Back in September 2013, a fan of Rutgers Football wrote the following commentary on ScarletNation.com about something he noticed before and after the Arkansas Razorbacks’ game. As I read and reread this commentary, it showed just how far Rutgers has come in the last 30+ years. Indeed, we have gone from being “just” a college in New Jersey to being the Division 1 University in the NYC Metro Area.
Coach Magoo states:
The train from NYC is going to prove very B1G in the near futureBy CoachMagooI take NJ Transit to every game. I live in Jersey City, so I get on NJ Transit in Newark. What happened Saturday made me realize that this is going to prove to be a huge part of the overall experience for B1G fans — riding a commuter train from NYC to Rutgers campus for the game.I think this can be huge, and, judging from the experience of the hundreds of Razorback fans who stayed at hotels in Manhattan and took the train down, it added a unique element to the game day experience. I’m going into detail here because I saw everything with new eyes on Saturday, after years of taking this train to New Brunswick — through the eyes of the Hog fans on board.Usually when I get to Newark, there are a few other Rutgers fans waiting on the platform. When I get on the train, there are usually many many more Rutgers fans already on board who took the train from Penn Station.Saturday was a different story all together. Even with a huge double-decker train, there were no seats left when I boarded in Newark. The train was loaded with Arkansas fans. They outnumbered us 10 to 1 on the train, but I guess that makes sense. They had planned out a full weekend in NYC while they were here, stayed in hotels in Manhattan, and took a morning train from Penn Station to the game.Everyone was very friendly on the train. Arkansas and Rutgers fans talked about the game, and the Rutgers people were giving directions for finding the shuttle, bookstore, Old Queens, etc. Looking out the train window in Elizabeth, Linden, Rahway, and Metro Park, they were clearly in awe of the Jersey sprawl. When we passed the golf course in Colonia, they were pointing it out to one another in amazement, probably because it fits right in so tightly among all the houses and strip malls. I kept thinking of my own reaction on my first train ride in Japan. This was truly a world away from Fayetteville.When we crossed the Raritan, many of the Hogs in my car let out a “wow!” when they saw the campus. I was floored. They thought it was amazing, pointed out the stadium and campus to one another, and they were genuinely excited.As they came off the train, they missed the shuttle sign to go to the front of the station because they were so distracted by the Rutgers flags along the ramp to the bookstore. They all descended onto the sidewalk on Somerset Street and were loving the older buildings of the old campus there. One turned to me and said, “What does that 1766 mean on your shirt?” When I told him, he couldn’t get over it. “Man, this place is OLD!” was his reply.I realized right away that the bulk of this group was going to be looking for the shuttle and could easily get lost, so I directed the front of the group to the shuttle. They were so appreciative. On the walk over to the bus, they were asking about the campus, the city, enrollment, etc. When they saw the high rise student housing on Easton and Somerset, they said, “This sure is a different world!” An Amtrak train flew overhead full speed on its way to Philly and they all reacted.I took them right to the shuttle where there was already a very long line of mostly Hog fans. The Rutgers people mixed in the group seemed to all be very friendly and helpful both in line and on the bus. Once on board, the Hog fans did a very loud pig sooey cheer before we left the station.Seeing this all through their eyes, I was proud of Rutgers and New Brunswick and New Jersey. It really was cool.Everyone was friendly to one another, but you clearly got the impression that they thought this would be an easy win for Arkansas. They shouted “Enjoy the game!” as we parted ways in Johnson Park and they climbed up to the Scarlet lot. They were headed to the Arkansas tailgate at the Visitors’ Center.On the way back home, I walked up College Ave, where there were very few Arkansas fans in sight, but once I got to the station, I could see the shuttle buses dropping them there and the platform was already filled with them.The mood was very sullen, as you would expect, but the usual crowd of Rutgers fans were also waiting with them. There were absolutely no jeers or negative comments. This was so apparent to the Arkansas fans that a few of them near me commented that it was so nice that the Rutgers fans were so civil. They said that after a loss at LSU, they were assaulted with a barrage of taunts and curses by drunk and aggressive LSU fans. Said it was the worst place to go for an away game. Another one commented how much they enjoyed this trip, in spite of the loss. They were headed to Times Square right after they got back to the city, and they just thought it was so cool to be able to take the train to a football game and then go spend the night in Times Square. Another man said it had the feel of a bowl game.My favorite comment was something I overheard on the train on the way back. An older man just suddenly started laughing and said to his friends, “it was all worth the cost of the trip just to be able to see the look on the faces of the people in Penn Station when hundreds of Hog fans descended on NJ Transit and broke into a Pig Sooey chant.” Clearly it was something he would never forget.This is an amazing aspect of the overall game day experience at Rutgers that will become very huge in the near future. Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan fans will soon be having a similar experience. They’ll get a hotel room in the city, take the train from Penn Station, and join a tailgate at the stadium. Some will combine their Rutgers game with a trip to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. Others will take in a Broadway show on Friday night before the game. Central Park. World Trade Center Memorial. Museums. It’s an amazing weekend when you think of it, an amazing away game experience.As locals, we don’t even appreciate this. It’s another example of something that could have an enormous impact when this Sleeping Giant awakens. Honestly, I hadn’t even considered this until the Arkansas game. This is truly an aspect of the Rutgers experience that needs further exploration. For example, it was clear we needed more shuttle buses from the stadium, and maybe NJ Transit will respond with special trains to and from the city like they do for the Jets and Giants games.I just hope the University and NJ Transit were also paying attention.