We've all done it. You click one thing, you click another, and all of a sudden you're in that corner of the internet where...well...let's just say you don't want to be. Sometimes it's a Youtube video of a flesh eating bacteria, sometimes it's a racist rant by a grammatically-challenged yokel, and sometimes - in the worst of times - it's an article on Black Shoe Diaries.
Yes, the ultimate hive of scum and villainy. The place where trolls breed in the comments section and mocking the Knights as "Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers" is the burn of the day.
No, this is not the woodsie charm of Off Tackle Empire, with its Buttgers jokes and quaint, back-home humor. This is the bad 1% of team supporters. The group that gets the stinkeye from more polite fans. This is the home of our enemy.
When I saw BSD Minion Devon Edwards' Welcome to the Big Ten, Rutgers article pop up on my RSS feed, I got my rage bib on and prepared to dig into a big old slice of hate pie. As I started reading though, I was stunned. I've been caught off guard by BSD in the past, but this time I was absolutely shocked.
First off, it was well written. Second, it actually made coherent points and had a narrative flow. Third, it wasn't full of assholes. Needless to say, I was beside myself. Edwards definitely takes his shots, but he puts together a great read for TTFP and RU fans alike. Let's break it down:
Opening with Vonnegut? You, My Friend, Are a Sir
Any article that starts with a reference to God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or really anything by this writer's favorite author, the dearly departed Kurt Vonnegut, is off to a great start.
...it does have the best quote from one of the most eminently quotable novelists the world has ever seen:
"Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies-"God damn it, you've got to be kind."
With my apologies to Mr. Vonnegut, who didn't seem like the type to have cared anyway were he still alive, allow me a variation:
Hello, Rutgers. Welcome to the Big Ten. It's long on tradition and short on recent history. It's full of passion and punting and giant stadiums. On the outside, Rutgers, you've got ten wins here. There's only one rule that I know of, Rutgers-"God damn it, you've got to hate Ohio State."
OTB fact of the day: I have a Kurt Vonnegut inspired tattoo. Non-throwing arm.
Then Things Get a Little Squirrely
Edwards makes some good points, but goes a little off the reservation with a few claims. Let's set a few things straight:
1. No, Jim Delany did not just invite Rutgers for the eyeballs.
If that were the case, Louisville would have been all-in for the Big Ten years ago! We all know that the Big Ten has a broad set of selection criteria (adjacency, large land grant universities, focus on research, AAU [lol @ Nebroski], aggressively supports Title IX, etc.).
Yeah, Rutgers sure does bring a lot of eyeballs to the table. That's part of what makes us great, but it's not the whole picture. Tell me...please, I'm serious...tell me who else you can invite to the conference that qualifies for all of the Big Ten's criteria?
The reasons Rutgers was brought into the Big Ten are as complex and diversified as the Big Ten itself.
2. Yeah, Rutgers fans only represent 3% of the population of New York City, but it's the biggest slice
Yep, that's about 3x what the team from Pennsylvania draws and TTFP has been playing against the biggest teams in college football for a century. You think that number is going to stay at 3%? Nope, and Jim Delany doesn't either.
3. No, Delaney did not throw Rutgers into B1G East to be a doormat
Did you see the game this weekend? I thought so.
At this point, I'm ready to tune this guy out. Just another BSD shmuck. Then, he gets going again with some great thoughts that provide a new viewpoint and really give a nice perspective on things:
Rutgers is not Ohio State. It is not Penn State. It is not Michigan or Michigan State, either. But neither is it Northwestern or Illinois or Purdue. It will lose, but not of its own volition. It will disappoint its fans, but only because there are fans there to disappoint. And it will make for a beautiful scene on national television, a sea of red in an undersized stadium, under the lights in the labrynthine maze of highways and jughandles that is Central New Jersey.
Fair enough. Good writing too. Got me pumped.
I don't think any Scarlet-blooded fans are claiming that we're OSU. We feel that we're a solid team that can fit into the conference and we take exception to those that think otherwise. I think this bit is a great assessment.
4. If You Spend This Much Time Talking About a Rivalry, It's a Rivalry
Honestly, there's been so much ink on the topic, I'm tired of reading and writing about it, but Edwards does make some great points (I know! There's so much good stuff in here. I think it must have been one of the OTB guys hacking into the BSD account). The bottom line though, is that if you have to spend this much time, ink and energy saying there isn't a rivalry on your hands, well my friend, it looks like you've got a rivalry on your hands!
