Welcome to the refreshed On The Banks! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts [link here] to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here [https://www.sbnation.com/why-we-are-fans] and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
Today, Bob Cancro offers his thoughts.
Man, that’s a damn good question.
I root for the Jets (again, why?), the Mets (slightly lesser why?) and Rutgers. The trifecta!
Unlike others who have written, mine was not destiny to be at Rutgers. I would be the first in my family to attend college and my folks weren't college football fans. Although my mom would talk about traveling by train to see Johnny Lujack play football. If that means nothing to you, then I really am old and you really are young. Plus you lack a sense of sports history...so look it up!
Growing up there was one football game on each Saturday, on ABC. Chris Schenkel calling the game, and it usually involved Oklahoma or Notre Dame or Alabama. Hoops was pretty much the same, but local. Which meant St. John’s on Channel 9. Rutgers on TV? Yeah, occasionally, but I knew what Alumni Hall in Queens looked like more than what the inside of The Barn did.
Occasionally I would travel by train - the Pennsylvania Railroad - with my aunt to visit my cousins in Levittown, PA, and as we passed through New Brunswick I’d see the cupola-topped Johnson & Johnson building and wonder if that was Rutgers. I knew nothing.
College applications came around and I figured I’d apply to Rutgers. My safety school, I thought. And I swear, I didn’t realize Rutgers College was all male at the time. The choice was easy when it came time to decide where to go: Rutgers gave me more money. I got an alumni scholarship for $746. Which went a lot farther back in 1969. But, somehow, I also got the message that someone gave money so that that scholarship would be there and help me go to college. I was indebted, and I believed I owed it to Rutgers and others who would come after me to give back. I still believe that.
Now, when you go to your first convocation - mine in the College Avenue Gym - and they say, “Look to your left, look to your right. In four years, one of you won’t be here” you realize that this college stuff is serious. And, I’m sure, for some of my classmates it was a “welcome” that didn’t endear them to Alma Mater. Me? I just thought they ain’t talkin’ about me. I’m here for the duration. Boy, was I in.
Within a month the College Football Centennial game was played and I went. Leading up to it there were window decorating contests between dorms and lots of hoopla (that’s an old term for, uhhh, hoopla) Big doings on campus. Rutgers Stadium packed with 27,000 fans, parties that night. This was cool. Big time college athletics. Home games against Cornell, Lehigh, Columbia, and Colgate. Yeah, big time, but all good stuff.
Then basketball season. Packing the Barn. Cheering. Watching the all male cheerleading squad walk the length of the floor on their hands. What did I know about college basketball? There was no ESPN, no internet. What I knew is what I experienced (imagine that!) So, playing Bucknell, Delaware, Lafayette, along with NYU and Niagra at the Garden. It was all a pretty big deal to me. It was very cool. I was hooked.
It probably helped the cause that I got involved with the radio station, WRSU. There was a certain sense that you were the voice of the college, even if you were just playing Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. We had intramural teams in football, hoops, and softball. We played The Targum and went on the road to play Princeton’s and Penn’s stations, WPRB and WQHS respectively. Yes, I played in the Palestra! I think. I know it was in Philadelphia. But I digress.
Two years playing lightweight football also made me a letter winner. I played in Franklin Field and in the old stadium. I ate dinner in the West Point mess hall and I slept in the visitors barracks at the Naval Academy. Yeah, it was really all very cool. I was a Rutgers athlete.
It was all a whirlwind experience that put me in the center of the place I called home for four years. Besides playing lightweight, I got to call a Rutgers-Princeton football game on radio, I broadcast basketball from the Garden, I gave a report for WFIL in Philly, all as a part of WRSU. I was an integral part of Rutgers. Game...set...match.
After college I was still around. While my first teaching job was near home in Bergen County, I was going for my masters at the Grad School of Ed, so once a week I was in New Brunswick. And there were still football games to attend. I used my college ID for admission for at least three years after it expired. Thank you, lackadaisical ticket takers.
Why am I a Rutgers fan? I guess it’s just the idea that it’s my school. Looking at it as an adult (how boring) I also realize it’s a great university. And that makes me proud.
I’m a Rutgers man. Game...set...match.
Previous posts in this series....
Our managing editor Aaron Breitman was first
Our baseball guy David Anderson
The new girl Namrita Singh
Celebrating Rutgers’ 250th anniversary last fall.
We have fanposts where readers offered their thoughts