Thursday, November 09, 2006

Louisville Sluggers and Cliched Headlines

The often-times intriguing SI writer (and friend of that Amish, Steroid-taking, Biker-guy) Austin Murphy, had yet another one of those, "Rutgers is a cute story" columns today. And while this was a lot less smug than most stories about the Knights, and while it is hard to complain about Rutgers (finally) deserving and getting some National Media attention, I have to cringe when I read the apparent condenscion that permeates so many of these articles. Sure alot of it is about the severe bias against the Big East, and I suppose much of that bias is earned. This is not the SEC or the Big Ten. However, I can't avoid thinking that the smarmy treatment Rutgers is getting, has to do with two things: 1. Rutgers football (and its athletics, in gerneral) has ranged from mediocre to atrocious for its entire history. 2. People hate New Jersey. So, in all of my infamy, I am making an effort to act as embassador of New Jersey, home of Rutgers, reaching out to the sports media types who find Rutgers and New Jersey to be some type of feel good story, as if we are Detroit, and RutgersFootball is somehow our Tigers.

Now let me be clear about something, to avoid the inevitable "Fair-weather" fan responses, I am an admittedly partial Bandwagon Rutgers fan. But so is everyone else from New Jersey and anyone who watches Rutgers. In the past there have been three times a year when I have found myself tracking down a sports bar, which would be showing Rutgers:

  • Their first game of the year (usually a tough loss)

  • Their "big" match-up in any given year (formerly Syracuse, more recently Miami, then WVU or Louisville...usually a blow-out.)

  • Whenever I was feeling depressed about Lehigh losing to Lafayette I would track down a Rutgers game to remind myself why I chose Lehigh over Rutgers (the academic discrepancy is really overblown. The partying discrepancy is not, plus even if Rutgers would probably beat Lehigh head-to-head year in and year out, Lehigh football played that 1-AA schedule, and winning is nice.)

And I would say, seeing Rutgers play 3 times a year before last year made me as close to a die-hard as this heretofore mockery of a football program has ever had. So there is plenty of room on this bandwagon, and judging by a comment from a friend earlier today, I think should Rutgers beat Louisville, the bandwagon is going to overflow. All are welcome, we are a nation in our early stages, we can't afford to discriminate.

While it is disappointing that, growing up in NJ, I didn't have a good football team to watch, there is nothing that drives me crazier than the negative perceptions of my home state that permeate EVERYTHING that people say about this state.

Here is what the average New Englander, or West Coaster knows about NJ: the 11 miles stretch of the turnpike that takes one from Newark Airport to Manhattan. An 11-mile stretch that, admittedly, features empty shipping container lots, a power plant, a stench of rotting garbage, and more empty factories than Dresden, 1946. It is a crummy part of the state, but if those people ventured less than a mile off the Turnpike in either direction, after they get out of Newark, they would be in two of the highest-demand real estate urban-renewal meccas in the North East (Jersey City and Hoboken) surrounded by plenty of metrosexual men and women walking toy-poodles, people with bad hair-cuts and tight jeans drinking huge cups of coffee, and businessmen with loosened ties drinking at corner bars. In other words, these New England travllers or Wayward Westerners would think they were in their mythical land of Oz, MANHATTAN! Were they to get turned around and end up going West on 78, they would find themselves in Somerset County, the seventh wealthiest county in America. By state, New Jersey (9 counties) has the third most of the 100 wealthiest counties, losing to only Colorado and Virginia. As an added bonus, we don't almost elect racist morons (I can't hate on Colorado, it's a nice state, and my buddy, James, would thump me.)

What's that you say? You don't worry about things like county income, or sprawling farm-replica mansions, with Bentleys parked in the are more of the bohemian type? Let me tell you about the abundance of art galleries in Lambertville, Summit, Morristown, Jersey City, Ocean Township. And did you know that hippy-poet you really dug in highschool, Allen Ginsberg, was from Patterson, NJ? Surely you were aware that your favorite working-class liberal troubador, Bruce Springsteen was the boss of Asbury Park.

If hiking is your thing, we have mountains, if the ocean is your thing, the shore. If you are the woodsy-type we have the Pine Barrens, if you are the city type, take a "bridge or tunnel" to the greatest city in the world? Love sports? We have two NFL football teams, an NBA team, an NHL team, and even MLS. Prefer movies? More theaters per sq. mile than any state in the Union. Love women? Well, not all of them are like that.

And here is what most people know about Rutgers (or are certain to find in tonight's ESPN Broadcasr of some stupid segment distraction during the middle of a significant play) THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY:

  • Located in New Brunswick, NJ (they play their games in Piscataway)
  • Originally founded by Henry Rutgers as Queens College, 1766 (yes you read that right.)
  • Played in the first-ever intercollegiate Football game (a 6-4 DRUBBING of those nerds from Princeton)
  • Famous Alumni: James Gandolfini ("Tony Saprano!! How approporiate is that?!" they will surely say) as well as Mario Batali (the fat cook with the funny shoes) and the chick that played one of the Chicks on Sex in the City. Dick Vitale once coached basketball there!

What they won't mention:

  • The most famous alumni (before HBO warped our minds) is actually Football player, activist, politician, singer, artist, Paul Robeson.
  • Top ten medical school, top twenty law school, one of the premiere agriculture schools in the country.
  • Faculty with more Guggenheim Fellows, Carnegie Honorees, Fullbright scholars, and MacArthur fellows than any in the Northeast.
  • Most of the MRE's ingested by our Troops are designed at Rutgers!
  • 1-in-3 girls has an STD...

So, while it's not quite heaven! it certainly is deserving of a little more credit than it gets nationally, particularly among sports fans. I'm not going to argue that Rutgers deserves to get to the National championship, although the unlikely road is well-mapped, here. And I am not saying New Jersey is the most glorious state in the union (I am open to arguments.) I'm just saying the anti-Jersey dogma is getting a little tired. We're not perfect, but we're doing alright here in Jersey, come on in, the water is fine...just, uhm, make sure you use the Brita.

RU 36, LU 26


Post a Comment

<< Home