Alumnus Chris Maizys writes that his Rutgers football tailgate friends and fellow alumni have become like family.
By Chris Maizys LC'93
I have always considered myself a spirited Rutgers alumnus and fan, beaming with pride for my alma mater and eternally optimistic for its future. With fond memories of my father taking me to Rutgers football games in the ’70s and ’80s at Giants Stadium etched in my brain, it is obvious that I have been “bitten by the Rutgers bug.” Since my graduation in 1993, I have been known to stand out for my Rutgers spirit by my wife and close friends, also proud Rutgers alumni.
I had the privilege of meeting fellow alumnus Ray Flood RC’67 in 2012 upon purchasing a Jersey shore vacation home right next door to him. Lo and behold, two Rutgers graduates were newfound neighbors with a lot in common. He happened to see the traditional red “R” magnet on my car, and we immediately clicked.
Ray invited me to his football tailgate that fall. Ray has been a proud Rutgers season ticket holder for decades and sets up his infamous tailgate for all home games, rain or shine, usually at the yellow lot gate. He prides himself on being the second car into the lot. His diehard Rutgers fan friends arrive shortly after him to partake in all the festivities: the enthusiasm of the band, the player bus arrival, the players deboarding, the new boardwalk, and all the other exciting pregame activities. When I began attending his legendary tailgates, I was simply amazed by the liveliness of the entire experience. Now, I arrive early with my 13-year-old son to take it all in prior to game time.
When I think about being a dedicated Rutgers alumnus, I think of spirit, enthusiasm, optimism, and inclusiveness of community. Ray and his friends perfectly embody these traits, which have left their mark on me and have made me a better alumnus and person. It is impressive to see how these college mates who graduated over 50 years ago still enjoy each other’s company and their bond is ever so strong. From the first day I joined them, they have always treated me (25 years their junior) like “one of the guys,” an immediate friend. They are a very inclusive group. They take time to ask about my work, my family, and my optimistic perspective of the game at hand. Honestly, they are the most spirited alumni I have ever witnessed. No matter the weather conditions, or the score, they stay until the last second ticks off the clock at every game. They can be heard belting out the school song, and discussing the optimistic side of how big a particular win is for the program or the positives that could be seen in the ugliest of losses.
When the Rutgers football team needed a win at Indiana University on Saturday, October 21, 2023, to become bowl eligible, I was invited to Ray’s home in northern New Jersey to watch the game. When I arrived, I was greeted with the same warmness of Ray and his friends, the same inclusion and spirit. We basked in the glory of a solid win. I was not permitted to leave until I sang along to “On the Banks of the Old Raritan” and promised to join them at the bowl game when it is scheduled.
Now that the Rutgers is playing in the Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 28, I will be there to celebrate with Ray and the gang and cheer on the Scarlet Knights on the field. We are so excited that Rutgers has earned the right to play in a bowl again, and we believe this will be the beginning of a long streak of bowl games.
In all my experiences with the people I have met associated with Rutgers University, I cherish my time with Ray and his friends the most. I will forever admire their spirit and optimism for the future of our Rutgers community.
Chris Maizys is a vice chair of the Rutgers University Alumni Association Board of Directors. To learn more about the Rutgers alumni community and the many opportunities it offers, click here.