Keep chopping

November 11, 2006

Apparently Rutgers University’s biggest contribution to popular culture — dwarfing Mister Magoo and Paul Robeson combined — is going to be the slogan “keep chopping.” The New York Times explains:

“Keep chopping,” advised Greg Schiano, the Rutgers coach.

It was Schiano who started this craze, after last season’s opening game, when Rutgers blew a 20-point lead at Illinois and he had no idea what to say.

Schiano gathered his players in a meeting room and recalled the words of a sports psychologist he once met at the University of Miami who told the team that playing football was like chopping wood.

Miami, never known as a timbering powerhouse, did not take to the analogy. But Schiano was desperate. He tried to extend the frontier metaphor.

“We’re in the middle of a forest,” he remembered telling the team. “It’s dark. You have to chop wood. You have to start chopping.”

Schiano throws out motivational nuggets every week. Some of them resonate. Many do not. “This one stuck,” said Mike Teel, the starting quarterback.

It became the signature of the program. Alabama has “Roll Tide.” Auburn has “War Eagle.” Southern California has “Fight On.” Rutgers has “Chop Wood.”

Fans scream it in the stands. Students say it in class. It is hard to spend five minutes on campus these days without hearing some reference to logging. People who have never touched firewood are talking like lumberjacks in red flannel shirts.

“It was so simple,” said Ramel Meekins, a defensive lineman. “It made so much sense. Coach ingrained it in our minds. He kept saying it over and over. It’s all we know. It’s all we do. Chopping is a way of life.”

After Rutgers came back from an 18-point deficit to beat No. 3 Louisville on Thursday night, probably the biggest victory in the program’s history, defensive tackle Eric Foster offered this summation of his performance: “I got back on my chop.”

Since the Scarlet Knights have just won the biggest game in the entire history of the Rutgers football program, the biggest thing to happen in New Jersey since the invention of the mosquito, the Times writer no doubt thought it would be churlish to point out that the term “chopping,” while a great motivational tool, also refers to what the university is doing to other sports and educational programs in order to keep feeding this steroid-swollen baby it has adopted.

It’s nice that after 30 years of futile thrashing the Scarlet Knights are having their dream season. But let us remember that a lot of other dreams got chopped to free up cash for this program. And while we’re at it, let’s marvel at the fact that of all the stellar things happening at the university — the scientific research, the training that will pave the way for the technological innovations of tomorrow, the fact that thousands of undergrads manage to get themselves a top-quality education despite the McDonaldization of higher education — the one that gets the most money and attention is the spectacle of a funny-looking ball getting kicked back and forth on a field.

So to all the students who won’t be able to attend Rutgers because of tuition hikes, and the superb athletes who have the misfortune to be in fencing and crew and other sports that don’t get big TV contracts, and all the other dreamers who will have to go realize their dreams somewhere else because Rutgers needs the dough to build Coach Schiano a mansion in the ecological preserve, all I can say is: Keep chopping. Because an awful lot is going to get chopped to keep this team going, and sooner or later that ax is going to find you.


One Response to “Keep chopping”

  1. […] The impact of rankings this week were chaotic. Saturday’s games produced the most upsets and shake-ups in a long time. The Rutgers are definently one of the shakers baking Louisville’s chances of a National Title. Louisville wasnt the only team that got its hope baked; Texas was robbed of all its cattle when Kansas State came in. Not only did they lose hope for the title they lost their rising, talented quartback, Colt McCoy. Who would have thought the last play of the game would have been a kneel-down by Kansas quarterback Josh Freeman? Is Ohio State and Michigan safe or will their hopes be baked like a Thanksgiving Turkey? By the way, watch Notre Dame climb the polls. […]

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