Four members of the Rutgers men’s basketball team will take the floor at the Rutgers Athletic Center for the final time as students when the Scarlet Knights host Illinois on Senior Day Sunday afternoon. Alongside them will be plenty of seniors stuffing the student section, enjoying their final home game at the RAC before becoming alums.
And up on press row will be one of their fellow classmates covering his final home game as a student.
As journalists, we’re taught to report the story and distance ourselves as far away as possible from the narrative. We are not and should never be the story.
If you’ll allow me, I’m going to break that rule just this one time.
For those who don’t know me, I am also a senior at Rutgers reaching the end of my tenure on the Banks. I’ve covered Rutgers athletics for all four of my years as a student, working for some great organizations alongside some brilliant, amazing people along the way.
Before I go on, I want to thank those people for all the help, guidance and respect they’ve given me along the way — Sam Hellman, Jerry Carino, Ryan Dunleavy, Keith Sargeant, Bobby Deren, Aaron Breitman, Garrett Stepien, Eric Mullin, Kevin Lorincz, Jordan Ozer, Hasim Phillips, Edwin Gano, Dimitri Rodriguez and many more.
I started my college journey at Rutgers at the same time as Mike Williams and Jake Dadika in the fall of 2014, all of us wide-eyed about the possibilities the next four years would bring.
We roamed the same hallways and walked the same campuses, and while our paths were different, our aspirations and the way we went about achieving our goals were the same. While Williams, Dadika, Deshawn Freeman and Candido Sa put in hours of practice at the Rutgers Athletic Center to shine on the court, I did the same in the office of The Daily Targum for two years, grinding out stories so I could cover them to the best of my ability as a student journalist.
I followed the program’s journey from the ‘Groundhogs Day’ experience that was Eddie Jordan’s final season at the helm to the renewed hope under Steve Pikiell. I’ve followed this team to Newark, Madison Square Garden, Indianapolis, State College (twice) and College Park (three times).
Here’s a look at me as a goofy sophomore in my first trip to Maryland with my Daily Targum colleagues Garrett Stepien and Edwin Gano, a great pair of guys I consider my friends to this day.
Here’s the three of us on a trip to cover the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, featuring the haircut I got until I was 20 and finally found a decent barber.
Here’s me and Griffin Whitmer, who I ironically poached from On The Banks to become the Targum’s associate sports editor on the board following mine (sorry, Aaron!), in Penn State.
And to go full circle, here’s me recapping a Rutgers’ loss to Minnesota at the RAC last season — there’s a reason I’m not in the broadcast business.
Many highs and lows were witnessed over my three seasons as writer on the beat, all of which I tried my best to observe and report with an objective eye, leaving my scarlet-tinted glasses on the backburner.
But, I have a confession to make — I openly celebrated the win over Seton Hall.
I stormed the court when the final buzzer sounded and the Scarlet Knights earned their first ever Garden State Hardwood Classic win over the Pirates, one hand raised with my cell phone recording the action for social media #content, the other subtly shaking in celebratory fashion by my side.
Rutgers upsets No. 15 Seton Hall 71-65. Welcome to the first court storm of the Steve Pikiell era. pic.twitter.com/azXoowAqmw— Brian Fonseca (@briannnnf) December 16, 2017
I high-fived my classmates on the court, I shook the hand of the fans celebrating in the seats and I may have even jumped a time or two in the confusion.
Never have I struggled to keep my emotions in check while covering Rutgers athletics than on that day — just ask my boss Aaron Breitman, who sat next to me in auxiliary seating inside the student section. I was just about ready to run onto the court and throw down a dunk when the National Anthem came to a close, but ended up watching Pikiell’s troops gut out their biggest win yet, one which sent a tear or two down my cheek when I went back and rewatched it from my campus apartment that same night.
Can you blame me, though? If you’re a Rutgers fan, watch this and try not to get emotional:
Having watched Williams go from being known a shooter who couldn’t knock down a three to the heart and soul of the Scarlet Knights as it happened, I couldn’t help but get emotional watching him ice the game with a key rebound and free throw. Whenever I reminisce on my four years in college, that win will be among the best memories on the Banks. We went through the same growing pains of college at the same time, so it was only appropriate to appreciate Williams’ grandest success.
It was admittedly a weak point in my journalistic career. Other than that day, though, I’d like to think I called it down the middle and never pulled back any punches when times were bad.
Don’t take this as an admission of fandom — I’m as dedicated to be objective in my writing as I’ve always been, be it on Rutgers athletics or otherwise. I don’t plan on becoming a Rutgers fanboy on Twitter and will call it like I see it whether my future consists of covering the Scarlet Knights again or not. If you ever see me approaching the realm of homerism, please stop me before I cross the line.
But don’t crucify me if my eyes start to well up on Sunday afternoon when I take my seat up in press row one last time as a student.