April 18, 2007
I have a soft spot in my heart for Rutgers. It's where my late husband matriculated, and although he was unsentimental about it, I know what it meant to him as a poor kid from Egg Harbor, New Jersey, to get to go to college, and that it was a fine school even then, back in the dark ages of World War II.
Jim would have been in the class of 1944, in fact, he was in the class of 1944, with the school awarding diplomas early to the boys of that class if they enlisted in the army. He originally had a 4-F qualification because of poor eyesight, but by 1944 the army accepted him. The class of '44 had a big reunion in '94 but Jim was too ill to attend. I would have loved to have met those guys, and when Jim died I made a donation to Rutgers in his name and my comment was run in the school newsletter: "Rutgers gave my husband the world." I got a lovely letter from one of his classmates, now a fund-raiser for the school, saying he was also in the class of '44 and that he remembered Jim -- and that he loved that line.
I think Rutgers, while being a first-rate university, suffers from a reputation as something of a blue-collar school, which, judging from its literature, it certainly is not. I think the women's basketball team, recently unfairly maligned, has proved that in its every appearance, beginning with their news conference on 4/10. Their coach, understandably protective of her little chickens, used the moment to inform us all with great patience and dignity that the young women on her team did not deserve the slam they had recently received.
Those of us who saw any of the press conference could not help but be impressed by the intelligence and class of the team. They were the opposite of what Don Imus had said they were, as he was to find out when he got to meet with them. "Unless," said team member Kia Vaughn, "They have given 'ho' a whole new definition, then that's not what I am."
The poise and wisdom of those young women and their coach must have been daunting to the usually bulletproof radio talk show host. He had already been fired, so he said to them, "I'm not here to save my job. I've lost both my jobs. I'm here to save my life." In the ensuing discussion, apparently they asked him just what his job was, since most had never heard him at work, and some had never even heard of him. He said that he made fun of people -- fat people, black people, white people, everybody. The girls must have been shocked. One of them said something like, "You make fun of people? How can that be a job?" I can picture that scene, with a sincere youngster asking that of the wounded old dragon, looking him in the eye and thinking, "Dear God, whatever happens, I don't want to grow up like that," and I'd like to know how Don Imus felt at that moment.
If he didn't get it before, I'm sure he gets it now.