Thursday, September 3, 2015

Brady Case Proves: Cheating Is Legal If New England Does It

The good news: The great power wielded by the Commissioner of the National Football League has been broken. No longer can he legitimately fine a player for wearing his socks wrong.

The bad news: It was broken by Tom Brady. It's official: In the NFL, cheating is legal.

Apparently, if you're caught ordering the deflating of footballs, and that cheating gets you into the Super Bowl, and you win it, not only is your title allowed to remain in the record books, but the Commissioner can't suspend you for your blatant cheating.

Not that the people of New England will ever admit that you cheated. Even after head coach Bill Belichick admitted to "Spygate." All 4 of the New England Patriots' Super Bowls are tainted: None can be accepted as legitimate.

*

Yes, cheating is legal in the NFL now.

Or... is cheating only legal if a New England sports team does it?

(Note: For these hypothetical situations, I'm using the Jets as the Patriots' opponent because of the rivalry. I am not a Jets fan. Thank God.)

Hypothetical situation A: Whoever's quarterbacking the Jets (and who knows who that's going to be) throws to an ineligible receiver. Touchdown. No, not a touchdown: The ref flags it.

But if Brady and the Pats had done it... it would count.

Hypothetical situation B: It's 21-17 Pats, and there's time for one more play. Whoever's quarterbacking the Jets throws the bomb, and the receiver nearly has his head taken off by the Pats' safety. Anybody can see it's a dirty play, and, since neither half can end on a defensive penalty, the Jets should get one more play, at the spot of the foul. They get, essentially, 4th-and-goal at the 5-yard line.

Except... No official flags the safety for pass interference. Coach Todd Bowles demands that the instant replay be used. He's told no, he can't have it. What the hell? The Pats just got away with cheating again!

Hypothetical situation C: The Jets put the cornerback blitz on. Brady gets the pass away, but Darrelle Revis grabs him, and slams him hard into the artificial turf, injuring him.

The Jets are assessed a penalty of 15 yards for "unnecessary roughness," and Revis is thrown out of the game.

Revis: "Sorry, ref, but I'm allowed to do that. You see, this very asshole now lying on the ground, writhing in pain like the little bitch that he is, proved that there are no rules in the National Football League anymore. He and his team do whatever they want, and they can't be punished for it. Therefore, according to the equal protection clause of the Constitution of the United States, the rules, or in this case the lack thereof, that apply to one team must apply to all teams. Therefore, what I just did, it's completely legal, and you have no authority to penalize either myself as an individual, or my team, for my having done it."

Referee: "What? What are you, a Communist? Additional 15-yard penalty, unsportsmanlike conduct, Number 24, defense, still first down!"

You see, that's the way it works: New England team cheats, it's okay; New York team tries to get even, it's not okay:

* Baseball: The Red Sox can use steroids, and not only are their players not punished for it, they are treated as heroes. But a Yankee accepts his punishment for it, and he still gets "Ster-oids!" chanted at him by 30,000 ignorant boobs who still can't accept the proven fact that their team set new standards for cheating.

Also, a Red Sox pitcher can throw a pitch at a Yankee's head, or hands, or back, on purpose, and he gets away with it every time. Not even a warning. A Yankee pitcher hits a Red Sox hitter on purpose, and he's thrown out of the game and fined, possibly even suspended.

* Basketball: Okay, I still haven't figured out how the Celtics cheated to win the 2008 NBA Championship. But they cheated many times in the old days. Once, Sam Jones elbowed Wilt Chamberlain in the head. No foul called. Wilt went after him. Sam ran to the bench and got a chair to protect himself. Guess who got punished?

Then, as the NBA got expanded, and the season got later and later it got hot in the Boston Garden, and the Celtics wouldn't turn on the air-conditioning in the visiting team's locker room. We all remember the image of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar taking in oxygen on the Los Angeles Lakers' bench in the 1984 NBA Finals. (Or maybe we don't: In the public memory, it was in Game 7; in reality, it was in Game 5.) Okay, New York teams weren't involved in any of this, but you get the idea.

* Hockey: No, I'm not talking about the Big Bad Bruins' rough play of the 1970s. I'm talking about how they let the ice melt at the TD Garden before Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, slowing down the Vancouver Canucks. This resulted in the only Cup they've won since before the Watergate break-in. Again, no New York Tri-State Area team was affected, but it was still a cheat.

* Soccer: No MLS team dives more than the New England Revolution (not even the Los Angeles Galaxy), and no team puts in more "horror tackles" than the Revs. They are by far the dirtiest team in the league.

Same New England: Always cheating.

I'm not saying that the various New York teams are angelic. Certainly, the Yankees have had their issues over the years, and so have the Mets, and the Knicks have been dirty now and agai. And, as far as dirty play goes, for much of their history (long before the Islanders or Devils came along, and well before they started "sucking"), the Rangers have left a lot to be desired.

But the New England teams not only take the cake, they burn down the bakery.

And no one seems willing to stop them. No one is willing to stand up and tell them, "No, you can't do that, because it is wrong."

There's an old saying: "It ain't cheatin' if ya don't git caught."

Now, it should be, "It ain't cheatin' if you play for Boston."

Yes. It is cheating. And it's about time somebody did something about it. Something legal. I don't want anybody in any more trouble than they might already be in.

Because until somebody steps in, the New England teams have this unfair advantage.

And if Roger Goodell lets this stand, doesn't appeal it to a court with a clue, then the National Football League will be a big fat joke.

After all, who's running this league? The Commissioner, or The Cheater?

5 Homers Lead Yanks to 2 of 3 in Boston


Much has happened today, so I'm going to start with the good stuff, since the rest is bad stuff.

The Yankees have 4 home games against the Red Sox at the end of the month, but won't have to go back to Fenway Park until at least next April.

Which is good, because, in the words of the immortal Obi-Wan Kenobi, You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

They finished their Boston series yesterday afternoon, a rare 4:00 weekday start. Masahiro Tanaka has now started 3 games against the Sox this season, and won them all. He pitched into the 7th inning, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits and just 1 walk, striking out 5.

But the big story of the day was the Yankees finally unloading with the bats at a convenient time. The Sox took a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning, but in the top of the 2nd, the Yankees pretty much ended it. Observe:

* With 1 out, Chase Headley drew a walk.
* Greg Bird hit a home run (his 3rd of the season) down the right field line, giving the Yankees the lead.
* John Ryan Murphy hit a home run (his 2nd) over the Green Monster.
* Didi Gregorius singled.
* Stephen Drew doubled. (He finished the game batting .211.)
* Brett Gardner walked to load the bases.
* Chris Young singled home Gregorius, although Gardner was thrown out at 2nd.
* Alex Rodriguez singled home Drew and Young.
* Carlos Beltran hit a home run (his 14th) over the Green Monster.

8 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks. That's what I like to see when the Yankees play the Red Sox.

That should have been enough to beat The Scum. Believe it or not, it wasn't.

Fortunately, the Yankees got more. Bird led off the 3rd with a walk, Gregorius also walked after a flyout by Murphy, and Drew hit a home run (his 17th) to make it 11-1 Bronx Bombers.

That was enough, but the Yankees weren't finished Gregorius hit a home run (his 8th) in the 5th, and a Jose Pirela single in the 8th made it 13-5 Yankees.

The Sox got to 5 because, when Tanaka tired in the 7th, Joe Girardi sent in Andrew Bailey, whom injuries had kept out of the game for 2 years. He wasn't ready, as he pitched to 4 batters: Walk, walk, RBI sacrifice fly, RBI single. Justin Wilson got out of the jam.

