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An open letter to readers of On The Banks

It’s time to refocus with Rutgers set to finally take the field this fall.

Northwestern v Rutgers Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Dear Rutgers fans,

The Ides of March, patriotic holidays, the dog days of summer, and back to school season have all come and gone. The year 2020 remains the most difficult in recent memory for most and for some, the worst of a lifetime. COVID-19 has changed the way the world operates and managing a sports fan site like On The Banks certainly has as well.

Nothing has gotten easier in the world, only harder. All of us have been through — and are still going through — something with varying degrees of bad. This pandemic has essentially burned to shreds every prior playbook for how to proceed in every industry, community, and yes, fan blogs alike.

When I became a contributor at On The Banks and then managing editor soon after, I never envisioned writing about things I’ve had to in recent months. My tenure leading this site began two weeks before the scandal ridden Rutgers football season of 2015. I’m not a career journalist, so you could say I wasn’t thrown into the fire, but launched into it by the cannon typically shot off by men dressed in colonial attire when touchdowns are scored during home games.

I’ve figured things out along the way, but managing a sports fan site during a global pandemic has certainly been a learning experience like no other. I have previously called for the firing of two football coaches, one basketball coach and one athletic director over the years. All of those articles were easier to write than anything I’ve had to cover related to COVID-19.

It isn’t just the articles now that have become an arduous and sensitive task. Monitoring the comment section these days is like watering a garden with gasoline. Rutgers fans are now arguing with each other over COVID-19 positivity rates, the handling of the global pandemic in America, masks, and the political issues that envelop the impact of this pandemic in our country, among others. Sometimes it’s drawn from the topic of an article, other times it comes up in a way that isn’t related at all.

It’s a major challenge to monitor every comment in every article that is on the site every day. I’ve become more vocal in asking people to refrain from going off topic when I see fit. I’ve deleted some comments too. Sensitive and potentially divisive comments have become a regular occurrence, which is why I’ve I decided to address things more formally in this post.

Let me be clear. I don’t blame anyone for these reactions or comments. There are no judgements of opinion. The state of the world is upside down, for a lack of better description. Boundaries have been crossed. A sitting president injected himself into the Big Ten’s decision to play football this fall. It’s an election year during a global pandemic. There is social unrest across the country with protests taking place on a regular basis. It’s a sensitive time and I respect all opinions. I just don’t think this site is the right forum for all the opinions being discussed in the comment section.

There is no clear line, as certain topics will need to continue to be covered. Teams having players test positive for COVID-19 is going to part of our coverage because it will be a factor during the football season and will extend to basketball season and beyond. There is no way to escape that reality and therefore, it will be fair and reasonable to address those issues in articles and in the comment section. However, making points or opinions known must be done so in a respectful fashion.

I think it’s a great compliment that readers of this site feel such a strong sense of community at On The Banks that the reality of the world becomes a topic of discussion in the comment section. However, a roadmap on how to proceed needs to be established.

Moving forward, please understand that inappropriate comments, which includes those that are plainly off topic, offensive, derisive, include name calling, or of a political nature will be deleted as soon as possible and a formal warning will be sent privately to each person.

I do not want to take the step of closing comments on articles. The engagement of our readers in the comment section has historically been very high compared to other SB Nation college sites. Also, please understand I am unable to monitor comments in real time. It will be a work in progress.

I want this site to continue to be a place Rutgers fans can debate anything relative to sports. Whether it’s if punting in enemy territory makes sense, whether the men’s basketball team practices free throws enough, or which Rutgers program will be the first to win a Big Ten title, that’s what we are here for.

Please understand that the more time I have to spend monitoring the comment section, the less time I have to run the site, manage contributors, edit, plan and write about Rutgers sports.

Isn’t that why you read On The Banks in the first place? At the end of the day, my only goal is to stay true to the mission of this site: to provide the best coverage of Rutgers sports possible, as professional as possible, while still offering the perspective of true fans. It’s worked so far, as this site has grown tremendously over the past few years. I want this site to continue to be a place fans can come to discuss Rutgers sports, get information on those teams, while having the chance to take a break from the realities of the world.

With football kicking off in a few weeks and basketball tipping off a month later, it’s time to focus on Rutgers sports once again. I thank you for reading our articles, your support and engagement over the years. I hope that remains the case and we can all navigate through sports during a global pandemic together. The future is bright for Rutgers sports and I cherish the opportunity to go along for the ride alongside you.

Lastly, let’s get rid of the white football helmets. We are the Scarlet Knights for a reason.

Thank you,

Aaron Breitman

Managing Editor, On The Banks