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DISAPPOINTMENT, BUT NOT DISMAY FOR LOCAL RAMS FANS
VCU fans turn out to support the Rams at Fredericksburg-area sports bars


Date published: 4/3/2011

BY BILL FREEHLING

"Cinderella just struck midnight."

That's how Joe Preseren summed up the situation last night at the Home Team Grill in Fredericksburg's Eagle Village as the Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball team went down eight points to Butler University with less than a minute to go in the NCAA tournament semifinal game.

Soon thereafter, VCU's magical march to the Final Four ended in defeat, 70-62. But Preseren and most of the longtime and recent VCU fans who packed the sports bar and grill last night didn't seem too disappointed.

"It was an amazing run, said Preseren, a Roanoke man who was in Fredericksburg to watch his daughter, Katherine, play in a softball game for the University of Mary Washington.

Black-and-gold-clad VCU fans came out in force last night to area sports bars to support the Rams in their first Final Four appearance.

The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille at the Village at Spotsylvania Towne Centre and the Home Team Grill were among dozens of establishments inside and outside Virginia that held "VCU watch parties" last night to give fans of the Richmond university a place to support the men's basketball team.

There were 20 watch parties listed on the official VCU website for the Richmond area alone, as well as events in 14 different Virginia localities. Festivities were held as far away as Costa Rica and California.

VCU has about 150,000 living alumni and 830 who have Fredericksburg or Stafford or Spotsylvania county addresses, according to the university's alumni office. They're not accustomed to having athletic teams playing on a stage anywhere near as big as the NCAA Final Four.

VCU doesn't have a football program. Its basketball team, which plays in a mid-major conference, has had some NCAA tournament success in the past, but nothing like this year. VCU items are hard to find at Fredericksburg-area sporting-goods stores.

But there were plenty of Rams fans out last night at the Greene Turtle and Home Team Grill. Festivities at the Greene Turtle started at 5 p.m., an hour before tip-off, with a live radio broadcast, prizes and paper Ram heads handed out to fans.

The Home Team Grill, which also has locations in Richmond including one that's steps from VCU, had Final Four-themed specials such as four barbecue pork sliders for $4.44 and $4 VCU bombs (a concoction that involved Jagermeister and Goldschlager dropped into a beer and chugged).

It was one of the best turnouts so far in the Home Team Grill's brief history in Fredericksburg. And while VCU fans there weren't thrilled with the outcome, they didn't seem too upset.

"I'm satisfied," said local VCU fan Ryan Hicks. "I never expected this at all. Can't complain."

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com