The Sox got 2 more in the 8th, because Bryan Mitchell had nothing, and Dellin Betances had to bail him out. It was 13-7 going to the bottom of the 9th, and Girardi decided to trust a 6-run lead to Caleb Cotham. But he allowed back-to-back doubles, and Girardi knew the door had to be slammed: Although it wasn't a save situation, in came Andrew Miller, who finished it off.

Yankees 13, Red Sox 8. WP: Tanaka (11-6). No save. LP: Henry Owens (2-2). We took 2 out of 3 from The Scum.

The Toronto Blue Jays also won, so the Yankees remain a game and a half behind.

The Yankees have today off, and come home to face the Tampa Bay Rays.

*

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 1, tomorrow night, in a friendly with Peru at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 2, this Saturday afternoon, home to Norfolk State.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 8, a week from tomorrow night, home to Piscataway. Not the best opponent to line up for your season opener: Not only are they the elite football program in Middlesex County, but we haven't beaten them in 25 years. No, I'm not exaggerating: It was October 1990.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: 45, on Sunday, October 18, away to the Rangers.

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 65on Saturday, November 7, at the Emirates Stadium. A little over 2 months. (Most likely, at least the time -- currently 10 AM U.S. Eastern -- and possibly the date of this game could be moved to accommodate television. It could be moved to the next day, Sunday.)

Days until the next East Brunswick vs. Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 84on Thursday morning, November 26, at 11:00 AM, at Jay Doyle Field in East Brunswick. Just 12 weeks.

Days until Euro 2016 begins in France: 281, on Friday, June 10.

Days until the next Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 337, on Friday, August 5, 2016. Just over 11 months.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

After Wasting Runs, Yanks Split 1st 2 With Sox


I knew it... I knew it... I knew all those runs the Yankees scored in Atlanta were a bad sign. I knew they'd need those runs later.

And as so often happens, the Yankees had one (or more) of those games right before playing the Auld Enemy. Especially in Fenway Park, the little green pinball machine in the Back Bay, where it seems you can never have enough runs.

Indeed, the most surprising thing about the 1st 2 games of this series is that a total of 11 runs were scored. You often get that many by 1 team in 1 game.

On Monday night, the Yankees sent Ivan Nova to pitch against The Scum. He didn't pitch badly, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits and 1 walk. That should have been enough to win. All the Yankees had to do on Monday was score 1/5th as many runs as they scored on Sunday: 4.

They didn't. They got 1 right at the start, under weird circumstances. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the series against his former team by reaching 1st base by that rarest of plate-appearance results, catcher's interference. Then Chris Young reached on a botched double play. Alex Rodriguez singled, but Ellsbury, presumed to have been signed for his speed, couldn't score on the play. That ended up not mattering, because Carlos Beltran got him home on a sacrifice fly. One-nil to the Pinstripe boys.

Mookie Bettsgave the Sox the lead with a 2-run home run in the bottom of the 3rd, but the Yankees tied the game in the top of the 4th. Brian McCann led off with a walk, then came 3 straight singles, by Chase Headley, Greg Bird and Didi Gregorius.

But, for the 2nd and 3rd time in the game, a Yankee failed to score from 2nd on a single. This is not that surprising, giving Fenway Park's Green Monster, the left-field wall just 310 feet (or less, this figure is disputed) from home plate. But a force-play out at home and then a double play meant that the Yankees got 1 run out of the inning, when they should have gotten at least 2, and that came back to bite them.

David Ortiz gave the Sox back the lead in the bottom of the 4th, when he cheated his way to another home run. It was the 495th home run of his career, 2 more than Lou Gehrig, and 5 short of what used to be a magic circle, before a bunch of other steroid freaks devalued it. Put it this way: If Ortiz had never used steroids, and had continued hitting home runs in Boston at the same rate that he did in Minnesota, he would now have 320 home runs, and any suggestion that he belongs in the Hall of Fame would be a big fat lying cheating joke.

With 2 out in the 5th, Beltran doubled to left, McCann walked, and Headley walked to load the bases. But Bird struck out. Gregorius singled to lead off the 6th, and Young walked, but they were stranded. Beltran walked to lead off the 7th, but was erased by a double play.

The Sox got another run, and the Yankees wasted singles by Gregorius and Brett Gardner in the 8th. Trailing 4-2 going into the 9th, they got a rally going. Stephen Drew led off with a single to right. A-Rod walked. John Ryan Murphy pinch-ran for A-Rod. The tying runs were on with nobody out. But Beltran struck out. A wild pitch advanced the runners. McCann walked to load the bases. Headley walked to force home a run. Bases loaded, 1 out, down a run? The Yankees should have gotten at least 1 more run out of this.

Bird struck out, and Gregorius flew to right. Red Sox 4, Yankees 3. WP: Eduardo Rodriguez (8-5). SV: Jean Machi (4). LP: Nova (5-7).

At least the Toronto Blue Jays also lost, to the Cleveland Indians, keeping the Yankees a game and a half back.

*

That loss was embarrassing, and the Yankees really needed to win last night.

September dawned, and that means callups from the minor leagues. These includes familiar names like Austin Romine, Dustin Ackley, Rob Refsnyder, Jose Pirela, Andrew Bailey and Caleb Cotham. The other 2, set to make their major league debuts, are Rico Noel, a 26-year-old center fielder from California who's been brought up only for his speed, since he's not much of a hitter or outfielder; and James Pazos, a 24-year-old lefthanded pitcher from San Diego, who's been used as both a starter and a reliever in the minors. But none of these players got into last night's game.

Michael Pineda started for the Yankees, pitching 6 innings, allowing just 1 run and 4 hits, walking nobody, and striking out 7 batters. This included 3 strikeouts of Ortiz, who would also be struck out by Dellin Betances in the 8th. 0-for-4 with 4 strikeouts. The Golden Sombrero. Good. He deserves to have that happen every game for the rest of his career.

The Red Sox actually took a 1-0 lead in the 3rd, but the Yankees came back in the 5th. An A-Rod leadoff single was followed by Headley and Bird striking out, but Gregorius reached on an error, and Drew, not batting .205 and slugging .389, drove them home with a double. Gardner added an insurance run in the 8th with a drive to right off Pesky's Pole, his 13th home run of the season.

Rick Porcello went 8 innings, striking out 13, walking just 1, and (more or less) sparing the Sox bullpen. But if that ends up helping them today, it sure didn't help last night. Yankees 3, Red Sox 1. WP: Pineda (10-8). SV: Miller (29). LP: Porcello (6-12).

The Jays also won, so the Yankees remain a game and a half out.

The series concludes this afternoon, with Masahiro Tanaka pitching against Henry Owens.

Mark Teixeira will probably miss another 2 weeks of his remarkable comeback season with a bone bruise. But Bird has filled in very well at 1st base. I just hope Teix is ready to send some messages again in October.

Monday, August 31, 2015

How Long It's Been: Stephen Drew Finished a Game Batting Over .200


The Yankees' acquisition of 2nd baseman Stephen Drew, and their refusal to keep rookie Rob Refsnyder up at the major league level, has been lambasted as evidence of Brian Cashman's inadequacy as Yankee general manager.

When Drew hits the ball, he usually hits it out. But he hardly ever hits it. He's like a lefthanded version of Dave Kingman, minus the distance: Can't field, and can't hit, but when he does hit, it's a home run.

He had a good game last night, and finally raised his batting average above "the Mendoza Line" of .200, finishing at .201.

The last time he finished a game with an average of .200 or better was June 19, 2014. That's 437 days. How long has that been?

