It is October 1st and relaxing with my morning coffee, there is a feeling of peace and gratitude as I peruse all the newspapers and websites about Saturday’s Ohio State game. The weather is starting to get cooler, and the leaves are beginning to turn. It is my favorite time of year.
But for the better part of the past decade, as a Scarlet Knight fan, the fall season has been up and down, but largely down. Too often, it has been, wait for next year before and this feeling has usually comes well before Halloween. But this weekend feels different. It is different because like so many other Scarlet Knight fans, with it comes the feelings of anticipation, excitement, and realistic hope. Like so many, Saturday at 3:30 pm cannot come fast enough.
Last night, I dreamt that I was back on campus taking courses. The memory is hazy but what stands out is the Scarlet Knight riding by on his horse past Kirkpatrick Chapel on the old Queens campus. I have decided to take this dream as an omen of good things happening across the Raritan tomorrow afternoon.
They say you can be a Giants fan or a Jets fan or any pro-team, but your connection will always be limited. You are a fan and that is where it begins and ends. But this old axiom doesn’t hold true if you are a Rutgers graduate or employee. No matter how many years pass by or no matter what life has thrown at you, you will always be a member of the Rutgers family. You are Rutgers and Rutgers is you.
When I see that Scarlet R decal on a car passing me on the interstate, I always feel pride. It is a decidedly different feeling than seeing a Yankees or Giants decal. I always want to beep the horn like I have met up with a friend or neighbor. Whether it be Route 287 or the New York State Thruway, there is a feeling of community. Those magnets and decals remind me of who I am and what my life became. I have been married for over forty years to a Rutgers woman and it was the Bloustein School that got me an internship in Washington D.C. that set me on the career path that lasted for over forty years.
However, even if your connections to Rutgers do not run as deep as mine or if you never played a down of football in your life, when the Scarlet Knights take the field on Saturday, you are part of something larger than yourself. When the team runs out of the tunnel to face Ohio State, they represent thousands of folks who have spent their hard-earned money whether they are season ticket holders, or those cheering from home or those who have contributed to the Scarlet R Fund. I must admit that when they play the horse and Scarlet Knight riding into the stadium on the video board, I still am always a bit overcome with emotion.
Those who perceive supporting Rutgers athletics as also being opposed to supporting academics financially as a binary choice will simply never get it. We can have both and we do at Rutgers just like all the other Big Ten members also have both.
Until your dreams are in scarlet, until you bleed scarlet on Saturdays in the fall and until you understand the sheer unmitigated joy of watching your school compete in the best conference in the country…………you simply will not get it.
I don’t know how Saturday is going to turn out, but I wouldn’t trade this feeling of excitement and gratitude on the day before and morning of for anything.