By Kristian Dyer
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Sorry, New York City, but this Super Bowl is New Jersey’s and we are proud of it. Keep your high-profile events. We will stick with the game.
For weeks now and certainly the past five days, those in Jersey have had to suffer through the indignity of hearing about how this sliver of land to the east is hosting this Super Bowl. All the major events are being held in New York City, from the “State of the League” address by the commissioner to most of the press events. If you want to catch a press conference or media opportunity, let alone check out Super Bowl Boulevard, you have to take the Lincoln Tunnel and leave New Jersey to see the VIPs.
No matter that the game is being played in, you know, New Jersey. This is being billed as New York City’s Super Bowl even though most of the players on the Broncos and the Seahawks won’t step foot outside of New Jersey this week. That’s just semantics if you listen to those hyping “New York City’s Super Bowl.”
But this Super Bowl is Jersey’s and we are proud of it. There is a bad rap about this state from Snooki to the Sopranos and faster than you can say “T-shirt time” or “Bada Bing” an image comes to mind of industrial smoke stacks and hard-hit urban areas surrounding New York City in the north or Philadelphia to the south. Jersey is a laughingstock for a small yet visible segment of the population, a demographic that hails as much from Long Island and Staten Island as from the “Garden State.”
But Jersey is much more than the “Jersey Shore” and mob bosses, though the Super Bowl Committee won’t let you know that. In fact, they are ignoring highlighting the state at all.
Look no further than the game ticket itself. It features the New York City skyline dominating the scene and New Jersey is but a small portion. That both the teams are staying in New Jersey and practicing in the state is no matter to those who have put together the event. The “Big Apple” is dominating things for this game and it shouldn’t be that way.
Both of the metropolitan area’s NFL teams play and practice in New Jersey, not to mention Rutgers, the only prominent college program in the area and the birthplace of the sport. But just put a big old “New York” label over the state for the next couple days because that isn’t a part of the narrative. Jersey is nothing but a sixth borough this week, according to the NFL and the national media.
The story is steeped in the history of the sport, something those broadcasting from Broadway this week likely won’t tell you.
Vince Lombardi, for whom the championship trophy is named, got his coaching start in New Jersey. But that hasn’t been a talking point all week. And Bill Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the Giants, was born in New Jersey and still considers himself a “Jersey guy.” That fact was conveniently brushed under the rug this week by the national media. Don’t forget that Joe Flacco, who lifted Baltimore to last year’s Super Bowl title, hails from Audobon.
This past August, more than 100 players from New Jersey were in NFL training camps. For a state popularized for orange tans and mafia whacks, it is a hard-hitting number and there will be no shortage of future stars to emerge from New Jersey over the coming years.
The great scandal of the month isn’t “Bridgegate,” but rather the gridlock surrounding the national attention turned on Manhattan and not Jersey. There is a deep tradition of the NFL and the sport in general coming from this state, a tradition that deepens and grows with each passing year. The legacy for this sport is deeper in New Jersey than New York City, a baseball town that is only giving up its Quixotic passion for our national pastime for just a week in order to toboggan on plastic crates down Broadway. New York City isn’t a football town, even with the banners welcoming the Super Bowl to town.
But away from the lights and glamor of Manhattan, New Jersey lays quietly in the shadows. It isn’t a surprising state of mind for a state often overlooked by the hustle and bustle of the city. Instead of the media attention and the cameras focused on the gimmicks of Super Bowl week, New Jersey is instead focused on work.
Practices and game prep, not bright lights and VIPs. New Jersey’s Super Bowl experience, right or wrong, is focused on the game and the teams getting ready to play in it. Just the way it should be.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and contributes to Yahoo!Sports as well as WFAN. He can be followed on Twitter at @KristianRDyer. He’s also from Jersey.
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