Rob Hodgson had the ball at the top of the key and started dribbling toward me. There were 11 second left in the game, and the Scarlet Knights trailed Seton Hall by two points. If Rutgers won the game, they would have stamped their ticket to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 8 years.
Shaheen Holloway stuck out his hand, and tipped the ball out of bounds. Or so I thought. My view from the stands under the basket was a bit obscured. It turns out the ball went off Hodgson’s leg.
Three years later, with Rutgers having a shockingly good season under first year coach Gary Waters, I found myself at the Meadowlands again. Seton Hall blew the doors off Rutgers.
And then did it again the following season.
The next time I saw Rutgers play on the road against the Pirates was the final time Fred Hill lost at the Rock.
So, let me put my fandom feelings bluntly: I am a jinx.
Yes, superstitions are crazy and silly and really don’t exist, but I have no luck watching Rutgers play on Seton Hall’s home court. I didn’t attend JR Inman’s last second three to send the Hall to the off season. I missed Jerome Seagear’s clutch three after falling down on the play. Or Mike Poole’s late game steal.
The Rock is only twenty minutes from my house. I won’t go. I won’t do it.
I’ve sat through too many heartbreakers. Too much pain. And when I don’t go—except under a certain former head coach—Rutgers seems to do better.
There’s a power in superstition. At least if I feel superstitious, then it also feels like I control over something I will never have control over. Never mind that Rutgers has rarely been as good at the Hall on the basketball court. Somehow, this is my fault.
And the numbers kind of back it up. At least in my fan-adled brain.
All week other Rutgers fans have been asking me if I’ll attend the game. And forget the fact that the next day is Christmas Eve and plenty of people have parties and celebrations to plan for. It’s not the only reason I will be watching on TV.
I’ll be there because I hope Deshawn Freeman, down two, has the basketball at the top of the key with a lane to the hoops. And as he takes his first step, Khadeen Carrington reaches in to tip the ball away. But this time, Freeman finds Mike Williams wide open on the wing.
And instead of it happening right in front of me, I see it on the television.
For a full look back at this rivalry and coaching matchups from the past two decades, click here.