COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va - The purple and yellow sign with Ric Flair’s face and his famous “Wooo!” made the 10-hour ride to Indiana Farmers Coliseum with Stacy Ingram-Hanson and her son.
Ingram-Hanson holds the sign up in jubilation when the VCU Rams men’s basketball team drains a shot or creates a steal.
But the Flair sign was only a passenger for this trip and never made it out of the car.
The Rams were pulled from the NCAA Division I men’s tournament hours before tip-off against Oregon Saturday night.
Ingram-Hanson and her son had left Colonial Heights early that morning to make it in time for the opening tip.
“We got there about 7 p.m., so I thought I’ll pull up the fan page and just see where everyone is meeting,” she said. “The first post on the VCU basketball [page] is the game is canceled, no contest, and my heart sunk.”
“I actually posted on there: please tell me this is a joke.”
Ingram-Hanson said they decided to turn right around and head back to Virginia, making it home early Sunday morning.
“It was tough, heartbreaking, but not as heartbreaking as those guys who didn’t get to play and show them what they got up there,” she said.
The disappointment Saturday night stretched back to Richmond too.
VCU Freshman Matthew Taleghani said he had to cancel plans with his roommate to watch the game when he got the alert.
“When I heard the news, I was really hoping it wasn’t real and was a bad source,” he said. “It’s completely incomparable. I understand how they feel because I’ve had a track season, I wasn’t able to compete in because of coronavirus. But to be on the biggest stage of college basketball and not get to even play your first game, it’s just so upsetting.”
Ingram-Hanson is a nurse practitioner at Colonial Heights Medical Center, so her disappointment as a fan was far outweighed by her hope that the multiple Rams players who tested positive make a full recovery.
Despite an abrupt end to the season because of COVID two years in a row, the disappointment for Rams-nation only dampens the moment and not the prospects of the team coming back.
“They’ve got a good young core to build around,” Taleghani said.
“It’s the family, it’s the network, it’s the Ram-ily, like we call it,” Ingram-Hanson said with a smile.