I’m getting something off the wire here, let me see what it says… Oh My!  It seems that Rutgers fans, the very fans who once had a bad football team and and empty stadium and class, are now using their new-found popularity to cry out with hate for America and its fighting men!

If that sentence doesn’t sound completely insane to you, then I think you’ve been reading too much Mark DiIonno lately.   The goateed Star Ledger columnist/human interest reporter recently wrote this scathing attack on Rutgers Football fans and their mistreatment of the Navy Football players.  Luckily, Rutgers fans know how to read, and like many of my fellow Scarlet Knights I can’t take this sitting down.

 Campbell, almost always the smallest and fastest man on the field, hit a wall of XXXL-sized scarlet jerseys and was slammed to the ground at the bottom of the pile. He got up slowly, limping off.

I have begun to weep for this man… surely, the opposing team’s fans will cheer for him after he was effectively stopped on a special teams play?

This gutsy kid, a slotback who already spent three quarters being chased and tackled by gangs of defensive linemen and linebackers, all weighing at least 100 pounds more than him, was then given a dose of Rutgers’ student section class.

”You got f—ed up. You got f—ed up. You got f–ed-up,” they chanted.

Well why didn’t you tell me he was gutsy!  And small!  If I had known that the bullies on Rutgers were hurting him, I would have told me fellow students to quiet down, because he had clearly been hurt enough.

Enough of that… I sat in the student section for the Navy game, like I do every game.  I sat in section 109, located directly to the left of DiIonno, and I can tell you that the 20 people chanting this were hushed by other students.  It’s not that we felt we should be kind to the men of the US Navy; the Rutgers student section is just a classy place, for the most part.  Fans are, mostly, very well-informed and mature.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t cheer — you better believe I stand and scream for 3 hours straight.  It’s just that the vast majority of us know what to cheer, and when.

I doubt that any cranky alumnus in that stadium whose ears were hurt by our foul tongues has ever heard a fight chant that loud.  When this student section gets going, it’s a force.  Everyone knows the stadium chants, and from the speedy modern “R-U” back-and-forth to the bellowing “First down, Touchdown,” we pour a whole lot of energy into our team, and we’ve got a great understanding of the tradition.

Reggie Campbell is a senior. After graduation in June he has a five-year commitment to the American military, which, like it or not, is at war.

Reggie Campbell chose to be in the Navy.  He also chose to play a competitive sport at a very high level.  I respect him for serving our country, and I’ll cheer very loudly when we slam him to the ground, preventing him from scoring.  Sound fair?

“This is how you treat people who may die for this country?” said Bill Squires, an Annapolis graduate (Class of’75) who was on the sidelines for the Friday night game in Piscataway and was shocked by the obscene chants directed at the Navy players and fans throughout the game. “It was the most classless thing I’ve seen.” 

Well, looks like he went to an unbiased source for this story.  As a note, DiIonno also went to Rutgers AND served in the US Navy, though he makes his allegiances clear here.  If Bill Squires had been sitting where the Navy fans were, there is no way he would have ever heard the meek swear-chants coming from various parts of the student body.  But, of course, he wasn’t.  He was seated in the heart of the Rutgers crowd.

What did he expect from a group of 20 year olds who, like at every other school in the nation, get drunk and go to football games so they can cheer for the team they love?  Did he expect to see heads bowed in quiet solitude every time a Navy player took the field, simply because they “may die for this country?”

(Which, by the way, is one of the biggest BS lines I’ve ever heard.  These men volunteered, and though some day their lives may be on the line, let’s not pretend that they’re some poor unfortunate souls at whom we must never boo.)

Navy was booed and peppered with “You suck!” chants when they stepped on the field for both halves.

This… this is inconceivable.  Are you telling me that in one of our toughest preseason matches, our classless goons actually booed the opposition?  Well did you tell those jerks that these people might someday DIE?  And they still told them that they sucked??

Rutgers fans are savages, born and raised in the care of wolves.

”F— you, Navy. F—you, Navy. F— you, Navy.”

“There were wives and small children up there,” said Squires, an academic recruiter for the academy who has been to dozens of away games and never seen such contempt directed at his team.

1.  I honestly doubt that last line to be true… perhaps Navy has never drawn a crowd of this magnitude, and the general loudness just bewildered him.

2. Again, I was in the stands.  That F You Navy chant?  5 people!  I’m not exaggerating here!  The rest of us just gave those kids dirty looks, assumed they were drunk, and let the chant die.

3. WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN?

Still, every penalty against the Scarlet Knights is greeted with a chant of “a–hole, a–hole, a–hole.”

Well this is just bad sportsmanship.  Don’t those got-dern students know, that referee served his nation in war?!  Unless he didn’t, in which case DiIonno just thinks there should be no more booing at games allowed.

