I’ve been getting back into the NFL in a big way this year and as a result I learnt one interesting bit of information: there is only one NFL team that plays in New York State. And it’s not the Giants or the Jets. It’s the Buffalo Bills. The New York Giants and the New York Jets both play in the MetLife Stadium which is actually situated in New Jersey. Perhaps this is just semantics but I still found it interesting, and it made me do a bit of research on New Jersey.

New Jersey is a place that has always intrigued me. I still don’t know much about it, but I know it intrigues me. I’ve only been there to go to Newark Airport when flying out of my one visit to New York. It often sits in the shadow of New York, and, just like Canada, Scotland and Wales who all have big neighbours (America and England), it seems to give New Jersey a stronger personality in many ways. Proud, independent and fierce. 

I see the New Jersey name a lot and it’s obviously a badge worn with pride by people who hail from there. I often hear people correcting someone to say that they’re not from New York, they’re from New Jersey. I’m sure a lot of foreign people, and possibly many Americans too, kind of lump New Jersey and New York together, or think that New Jersey is a part of New York (I know Scottish people hate when someone thinks that Scotland is a part of England!). So it’s very understandable that New Jersey residents want to differentiate themselves from New York. I see the New Jersey name proudly added to many websites and business ranging from things like the New Jersey 101.5 radio station with its tagline ‘Proud to be New Jersey’ through to things like NJ online casinos. Speaking of casinos, New Jersey has a rich history of strong poker players being born in or having a strong connection with The Garden State including “The Phenom” Phil Ivey, Thomas Marchese and Tom Dwan.

My very basic knowledge about New Jersey has come through different forms of media over the years. Let’s take a look at some of the references that I’ve been aware of.

Bon Jovi – New Jersey
I loved Slippery When Wet when I was about 10 years old and became a big fan of Bon Jovi. When they released their fourth studio album in 1988 called ’New Jersey’ I was intrigued because I had definitely heard of New York but I had never heard of New Jersey. So Bon Jovi certainly did their part to put New Jersey on the map with that album title.

Famous people
Other famous people to have hailed from New Jersey include Bruce Springsteen, who often included New Jersey references in his songs, such as in The River and Atlantic City. Also Whitney Houston, Queen Latifah, The Fugees, Parliament-Funkadelic, Meryl Streep and John Travolta. Interestingly, Frank Sinatra is also from New Jersey. Obviously one of his most famous songs is New York, New York, so I wonder if he had any friction from his New Jersey friends and family when he sang that. Or perhaps he tried to change the lyrics to sing about NJ instead of NY!

Movies are often a great way to showcase an area or a city and there have been a few movies that feature New Jersey as one of the central characters. The Garden State is named after the state itself but Sly Stallone’s Cop Land and Mickey Rourke’s The Wrestler are also set in and around New Jersey in a big way. Another fun one is The Toxic Avenger, New Jersey’s own superhero, set in the fictional town of Tromaville. But perhaps the biggest movie homage to New Jersey is Kevin Smith’s movie universe, known as the View Askewniverse, comprising of movies like Clerks, Chasing Amy and Mallrats. Smith hails from New Jersey himself and obviously likes to give it a lot of screen time. Smith’s show, Comic Book Men, was also set in a comic store in Red Bank, New Jersey where Smith is from.

But possibly the two biggest recent New Jersey references are the following two…

Jersey Shore
I’ve never seen this MTV show but it was obviously massive for a few years. I’m not sure if people from New Jersey are proud of the show or whether they hate it, but I’m sure there’s no doubt it must have raised the awareness of New Jersey even more.

Jersey Boys stage show
I’ll hold my hand up and say that the first time I heard the name of the stage show ‘Jersey Boys’, I thought it was about the Channel Island, Jersey. Only upon further investigation did I realise it was about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and that it was because they were from Jersey. That’s pretty cool and possibly the best New Jersey reference of all.

Oh and bubble wrap was invented in New Jersey. That’s pretty awesome in itself.