Ask many a Penn State fan, and talking about Rutgers, and many of its derivatives (rutger, buttgers, rutgera, rustreg, or just ‘gers), you’d be hard pressed to actually find anyone who has a modicum of anything toward the football program.
When you think about it, why would they? The Pioneers Of The Game We Know As Football™, or Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers™ for short, has not beaten the team they call their rival since 1988. The other time Rutgers beat Penn State in football was just a few years before, in 1918.
Out of 32 tries, the Nittany Lions have won 30 of them, 15 losses standing between the last Rutgers victory and the date you’re reading this article. And, in that time span, the closest contest of them all was a 13-10 defeat, at home, in the Scarlet Knights’ debut season in the Big Ten, what everyone understands was their best opportunity to steal one*. No matter how hard they’ve tried, Rutgers has simply been unable to do anything resembling competition when it comes to the Nittany Lions.
So, then, why would any self-respecting Penn State fan give Rutgers the time of day? A core component of a rivalry is competition, even that competition leads to loss more often than not.** Yet, unlike the counterpart who also joined the conference in 2014 (more on you later), Rutgers hasn’t even competed on the field, let alone actually winning.
And this is where I come in. I want to hate. I want to be able to say “fuck Rutgers” and actually mean it. I want to reciprocate the vitriol that their fans so eagerly spew in my direction. But I can’t. Because when I see Rutgers on the schedule, I can’t help but think “how much will they lose by this time,” as opposed to “fuck those guys,” like I do with other Big Ten teams.
I want to hate. I want to look forward to Friday of Rutgers week, because I have a year’s worth of pent up frustration because the mere existence of the program East of State College (wink!) gets my blood boiling. But I can’t. Because, for as long as Rutgers doesn’t pose a threat to Penn State, for as long as Rutgers continues to be the punching bag of the conference, for as long as Penn State can go through some of the worst seasons in recent memory and still come out on top, Rutgers will, to me, just be... there.
I want to hate. I want to have an event where the fans, and maybe even the coaches, are so egregiously abhorrent that I spend years seething at the audacity of it all (more on you later). But I can’t. Instead, I get to chuckle at some shenanigans from almost a decade ago, easily brushing it off as the “welcome to the Big Ten” party continues to roll on and the losses continue to pile up, and the possibility of ever becoming something that can hold a candle to the rivalry that once was with the shit-eating team to the west (more on you never) becomes more and more improbable.
I want to hate. But until Rutgers gives me a reason to, I simply can’t. So instead, let’s dedicate this piece to the real villains of Piscataway: The Rutgers Basketball program!
The good-for-nothing, “schedule no one in the non-conference then be surprised you’re in the bubble,” the “can’t win away from home because they actually call fouls on the road,” the team that plays a style of defense that makes Michigan State blush, the team whose existence actually does make my blood boil, let’s talk about them.
Hate, it comes easy when it pertains to Rutgers basketball. Their happiness makes me want to puke. Their garbage of an arena is an affront to everything holy in the world. But, most importantly, their first Big Ten win came against Penn State. Their first Big Ten road win came against Penn State. Their first Big Ten winning streak came against Penn State. So, you see, even if Rutgers basketball weren’t an objective waste of space and the world would be a better place without them, I would have a reason to hate. So I don’t need to want, because I can.
Maybe one day Rutgers football will deserve to not exist. Maybe one day, seeing their football program actually do well on the court will make me want to throw my children out the window, the way seeing Rutgers basketball get undeserved NCAA bids makes me want to punch a baby. But that day is not today, so instead I say, “fuck you, Rutgers basketball, because you, I want to hate.”
*If you don’t count 2020, or even 2021.
**As Minnesota and Michigan can attest.