Hours on Twitter. Lunches on message boards. Signs in the stands.
For years, Rutgers fans have positioned themselves as New York's College team. They point to the Empire State Building being lit up red during important games. They point to the ratings.
They laugh when UConn talks about being the sixth borough or Syracuse preaches proximity. Pshaw, they say. We're the closest to New York.
We, Rutgers, are New York's team.
Well, unless you ask us to play in New York.
Over the next two years, both the football team (probably) and the basketball team will lose conference home games in order to play games in New York City. Rutgers will be stuck playing a game against Wisconsin (whom the RAC helped them upset two years ago) at Madison Square Garden in early 2017. And in late 2017, it looks like the Scarlet Knights of the gridiron will line up against the Maryland Terrapins.
And, all of a sudden, some fans are upset.
Look, I get it. New York is expensive. Other fans will fill the stands and hurt the home court advantage we've worked so hard to cultivate. At Madison Square Garden, the rims and depth perception are off for players used to playing in a smaller gym. At Yankee Stadium, it's tough to convert a baseball stadium for football and the field becomes dangerous for players and leads to a sloppy game. Tailgating stinks, apparently.
Well, take a deep breath, Rutgers fans. I have some bad news for you.
All that politicking and arguing? Along with a sweet conference and lots of cash (we all love to scream about the money we're going to get), there comes along a little bit of payment.
And that tax? It's to help build the brand of the Big Ten and Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights are not a blue blood. The university's athletic program does not have the cachet of an Ohio State or Nebraska--at least not yet. And, in order to get there, you have to bend a little bit.
This is a business deal. This is how you build a brand in an area that traditionally hasn't had much stake in the Big Ten. You take away a home game in order to play in the "World's Most Famous Arena", you steal a conference game in order to align yourself with the biggest sports brand of all time.
This is how you start to build more awareness. This is how you escape the shadow of Julie Hermann, Mike Rice and the idea that this school doesn't belong in this conference.
There will be payouts, I'm sure. Particularly from the Yankees. The Scarlet Knights will come out in with some extra dough. Maybe they can put it toward the facilities we want so badly.
Maybe it will, in the absolute long run, help build the kind of teams other programs glare at knowingly. Maybe the money helps put Rutgers beyond UConn and Syracuse even more.
You won't have to argue much anymore.
The chuckling will stop.
It won't happen immediately. This is part of the long game.
But remember all that arguing and chest puffing you did over the past 10 years. This is how it starts to pay off. The climb isn't over yet, but one this is true, Rutgers kinds.
We kind of asked for this.