[R] [U]

I was playing Scrabble™ with my wife Saturday night and the first two tiles I picked were "R" and "U" but let me back up a little bit because context is everything.

I root for Rutgers athletics, primarily football, and also basketball to a lesser degree^. I hopped on the bandwagon in 2006 as a return student to the university, going for a second degree at Rutger's design school. I was 25 years old, I believe. So while I was––and, I guess, still am^ ––a bandwagon-hopper, R.U. is still my alma mater. So there's that. I'm allowed a little more slack in the very dumb world of sports fandom rules and regulations, thank you.

I like rooting for R.U. because they were and are the perennial, NO eternal underdog. Almost literally so. They have the distinction of being the undisputed first college football team. They've also been mostly horrendous for nearly all of those ~150 years of hot football action. The Law of Averages have never caught up with R.U. Despite a decade of more competitive play and relative success, they've still come up short when it mattered most, time and time again.

This has sucked, but it's allowed the R.U. fan to maintain his Chicago Cubsian, sad-sack demeanor. In general, I am going to go hard for the underdog, and in 2006, it felt like I found the perfect NCAA football team^. So for going on ten years, I've cheered on some pretty decent teams, usually going to one or two home games a season, and it's all been fine and dandy. As the sport of football, in general (both pro and college), has been outed as a cesspool of corruption, full of vile, bad people on nearly every tier, it was OK so long as your team(s) stayed relatively clean.

When it was announced before this season that five players––a couple really important ones, among them––had been arrested for assault and kicked off the team, it seemed like the jig was finally up. What was even the point of supporting this crap? Maybe this type of scandal is easy to brush off at the schools who always win, but not for the lovable loser. It can't be both.

But a funny thing happened. I was able to brush it away. I didn't watch the opener but I was happy they were able to blowout Norfolk St. despite the 'distraction' (puke). I checked the score on my phone constantly. I was and am that guy. Willfully ignorant. A fan.

I was hooting and hollering at the TV screen during this past weekend's heartbreaking loss to Washington St. in the final seconds. Because this is what I do. I am true to my school. When I picked that "R" and that "U" out of the Scrabble™ bag, my fate was sealed ad infinitum. The cosmos have dictated that this must continue, that this is the only way. NO MATTER WHAT.

This morning, as I was driving into work, my buddy texted me about star R.U. wideout, Leonte Caroo, far and away Rutgers' best player. There was an incident. I like reading the NJ.com comments sometimes because it keeps me grounded. If I am willfully ignorant then I'm not sure what you would call some of the superfans who only seek to frame incidents like this in terms of next year's recruiting class.

Sports fandom is a sickness. I have a low-grade infection, comparatively. Bring on Penn St.!


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