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Rutgers fans set to return in force

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What to expect and look forward to at SHI Stadium on Thursday.

NCAA FOOTBALL: SEP 06 Howard at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s been a rough two years, Rutgers Fans. With lockdown orders keeping many of us at home with little to do, there was one thing that provided hope and entertainment after many years of disappointment. That’s right, in a year when everything else seemed to be going wrong, finally, Rutgers Football (and Men’s Basketball) seemed to be on an upward trajectory. While we as fans could not be in the stadium to cheer them on last year, 2021 is the year Greg Schiano and Scarlet Knights fans will be reunited in SHI Stadium for a long-awaited reunion.

I’ll give you a little preview of a recurring conversation in my family. Every year, when it comes time to renew our season tickets, my dad will ask me “Are you sure we want to renew our season tickets?” And every year, I look at him like he has two heads and say “Of course we do!” Because despite all the pain that Chris Ash’s brand of football brought to fans in his tenure, to me the experience of going to a football game is more than just the product on the field. Don’t get me wrong, it’s clearly important and there were times when I started to dread going to games just to watch Rutgers go scoreless in another boring, embarrassing defeat. However, part of the appeal of having our tickets has always been enjoying a football game and a beer with my dad, watching the horse run out on the field, smiling as RU Sir Henry taunt other mascots, and especially cheering and lamenting alongside the guys in our section who we have now known for too many years (no, I will not give you the years because that will just make me feel old).

This year, as we were preparing to renew our tickets, my dad and I started wondering about our seatmates. Would they renew their tickets after last year? Who would still be at the game? How were they all faring? It’s funny because we only know and see them during the home football games each year, but in a way, they have become our football family. Despite not talking to them outside these games, we catch up with them, share high fives and commentary, and comment if someone is not at a particular game asking after them to be sure all is well. If an opposing fan ever tries to pick a fight, which has happened, we stand up for each other. In short, we care, and the experience wouldn’t be the same without them. Can we expect them at the games this year? If they are not, will 2022 be the year we finally give up our season tickets?

What will the 2021 game experience look like for the fans visiting SHI stadium after almost two years? First, the logistics:

  • Currently allowing 100% capacity as per NJ state regulations
  • Tailgating and Scarlet Walk will be allowed
  • Bag & alcohol regulations still apply

It remains to be seen how Rutgers will adjust regulations due to the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant, but as of now, it is smooth sailing heading into the season.

In my mind, fans will be so happy to be back watching their home team in person that the excitement will be even more heightened. Rutgers fans, despite attendance woes predating the Ash era, have always been able to create some deafening sound in the stadium, so hopefully the “Jersey Factor” is in full effect this season. These players sacrificed so much last year, only to play in front of empty stadiums, and deserve some fanfare. I hope that Greg Schiano’s return to the Banks is celebrated accordingly in the first game.

Finally, whether you are a season ticket holder, a regular game attendee, or just catch the occasional game, I hope you are reunited with all those who make your experience what it is. We all deserve a little fun and social reconnection after this past year, after being isolated from our social circles. As highlighted in one of my favorite sports movies, A League of Their Own, sports bring people together in times of hardship. It provides something for people to root for, and look forward to when times are tough. I remember doing a victory dance alone in my living room when Rutgers beat Clemson in the NCAA tournament and almost crying along with them in the heartbreaking loss to Houston. Knowing other fans were watching, and that I could celebrate those victories and lament those losses with loved ones, provided a sense of comfort and connection through the airwaves. That connection is even more palpable in person, so I hope to see all of you on the Banks on September 2 for the season opener against Temple. This should be one that Rutgers wins, so hopefully, we have another reason to celebrate. Regular admission tickets are sold out, so let’s expect a raucous party, friends!

Check-in with me after the first game as I recap my experience and hopefully a Rutgers win!

What are you most looking forward to in terms of game-day rituals? Share in the comments!