*

That night, Drew was playing for the Boston Red Sox against the Oakland Athletics, at the Oakland Coliseum (or whatever corporate name it had at the time). The A's won, 4-2. Drew went 0-for-3, dropping his average to an even .200.

That same night, the Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4 at Yankee Stadium II. Derek Jeter played for the Yankees in that game. So did Ichiro Suzuki, Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Yangervis Solarte, David Phelps, Shawn Kelly and Matt Thornton. None is with the Yankees any longer.

Drew is, having been traded to the Yankees on July 31, 2014, for the aforementioned Kelly Johnson.

The defending World Champions were the Boston Red Sox * in baseball, the Seattle Seahawks in football, the San Antonio Spurs in basketball and the Los Angeles Kings in hockey (the latter 2 having just been won). The World Cup was underway in Brazil, about to be won by Germany. Manchester City was champion of England's Premier League, and Arsenal had just won the FA Cup.

The New York Jets, New York Knicks and New Jersey Devils have all since changed their head coaches and their general managers. The New York Islanders have moved to a new arena.

Caitlin Jenner was still Bruce Jenner, and was still a Kardashian. The Duggar family was still regarded as good Christians. Bill Cosby was still considered a good person. Obamacare was still under serious threat. Gay marriage was legal in about 1/3 of the country, no more. Flying the Confederate flag on government property was not considered an unpardonable sin.

Howard Baker, Bobby Womack, Paul Mazursky, Alfredo Di Stefano, Tommy Ramone, Nadine Gordimer, Johnny Winter, Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, Richard Attenborough, Joan Rivers, Ian Paisley, Polly Bergen, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalir, Jan Hooks, Oscar de la Renta, Edward Gough Whitlam, Jack Bruce, Thomas Menino, Glen A. Larson, Mike Nichols, Viktor Tikhonov, Jean Beliveau, Joe Cocker, Luise Rainer, Mario Cuomo, Edward Brooke, Rod Taylor, Anita Ekberg, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Udo Lattek, Louis Jourdan, Lesley Gore, Leonard Nimoy, Anthony Mason, Dave Mackay, Lee Kuan Yew, Gunter Grass, Percy Sledge, Ben E. King, B.B. King (no relation), Anne Meara, John Forbes Nash, Christopher Lee, Ornette Coleman, Kirk Kerkorian, Dick Van Patten, Omar Sharif, Alex Rocco, Theodore Bikel, E.L. Doctorow, Lynn Anderson, Roddy Piper, Cilla Black, Yvonne Craig, Wes Craven, Oliver Sacks and my father were all still alive. Now, none of them is.

The TV shows The Last Ship, Tyrant, Girl Meets World, You're the Worst, The Mysteries of Laura, Forever, Gotham, NCIS: New Orleans, Black-ish, How to Get Away With Murder, The Flash, Jane the Virgin, Mike Tyson Mysteries, Marvel's Agent Carter, Empire, Secrets and Lies, CSI: Cyber, American Crime, The Royals, Lip Sync Battle, Daredevil, Humans, I Am Cait and Fear the Walking Dead have all premiered since then.

Drop Dead Diva, Californication, Gang Related, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, True Blood, Chelsea Lately, the next-generation version of Dallas, Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy, The Newsroom, White Collar, the Colbert Report, 106 & Park, The Mentalist, Two and a Half Men, The Queen Latifah Show, Cougar Town, Justified, Revenge, Mad Men, 19 Kids and Counting, Hot in Cleveland, Phineas and Ferb, Nurse Jackie, Degrassi: The Next Generation, The Daily Show with John Stewart, Key & Peele and Hannibal have aired their series finales.

The much-hyped Selfie, State of Affairs and Constantine have done both. CBS' The Late Show was handed from David Letterman to Stephen Colbert, and its The Late Late Show was handed from Craig Ferguson to James Corden.

The very day in question, King Juan Carlos I of Spain abdicated, in favor of his son, King Felipe VI. ISIS began its offensive in Iraq. There had just been a revolution in Thailand. "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea was the Number 1 song in America.

Ruby Dee, who played Rachel Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story; Eli Wallach, who voiced several men in Ken Burns' Baseball miniseries; Don Zimmer, Bob Welch, and Tony Gwynn Sr. had all died. No one yet knows the names of the great people who were born in June 2014, but Mario Goetze scored an extra-time goal to win the World Cup, and the stars of Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner continued to rise.

June 19, 2014. The Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4 at Yankee Stadium II. The Red Sox lost to the Oakland Athletics 4-2 at the Oakland Coliseum. Stephen Drew finished the game with a batting average of .200. He would not finish with an average of .200 or better again until last night.

Can he keep his average above the Mendoza Line? Stay tuned.

Yanks Explode In Runs Before a Boston Series AGAIN

(Why does it look like Gregorius is trying to hit Drew on the head with a helmet?)

Once again, the Yankees scored a lot of runs in a series before they had to play the Boston Red Sox. This is especially worrisome to me when the game is at Fenway Park.

The Yankees staked Nathan Eovaldi to a quick 7-0 lead. Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be waking up at the right time, as he hit his 7th home run of the season in the 2nd inning, scoring 3 runs. Chase Headley (his 10th) and Stephen Drew (his 16th) both hit 2-run homers in the 3rd.

Drew, well, drew a bases-loaded walk in the 5th, making it 8-2 Yankees. But Eovaldi ran into trouble in the 6th, allowing a single, a double, and a 2-RBI single. Joe Girardi took him out for Adam Warren, and he allowed another run before putting an end to it, making it 8-5, and worrying Yankee Twitter.

But the Yankees exploded in the top of the 7th. With 1 out, Headley walked, Didi Gregorius was hit with a pitch, Drew singled to load the bases, Alex Rodriguez singled home Headley and Gregorius, Chris Young was sent in to pinch-run for A-Rod, Ellsbury struck out, Brett Gardner singled home Drew, Carlos Beltran singled to load the bases, Brian McCann singled home Young and Gardner, Greg Bird doubled home Beltran, Headley doubled home McCann and Bird, Gregorius walked (a rare feat, reaching base twice in one inning without a hit), and Drew singled home Headley. 9 runs on 8 hits.

Branden Pinder was brought in to relieve in the 7th, Girardi figuring that even Branden Pinder can't blow a 12-run lead. But Pinder and did what he does: He allowed a home run. Making it 17-6.

He did no more damage, and the Yankees scored 3 more runs in the 8th, on a sacrifice fly by Bird, a double by Pinder (yes, he undid his damage in this NL-park, no-DH game), and a single by Gregorius.

Yankees 20, Braves 6. WP: Eovaldi (14-2). No save. LP: Julio Teheran (9-7). Every Yankee starter got at least 1 hit, except for Eovaldi, and with A-Rod's pinch-hit we did get a hit from that spot in the order. Every Yankee starter, including Eovaldi, scored at least 1 run. Every Yankee starter except Beltran and Eovaldi got at least 1 RBI, and A-Rod's pinch-hit gave us RBIs from every spot in the order except Beltran's.

And Drew's average, below the Mendoza Line of .200 all season long, is now up to .201. Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles.

*

So, with 5 weeks remaining in the regular season, here's how everything stands:

The Yankees trail those pesky Toronto Blue Jays -- peskier than at any time since October 1993 -- by a game and a half in the American League Eastern Division, just 1 in the all-important loss column. It's become a 2-team race: The Tampa Bay Rays are 10 games behind, the Baltimore Orioles 11, and the Red Sox 14.

(What has happened to the Orioles? Is it just the natural phenomenon of a Buck Showalter-managed team, that they went as far as they could go, and no more, and now need a new manager to finish the job?)

The Kansas City Royals have pretty much wrapped up the AL Central, leading the Minnesota Twins by 13 games.

