April 05, 2004

Selected Notes from My Lengthy Break, Number One of Five: Rutgers is a fine university and I have never regretted going there, but when the later stages of the college football and basketball seasons roll around I often wish that my alma mater was a perennial Final Four and BCS contender that made even non-almuni want to wear the colors. Sure, I know that sports are probably irrelevant, if not actually detrimental, to the overall value of a university, but dammit, I wanna know how Paul Katcher felt last year when his Syracuse team won a surprising NCAA title.

And that's why last week at Madison Square Garden was so darn exciting for those who wear the scarlet (or, to be more accurate, for those who dug the scarlet out of the back of the closet), as Rutgers made it all the way to the finals of the National Invitation Tournament. Now, those who don't follow the college game might not be familiar with the N.I.T., and for those people perhaps the simplest description of it would be that it's the tournament for teams who were not good enough to be one of the 65 teams invited to the real tournament (hence the Michigan fans' chanting of "We're #66!"as they exited the Garden Thursday night).

But the obviously second-tier nature of the event didn't seem to matter, as the midtown bars and streets were a sea of scarlet, especially on Tuesday night when our opponent was Iowa State (there were considerably more Michigan fans in attendance for the championship game, not to mention one certain Michigan alumnus who was not in attendance but couldn't helping gloating via cellular message). I attended the game with fellow alumni and Friends of the Donk Keith and Gabe, and we enjoyed pre- and post-game beers, non-stop screaming of fight songs and chants, and two excellent, exciting games. The Scarlet Knights played their hearts out, and while they disappointed at the end, as Rutgers will inevitably do, within a half-hour of the loss I was already back in Mustang Harry's and on my second beer, which is exactly where I would have been had Rutgers managed to win the game. So thank you, Rutgers Men's Basketball Team, for giving this alumnus even a small taste of victory, not to mention the rare opportunity to scream like an idiot in public, which is one of my few joys in life.
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