Rutgers fans, we are not alone. And that's a good thing!

In 1977, Steven Spielberg created a great movie in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If you've never seen it, you're either very young, very stilted in your movie watching, or .....I got nothing else.

In the movie, the lead character Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss) witnesses an unidentified flying object, which no one can believe. Kind of like some midwesterners can't believe that Rutgers is in the Big Ten. Deal with it!

Anyway, the tagline to the movie was "We are not alone", signifying that there are others out there in the cosmos besides we Earthlings. And, believe it or not, there are other people (i.e. college sports fans) who are very much like Rutgers fans. How, you ask? Sit back, relax, let me expound.

As a Rutgers fan, there is a certain psychological complex that comes with the territory. We're good people, we try real hard, there are good things to be found at RU, but.....there was never respect, never acceptance, a second-class citizenship mentality.

But then came 2012 and the invite to the Big Ten. Which brought:

No respect, no acceptance, a second-class citizenship mentality. Come on, you remember the posts from the other B1G fan boards in 2012...and in 2013 and 2014 and 2015 and.....

Rutgers did not belong, said the naysaying nabobs of the midwest. But who knew there were other fan bases that felt that same way about another school in their conference? I found one, and you'll never believe where they call home. Of all places, this is a fan base in the vaunted S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C! It's the University of South Carolina.

This news comes by way of Chris Paschal, who is not even a USC grad but does promote the Gamecocks via a site called Gamecock Central. He was opposed to Texas and Oklahoma coming to the SEC until he realized that this conference expansion stuff might just be the moment when South Carolina can get away from its own no respect, no acceptance, and second-class citizenship mentality. Now, you can read his whole theory of how that works here, but there are definitely a few similarities to Rutgers. To wit:

  • He posits that SC was the black sheep of the Atlantic Coast Conference (a charter member, no less, from 1953-1971, eventually getting pushed out by the good folks up on Tobacco Road. And after they left the ACC, they were one of only two "Southern Independents", the other being Florida State. Bet you didn't even know there were "Southern independents"!
    • Until 1992, when South Carolina joined the Southeastern Conference, the Gamecocks struggled to establish an identity. What was Rutgers before it joined the Big East? An "Eastern independent".
    • He writes that for a century - a century!! - "Carolina either didn’t feel at home or didn’t have a home, with moments of hope and glimpses of prosperity". But (here ya go, RU fans) Carolina was known for losing football games and not having a championship banner. OMG, we're South Carolina North!
    • And then the SEC gave the Gamecocks an "identity". Like Rutgers in the Big Ten, he writes, for South Carolina " felt like validation, like being invited to the cool kid lunch table. And as a result, our identity was the lunch table. When Alabama won, Carolina could point to something and stick its chest out and say, 'Someone at our lunch table did something great.'" Yeah, go Buckeyes! Go Badgers! Go away Nittany Lions!

    And while its great to be at the "cool kid lunch table", what does that really mean for South Carolina? Or for Rutgers in the B1G? For Paschel, just as Alabama and Florida don't care about South Carolina, and don't view USC as one of them, how much do Ohio State and Michigan (fans) care about Rutgers?

    Paschel writes that the reality is South Carolina won't ever look like Alabama and that's okay (I would agree and say that isn't all bad) It might just let the Gamecocks - and Rutgers in the Big Ten - become in his words "renegades". Paschel goes on to write, and this could easily have been written by a Rutgers public relations person, "Carolina [insert Rutgers] doesn't have the tradition or the influence of many other SEC [insert Big Ten] institutions. But it does have [is getting] amazing facilities, a huge [insert good size] stadium, an underrated [not really] recruiting footprint, and a major university....within an easy drive of big cities and beautiful beaches." Crikies, mates, we're South Carolina without the drawl!

    So, Rutgers fans, let's embrace the South Carolina mindset. Let's be the renegades of the Big Ten. No, we aren't a blueblood, we don't have the traditions and trophies. But we were worth a look by Jim Delany and got that invitation to the Big Ten. We are at the cool kid table. Just like South Carolina and the SEC.

    And that, my friends, ain't such a bad thing!

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