The AL West is far from wrapped up, as the Houston Astros lead the Texas Rangers by 3 games and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by 6 1/2.

The Mets still lead the National League East, by 5 1/2 games over the Washington Nationals, 5 in the loss column.

The St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in baseball, but have not wrapped up the NL Central, as the Pittsburgh Pirates are just 4 1/2 games back.

It's yet another Dodger-Giant showdown, as Los Angeles leads the NL West over San Francisco by 3 1/2.

If the current standings hold to the end of the season, the Wild Card play-in games will be the Rangers at the Yankees, and the Chicago Cubs at the Pirates.

Off to Boston. Bring on The Scum. Let's hope we don't need some of those 20 runs. After all, what good is scoring 20 runs against the Braves when the Jays also won, if we can't score enough runs on the Red Sox to stay even with, or even gain a game on, the team we're chasing?

Even if it isn't the Red Sox this time. You know the old saying: "In these games, you can throw out the records."

Certainly, this time, the Sox would like to do that.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

How to Go to a Rutgers Football Game -- 2015 Edition

This coming Saturday, at 12:00 noon, the football team at Rutgers University opens its 147th season of play, at home at Rutgers Stadium -- or High Point Solutions Stadium, if you must use the official, corporate name -- playing Norfolk State University of Virginia.

The last few years, Rutgers has always played an early-season home game against a "historically black college," providing Rutgers with an easy win, the visitors with big game-day revenue and a roadtrip to the New York market, and the home fans with a performance by the fantastic marching bands that usually accompany these teams.

The first time Rutgers played such a game, I went with my father, who was always involved with music. He went to watch the bands as much as for the game. When halftime came, and he, a native of Newark before it became a majority-black (now majority-Hispanic) city, saw a historically black school's marching band for the first time, he was thrilled. When the Rutgers band came on after them, the home fans booed them, knowing full well they couldn't meet the same standard.

So here's my how-to guide for Rutgers, the closest Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly known as Division I-A) team to New York City. The next-closest team, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, a.k.a. "Army," is 52 miles from Times Square. Next-closest is the University of Connecticut, based in Storrs but playing in East Hartford, 114 miles away. Syracuse? It may be in the State of New York, but Times Square and the Carrier Dome are 252 miles apart -- Penn State and the University of Maryland are actually closer.

Columbia in Manhattan, Fordham in The Bronx, Wagner on Staten Island; Hofstra (which no longer plays football) and Stony Brook on Long Island; Princeton and Monmouth in New Jersey; and Sacred Heart in Connecticut are all fairly close, but all are Football Championship Subdivision (FCS, formerly named Division I-AA) schools.

College football hasn't been as big in New Jersey as the NFL since the Giants got good in the 1950s, and when Joe Namath made the Jets matter in 1968, that was pretty much it for Rutgers and Princeton, then both "small college." In the 1970s, Rutgers made a commitment to play what they called "big-time football," and Princeton wanted to stay in the Ivy League. Rutgers went big and, for the most part, has spectacularly failed; Princeton stayed at their level, and has, more often than not, done very well.

According to a map based on Facebook "Likes," showing each County in the country, the New York Giants are the leading NFL team in the New Jersey Counties of Sussex, Passaic, Bergen, Warren, Morris, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Somerset, Union, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean -- all of North Jersey, and all of Central Jersey except Mercer. The Philadelphia Eagles were tops in the Counties of Mercer, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, Atlantic and Cape May -- all of South Jersey except for Ocean, plus Mercer.

In fact, until 2013, the New York Jets had just one County in the entire New York Tri-State Area where they had more fans than the Giants: Nassau County, Long Island, long the home of their team offices and training camp, Weeb Ewbank Hall on the campus of Hofstra University, across from the Nassau Coliseum. Now, even Nassau is listed as majority Giants territory. I guess Sports Illustrated had it right in 1986, when the Giants were on their way to their 1st Super Bowl win and the Jets were also Playoff-bound: "In the Big Apple, the Jets are always second banana."

However, that same map puts the lie to former coach Greg Schiano's claims about "the State of Rutgers" including New York City, Long Island, Philadelphia, Delaware, and even some of Florida. Big chunks of Bergen, Passaic and Sussex Counties prefer Penn State to Rutgers. Some parts of Bergen even have Notre Dame ahead. And the Southern half of the State, the part that tilts toward Philadelphia, and even towns near the Delaware River in the Counties of Warren, Hunterdon and Mercer, 200 miles from Beaver Stadium, prefer Penn State. The bastards.

Before You Go. Rutgers Stadium -- from here until the end of this post, I won't use its corporate name, because selling naming rights to a stadium is never a high point and it offers no solutions -- is 40 miles from Midtown Manhattan, so the weather will be just about the same. The weather is predicted to be hot: 88 degrees at game time, with thunderstorms possible later.

Tickets. Since Rutgers got good in 2005, tickets have been hard to come by, even with the recent expansion of the stadium. As of this writing, none of the 7 home games is completely sold out. But Big Ten powers like Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska are coming in, so don't expect to get great seats, even if you order now. (Nebraska once brought 16,000 fans to an away game against Hawaii.) That said, there isn't really a bad seat in the stadium.

Lower level (sections starting with 100) sideline seats go for $75, corner and end zone sections for $30. Upper level (sections starting with 200) middle seats go for $50, while on the ends (the upper deck only goes along the sidelines) are $30.

Getting There. As I said, Rutgers Stadium is almost exactly 40 miles from Times Square. However, do not take that for granted. Traffic getting out of New York City may be favorable to you on a Saturday morning, especially after Labor Day, but the last couple of miles before you reach the stadium will be bad. It would be best to go early, trying to reach the stadium at least an hour before kickoff, and, if you enjoy tailgating, you can do that. (If so, make it at least 2 hours before kickoff, to give yourself enough time to set up, cook, eat, and disassemble again.) If you don't enjoy tailgating, your best bet is probably to forget the car and take public transportation.

It's important to note that "Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey" is vast, including campuses (campii?) in Newark and Camden. The main campus straddles the Raritan River in Middlesex County. The College Avenue Campus (the original part of the school), the Cook Campus (the agricultural and environmental studies section) and the Douglass Campus (originally the New Jersey College for Women) are in New Brunswick. The Livingston Campus (including the arena) and the Busch Campus (including the stadium) are across the river in Piscataway.

New Jersey Transit runs rail service from Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan to New Brunswick, once an hour on Saturday mornings. The 9:14 Northeast Corridor train arrives in New Brunswick at 10:11, and the next one (10:14 to 11:11) will also get you there before kickoff. Round-trip fare is $26.

Coach USA (formerly Suburban Transit) runs buses from Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown to New Brunswick every hour on the hour, and it takes 50 minutes, dropping you off in front of the New Brunswick train station. A round-trip fare is $20.50. (On the way back, cross Albany Street to where the Ferren Mall stands -- for the moment; it's targeted for demolition.)

From the New Brunswick train station, there will be special Campus Buses to shuttle you to the stadium. These will be free. Although it's only 3 miles, depending on the traffic, this could take anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes. You have been warned. At least, if you're wearing opposing-team colors, the RU fans will not harass you. They may be Giant, Jet, or (yikes) Eagle fans on Sunday, but on Saturday it's a whole other animal. They will leave you alone, or even try to be polite to you. (Unless you're wearing Penn State gear. In which case, stay away entirely.)

If you're driving from New York City, get onto the New Jersey Turnpike. Whether that means the Lincoln Tunnel, the Holland Tunnel, or the Belt Parkway followed by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge followed by the Staten Island Expressway followed by the Goethals Bridge, all roads to Rutgers lead to the Turnpike.

