A short explanation of what’s about to follow. I recently conducted an informal, unscientific poll of several Friends Who Are Rutgers Fans, and I’m sensing a lot of pessimism out there. I guess I can’t blame people – it feels like the same old Rutgers out there right now (at least with respect to football).
If you agree, and if you’re looking for a few things to look forward to this season, here are seven…
- Even with the note above, there’s always this feeling of optimism every fan base (even ours!) can’t help but suppress prior the first kickoff of the season. We can guess at how the season will go, but no one really knows for sure. Every season there’s a team or two who surprises, exceeding expectations and garnering positive national attention. It hasn’t been Rutgers in 17 (!!) seasons, why not this season?
- Tailgate music playlist creation. Something of a hobby of mine, trying to tailor the music to a particular mood. I’m grateful the folks I tailgate with don’t punch me in the face over this obsession. I haven’t made up my mind yet for the Purple Lot on September 3 – I might go with my “1996” playlist (comprised entirely of songs released in that calendar year), or if I’m feeling particularly punchy, “You Were Drunk When…” which is a medley of early-aughts hip-hop beats so loaded with profanity, proper decorum prohibits my discussing it further in a public forum.
- There are dudes on this team who might make even more of an impact than previous seasons. Looking at you, Gavin Wimsatt, Sam Brown V, Aaron Lewis, Max Melton, I’m sure I’m missing a few and I may not even be close to guessing right. Let’s see some running plays, some QB pressures, some broken-up pass attempts by the other team, some more running plays, some more completed passes (beyond the first down marker, thx) compared to last season. This is a “glass half full” view here, but even if the overall record isn’t great, it’s okay to look at who is having a solid season regardless.
- The change of seasons. College football season starts in astronomical (if not meteorological) summer and ends in the cold, rain, and perhaps snow of late November. In the middle is autumn, my personal favorite season of the year for jogging, grilling, drinking Marzen beers, just overall being outside; and what better excuse is there for being outside than a college football game day?
- I never played competitive football, but I’ve competed in other ways athletically in my life, and even to me that feeling 15 minutes before kickoff of a (remotely meaningful) football game feels – in a good way – like waiting for a prize fight to begin. It feels like when you’re at a good steakhouse and you know your porterhouse is about to arrive, sizzling. There’s something – again, in a good way – primal about the whole experience. I’ve missed, and look forward, to this feeling on September 3.
- The anticipation of an upset, and the feeling when it’s in progress. Rutgers, unfortunately, might be in this position several times this season just given how things stand right now. But you know what I mean: like when a pitcher on your baseball team has a no-hitter going after seven innings, there’s the time you feel like you have to text your friends who aren’t at the game and tell them to turn the Rutgers game on? Let’s hope for one or two (or more) of these days in 2023.
- I’ll close with lucky number seven on a personal note. I turn 40 this year, and it’s struck me recently that I’m not a kid anymore. I’m nowhere near the finish line of life (I hope!) but I’m hitting halftime soon, and with that comes a shift in perspective. I can’t run as fast as I used to, but I still jog. I’m achy in ways I can’t explain sometimes, even after walking the damn dog down the street. But I do get joy from the little (others might say, weird) things in life, and one of them for the last 20 years has been the strange and mostly immensely frustrating experience of watching Rutgers play football. Here I am, waiting to get hurt again. Hope springs eternal in August, and this has been a lot of words about it so thanks for bearing with me. Let’s see something interesting happen, at the very least.