Welcome to The Big Ten, Rutgers
I think one of the things I liked most about the piece was that it spoke about an existence in the Big Ten that we Rutgers fans never considered. I think most of us were like "SWEET! TTFP REVENGE DIVISION YES!", and are only now grokking the bigger picture:
But there's good news, too: When you're playing a big game against a conference opponent, it doesn't need to be Ohio State and Michigan to capture eyeballs across the midwest, to be the center of national attention. This is the Big Ten, where big games matter and the opportunity to play in them is earned, not a birthright. You've got much to learn, and much to experience, and there will be more nights like last night. There are traditions to learn, and fight songs to mock, and--you'll learn--more interactions with more fans from more schools, until even you develop some mutual respect and admiration and inside jokes and begin to enjoy welcoming them to your campus rather than trying to scare them off. And there are more big games to lose, too: It tends to be the games against better teams that matter most for all of us. And more often than not, the better team will win.
But when you finally win one--whether it's at home, in front of a full house so loud the stadium actually shakes, or on the road, sucking all the noise out of a crowd just as packed? Man, there's nothing better. The heartbreak now will pay off down the road, when these games have a history behind them, when a win isn't just a win but a catharsis. And then, you will have arrived.
Welcome to the Big Ten, Rutgers. I think you're going to like it here.
There's more good stuff, including a great quote from Chuck Klosterman, but he's spot on. Right now, we hate the team from Pennsylvania. Out and out hate. There isn't much of a respect component, because no respect is reciprocated. Once Rutgers notches a few wins in the rivalry, that will start to change. The hate might intensify, but the respect will temper it.
The last line is spot on though. We are happy to be here and we like it already.
There's just one more thing...
Welcome to Rutgers, Big Ten
Midway through the article, Edwards makes a really interesting point which speaks to the unfamiliarity of the Big Ten with Rutgers fans, Rutgers football and the State of New Jersey at large:
They are Iowa today, Michigan State three years ago. They let a 10-0 halftime lead, earned with a ferocious pass rush and dominant special teams play, slip away with offensive ineptitude and a defense that finally crumbled in the last moments. Today, the fans blame the quarterback and the head coach and the offensive coordinator for the bitterness that still persists. But as all the energy in that stadium turned to nervous excitement and then to dust, I could only wonder: How many breakthrough opportunities will there be for Rutgers over the next few years? How many will have so much riding on it? How many Biggest Games in Program History can these fans stand to lose?
Again, great writing and a sound assessment. To be fair, I think we proved against TTFP that we can hang with the big boys (and should have won the damn game...but I digress). It was the last sentence that caught my attention though.
How many Biggest Games in Program History can these fans stand to lose?
Oh, my friend, you do not understand who you're dealing with here...and I don't think you're alone. So, let's clarify.
You see, Jersey is tough. We grind. We work hard. We have an edge. We get knocked down and you better believe we get back up again. Every day we go to work in one of the most competitive marketplaces in the world and we go up against the best and the brightest.
The saying is originally about New York City, but it certainly extends to the surrounding area, where cost of living, competition, and raw intensity rivals the boroughs. "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." That extends to every fiber of our lives and is reflected in Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and the proud football team that we field.
We are Braddock
Cinderella Man is a film about an underdog boxer in the 1930's who went from washup to world champion. It's a great story and one of the most notable scenes puts the protagonist, James Braddock, a man who lived most of his life in New Jersey, against the exceptionally powerful Art Lasky. Lasky is the perfect correlary to PSU; a big midwesterner with a stellar history and a vicious right hand. In this scene, Lasky lands shot after shot after shot, beating the snot out of Braddock, for what seems like forever. At one point, he lands a monster right hook.
What happens though? Does Braddock throw in the towel? Does he let the pain overwhelm him? Does he give up in the face of seemingly impossible odds?
No. He picks himself up and in this moment of crippling pain and crushing exhaustion...he smiles. He gives Lasky a smile that says "That's the best you can do?" A smile that says "You can do everything you can, but I will never stop fighting." A smile that says "Yeah, I am a little twisted and you should be afraid."
What Lasky realizes in this moment - and what I hope our neighbors to the west are realizing as they read this - is that this opponent will never give up. This opponent has been through worse before; much worse. This opponent will keep taking the best you've got and keeping coming back for more.
Eventually, we will wear you down. You might have the muscle, you might have the pedigree, but we have the edge; we have the toughness. We've been through much worse. All the years of mediocrity. All the years of conference instability. All the years of taking shit from everyone. It's given us a pretty thick skin. We've got a lot of experience picking ourselves up off the mat and yeah, we're going to smile while we do it, because yeah, we are a little twisted, aren't we?
You think we're going to pack it up and head home after a single loss to a good team after a great night of football? No sir. Get ready, because this rivalry - yeah, this rivalry - is just getting started.