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Inspire me, Rutgers

“When I was in college, Rutgers Football had three bowl game seasons in a row!” “That’s nice, now let’s get you to bed.”

Rutgers Athletics

So you have probably noticed my and other Rutgers writers’ absence for this year’s Rutgers week. I personally have been PhDying and injured, but I realized what a tragedy it would be for me to fully miss Rutgers week, so I decided to scrape out some time amongst my misery and write something up. To write what my heart and mind could actually muster about Rutgers Football in anticipation of the 2023 season. I bring to you no fancy analyses of Rutgers’ offense, defense, or special teams. No season predictions. Rather, I present to you my brief stream of consciousness for my general deflation with Rutgers Football these last few years.

For those who follow me on Twitter (sorry), you may notice that my timeline has been very low on Rutgers content for a long while. The reasons are multifold. For starters I am still in my Avatar simp era, and speaking of, Avatar the Way of Water is now on 4K Digital Release with hours of incredible behind the scenes content. This moving, emotional, family-focused, sci-fi epic looks absolutely AMAZING on any 4K TV. Anyway, I am also just very busy, burnt out, and it’s also not football season. “Zuzu, what about the basketball season??” I like college basketball, sure, but only in passive following like, “the college basketball team with my school’s name slapped in front of it is doing well, yay! I will brag to my friends when this team does better than the college basketball teams with their schools’ names slapped in front of them.” However. I was actually pretty quiet on Rutgers during the last football season as well, and I honestly couldn’t tell you a thing I remember from it.

So. Allow me a moment to actually Google the 2022 Rutgers Football season.

Oh okay, so that’s why I didn’t talk about it.

Yeah so these 4-8 seasons... are just not going to cut it and are not mustering up passion or inspiration. Now. Make no mistake. I deeply love my Alma Mater. I wear the ring. I recall college memories every day, many of them relating to my time in the marching band at some of Rutgers’ best football games. After I graduated, I made time to attend a few games and I remember winning a few, but even with the ones we lost I recall fond memories of tailgating and hanging out with my fellow alumni friends. I proudly wear my Rutgers gear around Los Angeles and on the campus of future Big Ten School, the University of Southern California (what the hell). I will always be a Rutgers sports diehard. Diehard in that I’ll never stop rooting for Rutgers.

However. Being a diehard fan and rooting for a team doesn’t mean you’re jumping with unfettered joy at every season and performance. When it’s a team like Rutgers, being a diehard fan, and for me, a diehard fan from a distance, it often means wearing your Rutgers gear on a football Saturday, occasionally checking in on the score, sighing, then putting your phone away. And then repeating the next Saturday. It means people asking you what your team is and when you say Rutgers, they respond with some variant or tangent of, “That sucks,” and you just shrug it off knowing that it’ll never change.

But god... it sure is more fun to be a diehard when your team is actually winning isn’t it? Rutgers has had some satisfying moments in the last three seasons. That surprise opening 2020 season win against Michigan State?? Still a highlight. Beating down Temple, an old regional rival, 61-14 in 2021 was great. Then immediately beating Syracuse, one of the most exhausting fanbases of our old regional foes. Beating Indiana two years in a row felt good. Beating Indiana always feels good. To me, last season’s best win was the thrilling one point win over Boston College, another regional foe for our season opener. But in a league like the Big Ten... I’m sorry, but this kinda sucks. What’s absent in this list? Major conference wins. Sure, we have some besides Indiana. But is it always going to be this way?

So I have a solid Twitter trail of my skepticism and aversion to Greg Schiano’s hire. I was never on the Schiano Train, and I was not someone who quickly turned around to act like I was never skeptical. I don’t think any early Schiano doubters were. We all simply said, “Fine. We’ll give him a chance.” Our collective aversion slowly shifted with his really good press conference when he was hired. I was genuinely impressed. Ready to run through a brick wall, even. I was ultimately uninspired by the truncated 2020 season, however, what a way to come out of the gate with that win over Michigan State in East Lansing. I also fully understood that it was fresh COVID-time and that it’s atypical for coaches to come in to bad programs and dramatically change things for the better in their first season. And hey, we also beat Purdue and Maryland that season, so it was serviceable and there was hope. Then 2021 rolled around and I’ll never forget the hilarity of going to the Taxslayer Gator Bowl. Don’t even care that we lost. 5-8 bowl team baby. And okaayyy a 5-8 season, now we’re cooking! Surely 2022 is gonna be the same or better?? Cool cool, looking good, three wins in a row! Yes yeeesss. Wait.

Anyway. My colleague wrote this piece asking how hot Greg Schiano’s seat is. Reasonably, not that hot. This will only be his 4th season of his new Rutgers tenure. I think five seasons is the fair amount to fully know where a coach is headed—where coaches can develop a whole class. And regardless of my Schiano skepticism, I was and am still also very real with, “Well who the hell else could we get?” Rutgers ain’t USC, who just plucked Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma and instantly became one of the best teams in the country. No, we have to be reasonable. Though I have to say, what Bret Bielema is doing at Illinois is envious. And I remember him being on the table for Rutgers... Anyway, if this season goes poorly, then yes. Schiano should be on a hotter seat. And all I can say is that I am exceedingly ambivalent about this upcoming football season. Usually when a football season ends, I can’t wait for the next one. The off-season used to be miserable for me. But I just right now in writing this looked at our 2023 schedule for literally the first time. All I can say is yikes.

And then of course there’s this business of NIL. My only comment on that is that you’re in the New York City metropolitan area, Rutgers. If you can’t capitalize on that, well... But then again, maybe some success would inspire some of these deals.

Maybe these feelings are a consequence of attending Rutgers from 2012 to 2016 which were literally some of Rutgers Football’s best years. I experienced two seasons in the old Big East, Rutgers going 9-4 in my first year, and two seasons were in the Big Ten and our start in this conference was an 8-5 season if you can believe and remember it. Like... oh my gosh. I guess I should have attended Rutgers when they were bad, so maybe this would all feel typical for me.

Anyway. Inspire me, Rutgers. Because I’m not right now.

Disclaimer— I am simply not inspired by much in life at the moment to be honest, so take everything I’ve written above with a grain of coarse Himalayan pink salt.