Take the Turnpike to Exit 9, and take Route 18 North toward New Brunswick. The signs will lead you over the John Lynch Memorial Bridge. (John Lynch Jr., a corrupt former Mayor of New Brunswick, had it built and named after his father who had also been Mayor.) Once you're over the bridge, take the exit saying Campus Road/Rutgers Stadium/Busch Campus. (The sign was not changed when the stadium's name was.) Then turn left on Sutphen Road. The stadium will be on your left; to your right will be an indoor practice facility known as The Bubble (for a reason that will be obvious when you see it). At which point, follow the instructions of the Campus Police. If you do it right, you should hit a wall of traffic within 45 minutes of leaving The City.

Once In the City. New Brunswick is named for an English town, whose name was taken from the German city of Braunschweig in Lower Saxony, taken from "Bruno's wik." A wik was a marketplace and a rest stop for travelers in medieval Germany. Bruno, Brun, or Braun -- the English name Brown and the German name von Braun come from him -- was Duke of Saxony, and is a Catholic saint. He is said to have founded Braunschweig in AD 861.

The New Jersey city is considerably newer, although old by American standards: Formerly Prigmore's Swamp and Inian's Ferry, the first European settlement there was in 1681. The name was changed a little over 300 years ago, in 1714, in honor of the German-born new King of England, George I, who was also Elector of Hanover and Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg. His son, Prince Ernest Augustus, was the Duke of York and Albany, and the main intersection of the city is George & Albany Streets, named for the King and his son. (That son predeceased his father, and his son became King George III.) This is not, however, a "centerpoint": For east-west streets, addresses start at the Raritan River and increase westward; for north-south streets, they start on the south side of town and increase northward, so that the main intersection includes not 1 North George Street and 1 West Albany Street, but 410 George Street and 120 Albany Street.

A "King's Highway" was built in colonial times, and this is the forerunner of today's New Jersey Route 27, including part of Somerset Street, all of French Street, all of Albany Street, and the Albany Street Bridge over the river into neighboring Highland Park. The city was occupied by the British during the War of the American Revolution. While there is no Washington Street in town, and George Street is named for an earlier King (not George III), there is a Hamilton Street, named for Alexander Hamilton. The University's administration building, a.k.a. Old Queens, was built on a hill on that street, overlooking the river, where Hamilton observed British troop movements.

The seat of Middlesex County, New Brunswick is home to about 57,000 people. Long a haven for immigrants from Ireland and Eastern Europe (especially Hungary), the growth of the American middle class made possible the development of nearby towns like Franklin (named for Ben, not his colonial governor son William who accepted the charter for what became Rutgers), Piscataway, Edison, North Brunswick (which is actually south of New Brunswick), East Brunswick (ditto) and South Brunswick (and again, ditto, although in that case it made sense).

But that white flight from New Brunswick left poor blacks moving in, and the Hub City (so named because it was a major transportation center) became stricken with ghettos. Many children of those black citizens overcame this, and moved into the neighboring towns. Their places were taken by Mexican immigrants, their community settled, ironically, on French Street. (The street was almost certainly named for steamboat pioneer Daniel French, rather than the nationality of the original settlers on it.)

Today, New Brunswick's 4 main communities -- academic, legal (as I said, it's a County Seat), health care (2 major hospitals and being world headquarters for Johnson & Johnson make it "The Healthcare City") and immigrant -- combine to make it a very vibrant city. There's always construction going on, including downtown. The Barnes & Noble that forms the new campus bookstore is on the ground floor of the 2012-constructed tallest building in Central Jersey, the 24-story, 299-foot The Vue. It is connected by a walkway to the outbound platform (for trains running from New York and Newark toward Trenton and Philadelphia) of the train station.

The station is the hub for both New Jersey Transit buses to neighboring towns (fares: 1 zone, $1.50; 2 zones, $2.35; 3 zones, $2.90) and Campus Buses (free). The main newspaper is the Home News Tribune, created in 1995 as a result of a merger between the New Brunswick-based Home News and the Woodbridge-based News-Tribune. Sales tax in the State of New Jersey is 7 percent, and it does not rise in the County of Middlesex; quite the opposite: The City of New Brunswick is an Urban Enterprise Zone, cutting the sales tax in half to 3 1/2 percent.

Once On Campus. The school was originally named Queens College, and George III gave its royal charter in 1766, the 8th of 9 American colleges founded before independence. The others are New College, now Harvard, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1636; William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, 1693; Collegiate School, now Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut, 1701;the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University (the current TCNJ used to be Trenton State), 1746; King's College, now Columbia University, in New York City, 1754; the College of Philadelphia, now the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, 1755; the College of Rhode Island, now Brown University, in Providence, 1764; and Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire, 1769.

Queens College was chartered by the Dutch Reformed Church. For this reason, the college green has a statue of William I, Prince of Orange (1533-1584), a.k.a. William the Silent, ancestor of the current Dutch royal family and the hero of Dutch independence (which Spain, through an assassination, did not allow him to see). Supposedly, if a senior still a virgin walks past his statue, "Willie the Silent" will be silent no more, and whistle. No one has ever reported having heard this whistle.

In 1825, the year Old Queens was completed, the school had run out of money and had to close -- at the time, they thought it might be permanent. Enter Colonel Henry Rutgers, a high-ranking member of the Dutch Reformed Church in Manhattan. A graduate of Kings College/Columbia University, Rutgers was a lifelong bachelor with no children, legitimate or otherwise (it has been retroactively suggested by activist groups that he was gay), and, having no family to whom he could leave his money, made considerable donations in his time.

Knowing of New Brunswick's role in slowing the British down, making the Continental Army's retreat, regrouping in Pennsylvania, and subsequent victories at Trenton and Princeton possible, he donated $5,000 (about $116,000 in today's money), and a bell for the cupola at Old Queens. In gratitude, and in hopes that the Colonel would leave them something more in his will, the regents renamed the school Rutgers College. The Colonel left them nothing, but the name stuck, and the school's marching band still plays a song titled "The Colonel Rutgers March."

Rutgers became New Jersey's only land-grant college under the Morrill Act of 1862 (which created land-grant colleges), and, following the consolidation with Cook and Douglass, the State University in 1956. The University of Newark was incorporated into the RU system in 1945, and the College of South Jersey was in 1950. Douglass College was added in 1955. Cook College has always been a part of the Queens/Rutgers system. The main part of the campus, along College Avenue in New Brunswick, is still officially "Rutgers College." The Livingston and Busch campuses were added in 1969.

While the Queens name has never been restored, the administration building is still known as Old Queens, and some university flags still bear the script form of the letter Q. Some bear a script R. Both are flanked by the numbers 17 and 66, for the school's founding year. No one has ever seriously suggested changing the name to "the University of New Jersey" or "New Jersey State University" or even "Jersey State." It might have been better if they had: What's a better chant? "UNJ! UNJ! UNJ!" or "R... U... R... U... "

Going In. As I said, free Campus Buses will take you from the train station to the stadium. The official address is 1 Scarlet Knight Way. If you're driving, parking information is available here at ScarletKnights.com.

A statue depicting an early football player, honoring Rutgers as "The Birthplace of College Football," is at the stadium's north gate. There are also west, east and south gates.

The original Rutgers Stadium opened in 1938, built by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Project Administrtion, at a low cost since it was built into a natural bowl, thus not requiring as much digging as one built on level ground would have. It had a West Stand, an East Stand, and a North Stand, all single-decked, all concrete with wooden benches, no actual seats. Seating capacity was 23,000.

