As the college basketball careers of the seniors on the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team came to an end last Thursday, so too did the road for senior pep band members.
It’s now been four years since I first walked in the service entrance at the back of the Ryan Center and joined both the Ram Band and the student section in cheering on our guys. It was head coach Dan Hurley’s first year at the helm, and we were hopeful for the years to come. Â
Being in the Ram Band is different from just being in the student section. You’re part of the show, part of the team. Â Not the team on the court, but that sixth man in the stands. When our tubas start up the intro to “Seven Nation Army,” the crowd gets behind us. When we’re chanting “defense!” our drummer keeps the beat, punctuating the cheer with the kick drum. Â
It was always rewarding when fans tell us at the end of the game how much they loved the band. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me, “You guys rocked tonight!” I could probably have made a semester’s tuition payment. This was most true when I ran into Hurley two years ago at Mews Tavern.
After telling him how I thought the team was looking great and how I was looking forward to supporting them at the Atlantic 10 tournament, he thanked me and said they need the band. He even told me his favorite song we play, the theme from “Game of Thrones.” Â
There have been some unforgettable moments at the Ryan Center. Xavier Munford making Sportscenter’s Top 10 with a buzzer beater to beat Dayton in 2013. Eric Youncofski coming off the bench on senior day and sinking a floater with only seconds remaining. And my personal favorite, playing the fight song on repeat as fans rushed the court after upsetting nationally-ranked Nebraska.
We saw our share of heartbreak too. In my four years I watched in agony twice as we were narrowly defeated by Providence College at home. We were there at the Barclays Center when this year’s season ended at the hands of UMass. Playing the fight song at the end of losses never got easier. But that just made playing it after wins all the more fun. Â
This past season I made a point of going all out for every home game. If my voice wasn’t lost after the game, I hadn’t done my job. Some fellow bandmates and I started bowing down with our hands above our heads for every three pointer. We did three bows for every one that was made, unless Four McGlynn shot it, in which case we would hold four fingers up and bow four times. Because four. Â
We had a set routine of double high fives for every basket made. Every. Basket. Â And if Hassan Martin threw down one of his vicious, board-shaking dunks, we did two rounds of high fives.
There’s a kid – maybe 10 or 11 years old – who sits in the section across the tunnel from the band who shouts “Get in the hole!” every time a URI player takes a free throw. Call me crazy, but the kid has a pretty high percentage of those foul shots going in. Midway through the season, he and I started celebrating each made free throw from across the way. I have no idea who he is, but that connection made the season fun for both of us.
While I certainly won’t stop coming to Rhody games, these are the things I’ll miss about being in the Ram Band. To the team, thank you for providing some of my favorite college memories. And to the Ram Band, never stop being loud and playing with pride. Go Rhody!