Sunday, September 13, 2009


Twenty seven minutes and thirty seconds. That's how long it took Rutgers to fall behind by three possessions in the opener vs. Cincinnati and subsequently have the wheels fall off of what was once a promising season. Rex Ryan spends more time planning his post game meal. Yesterday, the Knights obliterated the Howard Bison, who were a mere 1-10 in FCS play last year, 45-7. There was time when the Rutgers faithful would have been ecstatic with a 1-1 record heading into week 3. There was also a time when Americans paid top dollar to attend a Brittany Spears concert and decided that George W. Bush was the best man to lead this nation (not once, but twice!).

Things have changed at Rutgers and Coach Schiano deserves all the credit. He turned first recruits, and eventually fans into believers. Bowl games and Rutgers used to go together like Hatfields and McCoys, however four straight bowl games and three straight bowl victories have left the fans wanting more. Opening day 2009 was special. This was the day that the program was really going to go to the next level. The stadium addition was complete, the weather was perfect, the RU defense was arguably the best in the conference and the offensive line arguably in the top ten nationally. The stadium was filled with 53,737 Rutgers fans. The atmosphere was absolutely electric. Shortly after kickoff, Tony Pike did what Tony Pike does and the bubble was burst. Fans filed out of the stadium muttering "Same old Rutgers," which became an unofficial school motto during the Doug Graber and Terry Shea years.

Rutgers fans have shared the heartache and agony of Chicago Cubs fans for years. The Scarlet Knights, like Chicago's North Siders have been awful for a long time - but then something happened. Knights fans got their first taste of post-season football with an Insight Bowl berth in 2005. From there, there was the miracle run in 2006, followed by two more bowl berths in 2007 and 2008. Rutgers fans no longer share a common bond with Cubs fans, but suffer a far worse fate. Rutgers fans now know a pain far worse, they suffer from the same ailment that has consumed San Francisco Giants fans for over 50 years. The Giants have not won a World Series since the franchise moved to the west coast, but used to hold the record for consecutive second place finishes (ironically enough the record now belongs to the Boston Red Sox, who certainly have no right to complain about anything anymore) and also blew the largest lead in a World Series clinching game during Game 6 of 2002 World Series vs. the Angels. This is what Rutgers fans now experience. They, like Giants fans, have tasted success and have come so close - painfully close - to finally bringing it to the next level, only to have their hearts ripped out time and time again.

Success breeds expectations, and when expectations are not met, die hard fans fall as hard as the team does. I'm not saying that it's better the other way. I'd much rather have my dreams crushed than not have any dreams at all, but it stings a lot more. Most Rutgers fans were still sick to their stomachs after the Labor Day massacre and its effects could still be seen on Saturday vs. Howard. The parking lots were half full and the fans were not really into the game. The attendance was 43,722, which would have been stellar in previous years and exceeds capacity prior to the expansion. The Knights dominated an inferior opponent and now take on Florida International (barely FBS), Maryland (which needed overtime to beat FCS James Madison yesterday) and Texas Southern (FCS) before conference play starts back up again vs. Pittsburgh on October 16th. It will be another nationally televised game on a Friday night, and the whole country will be watching. Will Rutgers be prepared this time and earn a season saving victory? Will they finally get back on track and set themselves up for a possible run at the Conference Championship and a BCS berth, or will fans start filing out of the stadium at halftime muttering, "Same old Rutgers?"

Success breeds great expectations. Great teams are built by meeting them.


Post a Comment