free throws, we'd be up 20!" Husband's response: "This team is terrible. We should be up 20 anyway."
Fortunately, the Retrievers staged a late-game comeback. (I should pause to report a use of the "I believe" chant that I've never seen before: skip to the fast part at the end, and use as a free throw distraction. Hm. It did work.) Rider led by two on the Retrievers' last possession; they'd clearly been told to guard closely UMBC 3-point threat Brian Neller, which they did all too well, fouling on Neller's last second heave. Mini-Bob Knight: "Three free throws to win the game! Neller shoots over 80%" Miss, make, make: overtime. Though UMBC scored first in overtime, taking their first lead of the game, Rider's stronger offense showed itself, and the Broncs came away with the win. A good game.