On each side of the North Stand, between the other stands, were grass areas -- I don't want to use the term "grassy knoll," but they did get called that. When these areas got filled in, capacity rose to over 30,000. In 1969, a Centennial Game was played against Princeton, and ABC offered to televise it. So, for the first TV game in Rutgers football history, a few spare bleacher seats were added, and 31,219 was the paid attendance, the highest in the stadium's history. (Here's a shot of the old stadium, late in its history, after the Hale Center was built on the East Stand.)


According to a Home News article in 1988, on its 50th Anniversary, it was designed to last 50 years. Right on schedule, by this point, it was beginning to fall apart. Plus, at just 23,000 "seats," it was too small for what Rutgers, in the 1970s, began calling "big-time football." So when Giants Stadium opened in 1976, Rutgers began dividing their home schedule: 3 games "On the Banks of the Old Raritan," 3 games at the Meadowlands. A 1985 game against Penn State, a 17-10 loss, was the largest home attendance Rutgers has ever had, over 61,000. (Despite the opening of MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands in 2010, Rutgers has only played 1 game there, and got only 42,000 fans.)

So negotiations were undertaken with the State government, and in 1992, after a Halloween thriller with Virginia Tech, when a touchdown on the final play gave Rutgers a 51-49 win, and a 13-9 win over West Virginia, the old stadium was closed and demolished.

Playing their home games at Giants Stadium in 1993, Rutgers opened the new Rutgers Stadium on September 3, 1994, beating Kent State, 28-6. It had a horseshoe shape, open at the south end, maintaining a nice view of the riverfront and New Brunswick. The lower deck was rounded at the corners, but otherwise perfectly straight, and an upper deck was added along the sidelines. Also, for the first time, Rutgers Stadium had permanent lights. Capacity was now 41,500 -- still the smallest in the recently-formed Big East Football Conference. The Hale Center, with team offices, training facilities, a huge new locker room, and press facilities (the old press box was a dinky little thing on the West Stand, not much bigger than a high school stadium's press box), opened on the East Stand. (Here's a shot of that configuration, complete with the trees at the South end.)
Finally, in 2009, a new south end was built, as the new student section, and it gets as rowdy as the ends at English soccer grounds. This cut off the nice view (and forced the cutting down of a lot of trees), but it also turned the horseshoe into a fully-enclosed bowl, and increased capacity to 52,454 -- now that Rutgers is in the Big Ten, only Northwestern has a smaller stadium. (Indiana's is larger by a few hundred.) It's unlikely that there will be further expansion, unless they want to put a second deck on the North Stand.

The playing surface has been FieldTurf since 2004, after having been natural grass since the original stadium's opening in 1938.

Four matches of the U.S. soccer team have been played on the site, 3 before the 1994 reconstruction, 1 after it, a 1995 draw with Colombia.

Food. Don't expect anything fancy. It's pretty much the standard stadium fare, although the hot dogs are good. (Not great, just good.) The concession stands are plentiful, and are manned by local high school booster clubs' officials, eager to continue their partnership with The State University, so they're going to be friendly.

One interesting item is available on the West Stand, near the entry gate. For $5.00, you can get a fried turkey leg, as if you're Charles Laughton playing the old Tudor monarch in The Private Life of Henry VIII. Adjacent to this cart are stands for Premio Italian sausages.

Team History Displays. I mentioned that Rutgers has played at 1 game at MetLife Stadium. This was on October 19, 2010, a 23-20 victory over Army. It was also the game which defensive tackle Eric LeGrand broke his neck making a hit on a kickoff return. While he still can't walk, he has recovered to the point where he led the team onto the field in his motorized wheelchair in a snow-strewn game the next season, he got his degree, and became an analyst on RU broadcasts and a motivational speaker.

In 2013, he became the first Rutgers football player to get his number retired, Number 52. That number is now shown on the wall of the North Stand. When his coach, Greg Schiano, left RU to take the head job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, he signed LeGrand to a contract, to make him an official NFL player, though, obviously, he never got into a game. In a corresponding display of equal class, LeGrand subsequently "retired" to open a roster spot for a deserving player.

Also on the North Stand are displays of the official logos from Rutgers' bowl appearances: The 1978 Garden State Bowl at the Meadowlands (a loss to Arizona State), the 2005 Insight Bowl in Phoenix (also a loss to Arizona State), the 2006 Texas Bowl in Houston (beating Kansas State), the 2007-08 International Bowl in Toronto (beating Ball State), the 2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham (beating North Carolina State), the 2009 St. Petersburg Bowl (beating Central Florida), the 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando (losing to Virginia Tech), the Pinstripe Bowl in New York in 2011 (beating Iowa State) and 2013 (losing to Notre Dame), and the 2014 Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit (beating North Carolina).

The Garden State Bowl was, essentially, made up by Rutgers, and was played at Giants Stadium. It was a running joke that schools that had entered Division I-A recently had gone to "a real bowl game," and Rutgers, "The Birthplace of College Football," hadn't. (Or had had to make a bowl game up, at home, and still lost it.) They didn't go to a real one until 2005, in Phoenix (and, oddly, again lost to Arizona State, although, this time, Arizona State was playing just a few miles from their Tempe campus). As you might guess, the Pinstripe Bowl is played at the new Yankee Stadium, and is practically a home game for Rutgers.

However, Rutgers has never played in any of the traditional New Year's Day bowl games: No Rose, no Orange, no Cotton, no Sugar, no Fiesta, nor any of the 2nd-tier bowls that sometimes get played on or around January 1, such as the Sun, the Gator, or the Peach.

They had near-misses in 2006, when they lost to West Virginia University on a late play, denying them the Big East Conference Championship and a berth in a Bowl Championship Series game; and in 2012 when they lost back-to-back Big East games, resulting in a 4-way tie for the title, but the University of Louisville (the 2nd of the 2, and an absolutely disgraceful choke) got the Big East BCS berth. Still, a title is a title, and a notation is on the North Stand, near the bowl mentions.

In the middle of the lower deck on the East Stand, there are a number of displays relating to Rutgers' football history, including the original dedication plaque from the old stadium, and tributes to famous Rutgers wins, coaches and officials. There's also a plaque with the inductees into a hall of fame for high school football coaches and officials in New Jersey.

As I mentioned, a statue is outside the North Gate, on a strip of sidewalk called Scarlet Walk, honoring "the first college football game," in 1869. (More about that in "Sidelights.") Rutgers still has "The Birthplace of College Football" displayed behind the North Stand end zone, and on top of the big scoreboard at the South Stand.

There is no mention at the stadium for the 4 games the U.S. national soccer team played at the site, the highest attendance having been 12,063, not even half-filling the place. That shows you just how far the U.S. team has come in 20 years: Now, it can come close to selling out the 82,000-seat Meadowlands.

Stuff. There's no official Team Store, but souvenir stands are all over the place. There's no funny hats, such as a big foam Knight helmet. They do, however, have the gimmick of a foam red sword. Season highlight DVDs are available at a stand on the East Stand.

The campus bookstore, the aforementioned Barnes & Noble, is at 100 Somerset Street, at the foot of College Avenue next to the train station. It sells all kinds of RU gear, from T-shirts and sweatshirts to caps. (And, yes, textbooks. Very, very expensive textbooks.) Across the street, at 109 Somerset, Scarlet Fever sells RU gear as well.

The stadium concession stands don't sell any books about the team, or the school. In 2007, Michael Pellowski published Rutgers Football: A Tradition In Scarlet, running from the debut in 1869 up to the team's recent revival and Big East near-miss. LeGrand wrote Believe: My Faith and the Tackle That Changed My Life. (When selling merchandise saying "BELIEVE" to raise money for LeGrand's chosen charities, the EL, his initials, are black, while the other letters are red.)

