Fan sits alone in sea of scarlet

Stephen Buszka

Most Villanova students have a university they grew up rooting for other than Villanova. For me, it was Rutgers University of New Jersey. For 18 years of my life I cheered for the “loveable losers” who played their football games at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, just 10 minutes from my home.

When I went to see ‘Nova’s season opener this past Saturday against the Scarlet Knights, something was different.

I was not rooting for my home team but rather, I was ready to defend the white and blue in the sea of scarlet I knew I would encounter. The ride down Route 18 North was familiar despite not having driven on the road in almost a month. Ten minutes later, after making our way into the pre-paid lot without paying (why support the other team?) my family and I made the half mile trek to the stadium. The cars were almost innumerable; many of the riders didn’t even have tickets. They were content with a barbeque and a radio tuned to WCTC, the local station broadcasting the game.

The closer to the stadium we got, the more I realized that I stuck out like a sore thumb. My blue and white seemed more like an offensive intrusion rather than a sign of support for the Wildcats. I almost felt guilty…almost. After buying our tickets, we merged into a mass of scarlet trying to push through the gate. The wait to enter must have been too much for one guy who spontaneously started a chant by shouting out, “R!” A discordant response of “U!” followed. I snickered.

We settled into our seats right as the teams were running onto the field. Rutgers was greeted with resounding cheers and a few scattered boos, myself being one of the booers. Villanova ran onto the field and there was silence, not a respectful silence, but one of disgust and contempt. I was not pleased at all. They were still bitter over ‘Nova’s 37-19 drubbing back in 2002.

The captains met at mid-field and Rutgers was to receive the opening kick-off. Rutgers scored. Seriously, it was that fast. Joe Marcoux kicked off the game and 11 seconds later Willie Foster had his arms raised in triumph as he had just completed a 93-yard touchdown return. I had been hopeful coming into the game, ‘Nova did beat Rutgers just a few years ago despite being the underdog then, also. After a play like that, though, it’s hard to keep optimistic.

Fortunately, less than eightminutes later, Marvin Burroughs completed a beautiful 32 yard touchdown pass to John Dieser on a 3rd and 22. I leapt up in jubilation and with a smug look on my face looked at all the Rutgers fans around me and nodded my head speaking without words, “Yes, Rutgers is going to blow it again.” Then, before I knew it, Villanova’s point-after-attempt was blocked. I couldn’t believe it, but everyone around me sure could.

It took the half-time rush to the bathroom to bring an end to all the heckling and harassing I was receiving. There was even a group of 10 year-olds getting in on the action. I can’t recall ever hearing the phrase “Ohhh, what now?” repeated more often than in the minutes following the blocked PAT.

Over the remainder of the game I heard the minutemen up on the hill at the far end of the field fire off the cannon (a tradition – they fire the cannon following each Rutgers score) five more times. The Rutgers fans never really got too loud, but it’s not like they needed to drown out the cheers of the ‘Nova crew in section 101, right next to the cannon.

I left early. I had finished my soda by halftime and the whole “R! U!” atmosphere was making me sick – their chants were far from polite, very far. I’ll leave it at that. I didn’t see any reason to stay. Just wait until our men’s basketball teams meet on January 11.