NEWARK, NJ - Pat Forde was right.
A man identifying himself only as "Mardigan" appeared seemingly out of thin air on Sunday in front of a group of onlookers in downtown Newark. He started ranting to anyone within earshot that he just come from the year 2042 where robots control the world, humanity's population is minimal and the end of our civilization is nearing. The only hope, and reason he has returned, is to ensure that the Rutgers vs. Seton Hall basketball rivalry continues to be played as it will come to be the greatest singular sporting event the world has ever known.
Last week, ESPN columnist Pat Forde penned a column discussing the hottest rivalries in college basketball. In a shock, he included Rutgers vs. Seton Hall on his list. At the time it seemed strange to include a rivalry between a team that went 11-21 last season and another that went 17-15. Especially when not one college basketball fan can point to a single, meaningful moment in any game between these two mediocre-at-best programs. But now we are learning that one day soon, the fate of the world will depend on this rivalry.
"Forde is one of us. He comes from my time," says Martigan. "I spent many endless days with him in the barracks below what used to be New York City. We would talk about how nothing else mattered except Rutgers vs. Seton Hall. He decided to come back and ensure that this amazing rivalry never dies. And I'm here to help."
Many fans were surprised to see Rutgers vs. Seton Hall on the list over, say, Syracuse vs. Georgetown and Syracuse vs. UConn, two long-time rivalries with the national spotlight on them and a bevy of recent rivalry-enhancing moments.
"A lot of people from your time might point to Syracuse vs. Georgetown. It's true, it was the iconic Big East rivalry, still heated and full of court-stormings, fan fights and the most recent game between these two resulted in the largest on-campus crowd in the NCAA last season," sad Martigan. "But I assure you, it is the rivalry that took place in a half-empty arena before 6,000 people in Piscataway, NJ that you must be in awe of."
According to Mardigan, at some point in the near future, computers will be self-aware and begin the enslavement of the human race. Cities will fall, nations will crumble. But in a tunnel deep below the surface, one game will continue to be played. One event that will bring the people of Earth, those who remain, together in a moment of hope. Rutgers vs. Seton Hall. Mardigan says it is the only time of the year that he truly feels human.
"Before I left, I said a prayer at the feet of the bronzed Bobby Gonzalez statue. I said, sure Syracuse vs. UConn had the epic six-overtime game, not to mention years of intense rivalry in meaningful games. Sure Pitt-West Virginia was the Backyard Brawl and each game is an border war. And yes, Villanova-Georgetown had the memory of their meeting in the '85 Finals and years of bitter hatred."
"But Rutgers vs. Seton Hall is how we used to determine the 12th seed in the Big East Tournament every season. There is truly nothing more intense...more exciting...and more meaningful than that."