William C. Dowling, a professor of English at RU, lamenting the increased emphasis on sports (especially football), has publicly ripped the school (that provides him with a job), having written letters to the Home News Tribune and the State's largest newspaper, the Newark-based Star-Ledger, and a book detailing "the other side of the story": Confessions of a Spoilsport: My Life and Hard Times Fighting Sports Corruption at an Old Eastern University.

During the Game. Safety will not be an issue. Regardless of what professional sports teams they root for -- and RU takes fans from New York-aligned North and Central Jersey and from Philly-oriented South Jersey -- the school is strict on making fans abide by a family-friendly code of behavior. Alcohol is not served in the stadium, and that's a good thing, given how students (most of them under age 21) get at football games. However, if you are staying overnight (unlikely if you're coming from New York City), or even if you want to stay late before taking a bus or train back into Manhattan, I would exercise caution on Easton Avenue, New Brunswick's main bar drag.

Despite having a large and good (but not great) marching band, RU usually has a live singer perform the National Anthem. The Anthem is followed by the Rutgers Glee Club singing the Alma Mater:

On the banks of the old Raritan, my friends
where old Rutgers evermore shall stand
For has she not stood
since the time of the Flood
on the banks of the old Raritan.

Which leads to the oddity of the name of the current RU coach, Kyle Flood.

His predecessor, Greg Schiano, liked to say of his team, "We just keep choppin' away." Someone got the idea to have a player (a different senior every game) lead the team onto the field holding an ax, run from their entrance at the southeast corner, and over to the northeast corner (the home bench is on the east side of the stadium), where a big tree stump is located, and swing the ax into it. "Keep Choppin'" T-shirts are sold, although no one has yet made foam axes to go along with the foam swords.

When public address announcer Joe Nolan -- also the traffic reporter on WABC-Channel 7's Eyewitness News -- says, "And that is another Rutgers... first down!" the band plays a fanfare, and the fans chant, "First down, touchdown, go RU!" And each score -- touchdown, field goal, even a safety -- is followed by the fight song, which is followed by the official school cheer:

RU, rah rah!
RU, rah rah!
Boo rah, boo rah, Rutgers rah!
Upstream, red team!

Red team, upstream!
Rah, rah, Rutgers, rah!

I didn't say the cheer was intellectually stimulating. Then again, Rutgers has pretensions to being a "public Ivy," and some of the actual Ivy League schools have even sillier cheers. (Seriously, Yale? "Boola boola"?)

Each score, including extra points, is followed by men in Revolutionary War garb (all wool, so it must be really uncomfortable in those September home games) standing behind the corner of the northwest end zone, loading and firing a cannon that is contemporary to that period. (Don't worry, there's no actual cannonball or other such projectile in there. It's loud and smoky, but as long as you're not standing right in front of it, you're safe.)

There are 2 Scarlet Knight mascots. One is a guy in a traditional cloth suit with a big foam head, his face resembling Pittsburgh Steeler mascot Steely McBeam (himself an obvious parody of former Steeler coach Bill Cowher).

The other is a man in an actual scarlet-red suit of armor, complete with sword, riding a horse (white or gray, never dark) around the field. It is best to stay away from him, for this is a very dangerous creature, one that may knock you over, or step on you, or bite you, or kick you, or piss on you, or crap on you. The horse is a bit better-trained. (Old joke.)

After the Game. Win or lose, the band comes onto the field after the game and, once more, plays "On the Banks of the Old Raritan." It usually plays a few more songs before filing out. It's best to stick around for this: Not only are they usually very good musicians, but it gives you a chance to not get stuck in the immediate post-game exodus, making it easier for you to find your car (or your shuttle bus back to the train station) and leave the premises.

If you don't mind people doing the same, often to excess, Easton Avenue, extending northward from Albany Street and the train station, is the place to be for a postgame meal, or just a pint. From Brother Jimmy's BBQ right next to the station, to such New Brunswick institutions as the Corner Tavern (not to be confused with the Court Tavern), the Golden Rail, and the Olde Queens Tavern, this is where the Rutgers community (assuming they're at least 21 years old -- or think they can fool someone with a fake ID) goes to drink.

A particular favorite of mine is Stuff Yer Face, at 49 Easton at Condict Street, purveyors of strombolis. (Or is the plural form "stromboli," like the plural of that Italian pastry has no S, "cannoli"?) Their slogan is, "Enjoy a boli and a beer!" And boy, do they have a variety of beers. It's one of those places that likes to brag, "We were here before you were born." It opened on October 22, 1977, shortly after the Yankees won the World Series with Reggie Jackson hitting those home runs, so it's not true for me, but it is true for any Rutgers student who graduated after the 20th Century.

Just 3 doors up, at 55 Easton, is Thomas Sweet, creator of "blended ice cream" and an equal New Brunswick institution. They also have an outlet in Princeton, catering to that other Central Jersey academic center. They've even opened one in Washington, D.C. -- catering to Jersey Boys and Jersey Girls studying there, or working for the federal government, maybe?

Sidelights. One of the great things about being in New Brunswick (I lived there for 2 years and have lived nearby most of my life) is that you're less than an hour from New York and less than 2 hours from Philadelphia, making their attractions easy to reach. But there are a few local things that might interest you.

* College Avenue Gym and site of First College Football Game. Next-door to the Rutgers Student Center, and across from Brower Commons, is the classic home of Rutgers Athletics. Built in 1931 after the previous gym burned down, "The Barn" seats only 3,200 people, and proved to be totally inadequate during the greatest season in the history of Rutgers basketball: 1975-76, when the Scarlet Knights won their 1st 31 games en route to the NCAA Final Four, finally losing to Indiana and then the 3rd place game to UCLA at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.

A friend of mine who was a senior that year confirms that the noise inside the Barn was so intense, it made paint chips fall from the ceiling. This necessitated the building of a new structure for RU basketball. The Barn is, however, still used for sports like wrestling and volleyball. It also hosted New Jersey's last Constitutional Convention in 1947, at which the current State Constitution was written.

Behind it is Parking Lot 30, which was built on the site of one of the most important locations in the history of North American sports. For it was here, at what was then called College Field, that what is generally recognized as the first American football game was played, between Rutgers College and the College of New Jersey (which became Princeton University), on November 6, 1869.

This was, essentially, a soccer game played by teams of 25 men each. The Rutgers men, determined to distinguish themselves from their opponents and thus make it easier for them to play, grabbed scarlet cloth -- a cheap color to obtain at the time -- and wrapped it around their heads like turbans, thus inventing school colors and, sort of, the football helmet. Under the scoring system of the time, Rutgers won, 6-4. That's 6 goals to 4, under today's scoring roughly 42-28. A rematch was played a week later at Princeton, and the men of Old Nassau got their revenge on the men of Old Queens, 8-0. (56-0.)

Oddly enough, Rutgers continued to play Princeton, the schools just 18 miles apart, but never beat them again until the dedication game for the first Rutgers Stadium in 1938. There was one surviving Rutgers player left, 69 years later, and the last surviving Princeton player died that very morning.

Rutgers continued to play at College Field until 1891, before moving across the street. 130 College Avenue at Senior Street.

* Alexander Library and site of Neilson Field. The main campus library is typical of the banal American architecture of the 1950s. Not so typical is a brick wall behind it on George Street, where a plaque can still be made out, saying, "NEILSON FIELD." The library was built on the site of the facility Rutgers used for their home football games from 1892 to 1938, moving into the stadium across the river in midseason.