“At one point, I thought, we defend this country for people like this?” said Squires, who lives in West Orange. “I wasn’t embarassed as a New Jerseyan. I was embarassed as a human being.”

I’m embarrassed that you made the same mistake twice in one quote, Mark.  Sloppy writing.

And to Mr. Squires: I always keep this blog clean– safe for family to read.  But go fuck yourself, you self centered, holier-than-thou bastard.  If I had read this line before the game I would have painted “Fuck Navy” on my naked body and streaked across the field, just to piss you off.

Some will excuse the behavior as kids just being kids, out to have a loutish, drunken good time. Spewing obscenities at the visiting team is just part of the fun.

Yes.  That makes exact sense.  I was on the bus ride over with people who had no idea where they were.  This is what college students do, its what makes college football crowds the best in any sport.

But you’d hope our Jersey kids would be smart enough to make an exception for the service academies, especially the weekend before the anniversary of Sept. 11… sensitive enough to realize that some of those Midshipmen may soon be among the young American men and women fighting and bleeding and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You have got to be kidding me, right?  What, in your mind, makes the Navy more sensitive to the tragedies on 9/11 than Rutgers?  Do you think that the towers were filled with Midshipmen?  No, they contained friends and family of many Rutgers students and alumni.  Rutgers is located right down the turnpike, hundreds of miles closer than Annapolis.  The Rutgers community was hurt that day, and once a year they scroll the names of all the alumni who died that day, and we observe a moment of silence.  For you to parlay that respect into a general no-booing rule for the Navy isn’t just stupid, it’s bad journalism.

We are very sensitive to the fact that these people might soon be fighting in Iraq.  We won’t boo them when they board the plane, or come back on leave, you clown. We’ll boo them when their team tries to beat ours.

At the very least, you’d think the Rutgers students would have some appreciation for the effort the undersize Navy players put out… They are what Rutgers was not so many years ago. Students first, athletes second. Except better.

If I could, I’d revoke your alumni status for this shit.  First, to think that the fans should applaud the other team because they’re trying hard is laughable.  You’ve got your head so far up your own ass here you completely forgot what it’s like to be a fan.

I’ve been in the classroom with Rutgers football players and I’ve seen the effort they put out.  They attend every class, just like they did when they had an 0-12 record.  Except now, they balance schoolwork and a winning record.  In your judgment, I guess that makes them worse students?

“Except better.” That line has been resonating with me since I first read this article.  Who the hell are you?  How dare you pass judgment on a group like that, flatly saying that one is “better” than the other (and in a sentence fragment, nonetheless)?  This article is so thick with Navy bias it might as well have been written by a goat.

The band plays. The cheerleaders and dance team girls wave pompoms. The conquering heroes go past, eyes front. At game time, the scoreboard TV shows the team coming down the tunnel to a soundtrack from Armageddon. An Army helicopter chop-chops overhead (your tax dollars at work).

Disgraceful, this “manufactured drama,” as it’s called earlier in the article.  I remember, back when we sucked, the cheerleaders never cheered, and the players always darted their eyes back and forth like cowards!

And come one… the soundtrack from Armageddon?  They leave the locker room to “Lux Eterna” from the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, and as they near the end of the tunnel the speakers blare the T.I. anthem “Bring Em Out.”  My prom song was from the Armageddon soundtrack, if they played that before every game I might break out into an involuntary slow dance.

And how dare they use my TAX dollars to pay for that helicopter?!  Unless, of course, theres no way your tax dollars went to that rental.  Which I’m certain is the case.

But to Reggie Campbell and his Navy teammates, Friday night’s game wasn’t war. It was a game. War is around the bend.

They deserved better.

I’ve been saving this for the end.  How late did you stay, Mark DiIonno?  Because if you stayed for the alma mater, like any proud alumnus should and like thousands of current students do, you would have seen something great.  The Navy team lined up behind our squad as we proudly sang “On The Banks,” and a moment later, the entire crowd (students, too!) followed suit by turning to the Naval Academy band and standing quietly out of respect for their anthem.  Even though it was inaudible from the student section, like our jeers were surely to their fans, we stood there until it was over.  Students in the company old alumni, sharing walkways with veterans and parents and children.  No one was swearing, no one was disrespecting each other.  It was a great moment, and if you weren’t so blinded by self-righteousness you would have seen it and had a totally different outlook on the game.  But I guess it’s too late for that.  Thanks, Mark DiIonno, for warantlessly putting your old school in the national spotlight for a negative when there are so many positives you should be writing about.

Tom Wright-Piersanti is a third-year Rutgers College student and a Journalism and Media Studies major.  He hopes to one day replace knee-jerk reactionist, biased, libelous hacks like Mark DiIonno and bring some dignity back to New Jersey journalism.  He can be reached at kevcowiffle@gmail.com.

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