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Into The Belly of The Scarlet Beast

My God, where does one begin? Well I'll start by saying I just spent a week in the Central New Jersey area and there seemed to be one topic that kept coming up...

#1 - For Thanksgiving, my nine year old cousin arrived at our house in what I suppose is the 2006 equivalent of a Rutgers Starter jacket. Furthermore, apparently all of his friends are also decked out in scarlet, or red, for that matter. This is mind-boggling to me. I grew up in Central NJ, spent 15 years of my life there including all my schooling years. Know what would have happened to you if you would have worn a Rutgers jacket to school at any point in my tenure??? Well...nothing really. But you certainly wouldn't have been treated with the same amount of awe and respect as the guy in the Charlotte Hornets Starter jacket.

#2 - Apparently my cousin and my uncle were at the Louisville-Rutgers game. My uncle, a Rutgers alum, said it was the greatest football experience of his life and I fully believe him. After the game, everyone went onto the field and amidst all the storming and jubilation, all of the Knights' players, so dazed as well by the whole thing, stuck around for 45 minutes to say thanks and sign autographs. He mentioned how humble they all were, saying "thank you, sir" and the like. Schiano had to actually send people out onto the field an hour after the game was over to retrieve players and bring them into the locker room.

Point is, this is seriously the most painfully feel-good story of the year without a doubt.

#3 - After Rutgers dismantled Syracuse (which came as no shock at all to yours truly, more on this in a later post), the New York nightly news broadcasts had Rutgers up as discussion #1 on all sports reports. You don't understand...New Yorkers didn't even know Rutgers was in New Jersey two months ago. Sorry if I keep rambling on about how absurd this all is but...this is absurd!

#4 - New Jersey has a serious case of Scarlet Fever. NJ folks are people who crave a national identity that doesn't involve smoke stacks, garbage and hypodermic needles. When the Sopranos first became a hit, people all over NJ became immensely proud of the affiliation. Every store had a Sopranos poster or merchandise on the wall. Everyone suddenly knew someone who was connected to the real NJ mob, even if they lived their entire life in Point Pleasant and never ventured outside Ocean County. As long as people weren't talking about the same old "New Jersey is a dump," everyone was happy. Things faded and Jerseyans (ians, ites) were left with no identity again. That's how important this Rutgers thing is to everyone. It's a defining moment in time that everyone around the country will instantly think of when you mention New Jersey. Now when someone finds out you're from Old Bridge or New Brunswick or Cherry Hill, instead of "What exit do you live off of?", the response is now "How bout Rutgers, huh?"

I know they're technically a rival and all but c'mon, how can you not root for these guys? I'm glad their out of the National Title picture (cause let's face it, undefeated or not they probably would have been slaughtered) and can focus on a wounded West Virginia. Rutgers in the Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl? Do you know how many alumni are DYING for that opportunity? Good for them, I say.

That's why, as crazy as it was to see people driving on Route 18 with Rutgers flags on their cars, I'm all for it.