Neilson Field continued to be used as a practice facility until 1953, when the new library was built. It also hosted high school games, especially the Thanksgiving game between New Brunswick and South River, which was moved to the stadium and played there until it was moved off Thanksgiving in the late 1970s (but is still a big rivalry). 169 College Avenue at Richardson Street.

* Louis Brown Athletic Center. Built on the Livingston Campus in 1977, this is not a building befitting a great university. Originally known as the Rutgers Athletic Center (and still nicknamed The RAC, pronounced "the rack"), it was renamed in 1986 for, as was the University itself long before, a major donor.

It's a tacky chunk of concrete in the middle of nowhere. And that's on the outside. On the inside, it was designed to hold 9,000 people (hardly a big-time capacity), but the site lines up top are so bad, they don't even sell those seats anymore. Hence, an official capacity of 8,000. The building is held up by big thick concrete columns at the corners, which obstruct a lot of views. And the concession stand -- that's singular, not plural -- doesn't sell much. And, unlike Seton Hall with their 3,200-seat Walsh Gym in South Orange, they don't have the option to play home games at the 20,089-seat Meadowlands or the 18,711 (for basketball) Prudential Center in Newark.

Like a lot of sports stadiums and arenas built in the 1960s and 1970s, it is functional – barely – and not worth its initial hype. Unlike many of those buildings, it still stands, not yet replaced by a far better one. Plans were once floated for a downtown New Brunswick arena seating 12,000, and now they're talking about expanding the RAC, perhaps to 12,500. For now, home is the building they've got, at 83 Rockafeller Road (named for Harry Rockafeller, a Rutgers coach, not "Rockefeller") at Avenue E.

* Yurcak Field. A 5-minute walk from the stadium, this 5,000-seat aluminum-bench facility, resembling a high school football stadium, is home to the RU soccer and lacrosse programs, and to Sky Blue FC of Women's Professional Soccer (WPS). Ronald N. Yurcak, an All-American lacrosse player in 1965, donated the money for it. 83 Fitch Road at Scarlet Knight Way.

* Memorial Stadium. Built in 1950 as the home of New Brunswick High School athletics, this facility was also used by the now-defunct St. Peter's High School. The building across the street was NBHS from 1967 until 2013, and is now New Brunswick Middle School. In 1978, the New Jersey Americans used Memorial Stadium as a home field, and, at the time, they had one of the greatest soccer players who ever lived, by then playing out the string, the Portuguese legend Eusebio.

The complex also includes a field for boys' baseball, one for girls' softball, and tennis courts, and each has been a former host for their respective Middlesex County, later Greater Middlesex Conference, championship tournament finals. The stadium has also hosted the County soccer finals. Joyce Kilmer Avenue between 9th and 12th Streets. (Formerly Codwise Avenue, the poet Joyce Kilmer was born on that street, and was killed in World War I.)

New Brunswick isn't a big museum city -- then again, it isn't a big city. Easily the most notable is the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, at 71 Hamilton Street, across from Old Queens. Adjacent, Scott Hall, at 77 College Avenue, hosts notable lectures and film festivals.

Speaking of films, there haven't been many movies filmed in or around New Brunswick. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension was supposedly set there, but was filmed in Southern California. The 1984-90 CBS sitcom Charles In Charge was set in New Brunswick, with the Rutgers name dropped in favor of the fictional Copeland College, but was taped entirely in Hollywood.

*

Going to a Rutgers game is as close as you can come to a big-time college football experience in the New York Tri-State Area, especially since the Pinstripe Bowl is played at Yankee Stadium rather than on a college campus.

Rutgers haven't won much -- indeed, the Scarlet Knights make the Mets look as successful as the Yankees by comparison -- and, when they lose, it tends to be either a blowout or a calamity on a Red Sox or Cubs scale. But that's made what they have won all the sweeter.

Tragedy Mars Yankee Win Over Braves


Last night's game between the Yankees and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field was touched by tragedy, as a fan fell out of the upper deck and died.

He's been identified are Gregory Murrey of the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta. Known as Ace, he was 60 years old, and a Braves season-ticket holder for 23 years.

He fell 40 feet from Section 402 onto concrete in Section 202. He might have been better off if he'd fallen on a fellow fan. CPR was attempted, but he never had a chance.

At last check, the authorities said there was no evidence of foul play.

According to an article on the website of the city's premier paper (which used to be 2 good papers), the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

"Right now preliminary investigation reveals there is no type of foul play but we need to wait until the medical examiner rules on the cause of death," said Atlanta police lieutenant Charles Hampton, the department's homicide commander. "We’re asking anybody who’s in the area to come forward and let us know what they saw. But we don’t believe it was anything suspicious."
The fall occurred in the top of the seventh inning, as the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez was walking to the plate amid a chorus of boos. The apparently fell off the upper deck, the 400 level of the stadium, behind the home-plate area and landed between the second and third row of seats on the first level in section 202. Fans seated in that area immediately scattered, and paramedics rushed in and did chest compressions, a form of CPR, in an attempt to revive him.
The man eventually was carried out. But there were at least two pools of blood on the concrete where he was lying. Three rows of seats were emptied and a stadium worker with a mop arrived soon after to mop up the blood.
This was the 2nd such incident at that ballpark in a little more than 2 years, and the 3rd in 7 years. Justin Hayes of Cumming, Georgia fell 4 levels during a 2008 game and died. He was 25. And on August 12, 2013, Ronald Homer Jr. of Conyers, Georgia climbed a railing and jumped off, falling 85 feet to a parking lot. He was 30, and his death was ruled a suicide.

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As for the game: A rare sellout crowd of 49,243 packed into The Ted to see the Pride of the South take on "them damn Yankees." They got to see fine pitching from rookie sensation Luis Severino. He pitched 6 scoreless innings, allowing 4 hits and 3 walks, striking out 5. His career major league ERA, in 5 starts, is now 2.17. Pretty strong, although no team has yet faced him twice and been able to adjust. Still, this is encouraging.

But every pitcher needs runs. (Some fewer than others.) Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a double. After Braves starter Matt Wisler got 2 outs, he walked Brian McCann and Greg Bird (the rookie continuing to do a fine job in place of the injured Mark Teixeira) to load the bases, and then he threw a wild pitch to bring Ellsbury home with Chase Headley at the plate. (Headley struck out to end the inning.)

The Yankees clung to a 1-0 lead into the 7th, then gave Severino some insurance when the inning began with back-to-back doubles by Headley and the previous night's hero, Didi Gregorius. Matt Marksberry was brought in to relieve Wisler, and he got Stephen Drew to pop up.

Having a 2-run lead, and being in a National League ballpark with no designated hitter, Joe Girardi pinch-hit for Severino, sending up Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod was being announced as the pinch-hitter when Murrey fell. Adding to the tragedy is the oddity of A-Rod being linked with a controversy, and having nothing to do with it.

The game was held up for 10 minutes as first-responders tried to help Murrey, to no avail. A-Rod was intentionally walked, and Markberry got out of the inning with no more runs.

The Braves scored a run on Justin Wilson in the bottom of the 7th, but the Yankees got that run back in the top of the 8th, on a leadoff walk by Carlos Beltran and a double by the ex-Brave McCann, who really does like hitting at Turner Field.

This was not, however, the day to say, "Leadoff walks can kill you." Baseball is not only a game, or just a game, but it certainly isn't life and death.

Yankees 3, Braves 1. WP: Severino (2-2). SV: Andrew Miller (28). LP: Wisler (5-5).

The series continues this afternoon. Nathan Eovaldi starts against Julio Teheran.