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, Jim Hoffman offers his thoughts.
There are two different types of Rutgers fans. The first type are those who are fans because they came to Rutgers to get their college degree, and as a student and later an alum, became a fan. Most of these people either had family, connections, or finances push them toward the school, and once there, adopted Rutgers as their own.
The second type are NJ residents who became a fan because Rutgers is the NJ State University and support the school as a New Jerseyan, and have adopted Rutgers as their own.
I am a hybrid of those two types, and neither, or maybe both, fit me. I fit the first group as I came to Rutgers to get a degree. However, not as an undergraduate. I came to Rutgers as a graduate student to get my Master’s degree from the Graduate School of Education. So, I relatively rapidly (2 years) got my degree as a commuter student. But, it did not end there, as I made the decision to keep going, and get my doctorate as well. By the time I finished, I had spent 8 years as a student at Rutgers. In that time I completed two degrees, and spent more time than most ever spend as an undergraduate student.
At the same time, as a graduate (and commuter) student, I didn’t do all of the “fun” stuff. I was also working, and had young children. So, no parties, no basketball or football, no hanging out on weekends, etc. When I was not working, I was either in class, doing homework, or sharing the raising of two daughters.
One thing it did do, however. I came to respect and cherish the school and its programs. With no time to attend events, I still followed the progress of the teams, and became a huge fan, even when playing the likes of small programs like Richmond, Colgate (see below), and so on.
Until just recently I still had my Rutgers football t-shirt that was sold when Rutgers joined the Big East for football in 1991. Upon my graduation, I immediately became a season ticket holder, and my four season tickets were my wife and young daughters attending the games. Two odd things about those games still stand out in my memory:
- My younger daughter was terrified of the cannon that would fire (and still does) whenever Rutgers scored a point. So, whenever Rutgers would score, instead of cheering, I would immediately cover her ears so she wouldn’t cry. More than 20 years later, she still talks about that, and not fondly, either!
- This was back in the mid-to-late 90s, when regular blowouts were commonplace. There wasn’t much to cheer about, that’s for sure, and I actually didn’t need to cover my daughter’s ears often, either. We would get excited whenever Rutgers would get a first down! Years later, my older daughter was a student at Boston College and she cheered wildly at her first BC football game when their team got a first down. Her friends asked her why she was so excited about something so mundane as a first down. She hesitantly told them we used to cheer for them at Rutgers games because there wasn’t usually anything else to cheer for!
So, I have survived those tough years, got to watch the emergence of Rutgers finally making waves in the “real” football world in the last decade,
and was excited beyond belief when the invite came in 2012 to join the Big Ten.
Even though by this point I live in upstate NY hours away from Piscataway, I again got season tickets, and travel to almost every game religiously, tailgating, absorbing the excitement of truly big time football cheering on our Scarlet Knights. Being able to see the games now is even more fun, as I don’t have to cover up anyone’s ears now!
Fellow staffer Bob Cancro proudly stakes his claim as the “senior” staffer here at On the Banks, but I’m running a close second. I’m going to keep going until I physically can’t do it anymore, but even then, I can watch just about every game on TV now. Those who are not “of a certain age” don’t know what it used to be like. Back then. if two or three games a year were on TV, it was a big season!
Last point (I promise). Don’t complain about how things are these days. It is light years beyond anything we would have imagined just 25 years ago. Is it perfect? No, but it continues to improve, and because we struggle against teams in the Top 25 doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Us old guys can remember when we struggled against the likes of Colgate, Navy, Lehigh and Temple. Who knows, this below may be me someday! Go Scarlet Knights!
Previous posts in this series....
Our managing editor Aaron Breitman was first
Our baseball guy David Anderson
The new girl Namrita Singh
The old man Bob Cancro
Our novelist Dave White
Our friend ZuzuRU
Celebrating Rutgers’ 250th anniversary last fall.