I'm going to be honest: I'm kind of a crotchety old man when it comes to my sporting events. I'm a diva when it comes to seat location: as close to center court as possible, be it in the upper or lower level. I can't stand people who unnecessarily stand during the game (unnecessarily being the key word). More than anything else, I hate kids who can't sit still. Crawling past me, standing in front of me, kicking my seat, running up and down the aisles. Many times I've hoped and prayed that all the unruly kids in the arena could be penned up in their own little section and be amused by a variety of activities in the concourse. Thankfully, the University of Richmond has decided to answer my prayers with their Kids Club Night.
In all seriousness though, the Spiders cater to the 12-and-under set unlike any other program I've ever seen. My girlfriend and I arrived at the Robins Center after a long day of traveling to find children running in every direction, yelling and having a very good time. Although it's not strange to see a couple kids tearing from one end of the concourse to the other at any of my usual haunts, the sheer volume here surprised me. Of course, a quick trip jaunt around the concourse showed why. Freshly spun cotton candy! Inflatable carnival-style basketball game! Poster board sign-making station! Compared to the large amounts of nothing that usually populate smaller school arenas, this must have felt like Disney World to an eight-year-old.
After finding our way to our seats (about three-quarters of the way up, center court), we noticed the section created specifically for the little Spiders fans along the baseline. Teeming with over a hundred kids, the bleacher section allowed kids to sit on the floor and enjoy an experience that I know would've thrilled me at that age. Marketing personnel and other event staff tried to corral the kids and select them for promotions. It was glorious bedlam, and helped make up for the absence of the students on their winter break.
With the game set to begin, the PA announcer readied for starting lineups with a special announcement. One of the Spiders Kids Club members would be reading the starting lineup for the visiting team. The little girl, probably about 10 or so, hesitantly went through the names of the Flames starters. I'm convinced that this is the greatest pregame intimidation tactic a team can engage in. None of the Liberty players were quite sure what to make of this rundown, and awkwardly trotted out to each of their occasionally mangled names.
On the other hand, the Spiders got full intros from the PA announcer, AND inflatable dancing men. Dry ice and spotlights are for suckas.
Once the game started it was all Jerry's Kids. Liberty seemed determined and focused, and cleaned up the glass well. The Flames dominated the first half until the final moments, and the highly favored Spiders didn't take their first lead until 1:36 left in the period. When the horn sounded, it was 33-29 Richmond. Halftime involved various kid-centric promotions, including the legendary hamster ball race. I took the time to grab some cotton candy and settle in for the second-half action.
Picking up from where they left off, the Spiders extended their four-point halftime margin and never looked back. The run was keyed by sophomore Cedrick Lindsay, and the young man finished with 19 points to lead all scorers. It was only fitting that one of Richmond's youngest contributors would spark the Spiders to victory on Kids Club Night. If you live in the area and you're looking for a great basketball experience with your kids, come on down to the Robins Center. They can do their thing, you (and I) can enjoy the game, and if Richmond plays like they did tonight, you just might see a Spiders victory as well.
at RICHMOND 77, LIBERTY 61 12/28/2011
LIBERTY 5-9 (0-2) -- L. Fulton 7-15 0-0 16; A. Burrus 5-8 3-4 13; T. Speaks 4-6 0-0 8; J. Sanders 5-8 4-6 14; J. Sanders 3-8 2-2 8; D. Minaya 3-6 0-0 6; T. Gielo 1-4 0-0 2; C. Phillips 1-2 0-0 2; E. Layer 2-3 0-0 6; A. Smith 1-1 0-0 2; W. Aikens 0-0 0-0 0; J. Vander Pol 0-0 0-0 0; K. Assinesi 0-0 0-0 0; S. Baird 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-46 9-12 61. RICHMOND 8-6 (0-0) -- D. Brothers 6-9 4-4 17; C. Lindsay 5-7 6-7 19; K. Anthony 1-7 0-0 2; D. Williams 3-6 5-7 11; D. Garrett 4-4 0-2 8; J. Duinker 5-7 0-0 12; G. Robbins 1-4 0-1 2; F. Martel 0-0 0-0 0; W. Sparrow 2-6 0-0 6; J. Benjamin 0-1 0-0 0; L. Billings 0-0 0-0 0; Z. Estes 0-0 0-0 0; C. Smith 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-51 15-21 77.
Three-point goals: LIB 2-9 (D. Minaya 0-2; J. Sanders 0-1; J. Caleb Sanders 0-2; T. Gielo 0-1; E. Layer 2-3), RICH 8-22 (J. Duinker 2-2; D. Brothers 1-2; J. Benjamin 0-1; G. Robbins 0-2; C. Lindsay 3-4; W. Sparrow 2-4; D. Williams 0-2; K. Anthony 0-5); Rebounds: LIB 26 (A. Burrus 8), RICH 21 (D. Brothers 8); Assists: LIB 11 (J. Sanders 5), RICH 14 (D. Brothers 4); Total Fouls -- LIB 17, RICH 15; Fouled Out: LIB-None; RICH-None.