Disclaimer: You may fall asleep half way through this.
Benjamin Franklin referred to New Jersey as a barrel tapped at both ends.
Sandwiched between the South River and the North River—today’s Delaware and Hudson—New Jersey’s colonial identity was synonymous with that of its closest city, either New York or Philadelphia. This split identity resulted in a political divide during the colonial era, creating Berkley’s West New Jersey and Carteret’s East New Jersey. Even though official unification came in 1702, we still live in a divided state that exists to satisfy the big cities across the rivers.
Fast forward a few centuries. The early 1980s saw the arrival of two things New Jerseyans could finally call their own: the Nets and the Devils. Both teams made the Swamp their home and out-of-towners delighted in us having our hometown sports team based in such a dismal location. The two team’s position in the north further alienated south Jersey, deepening that supposedly-abolished division created during the colonial era.
When New Jersey attempted to establish itself by stepping out of the shadows of its neighbors, those same neighbors found a way to discredit what is ours. Need proof? The playoff re-runs from 18 years ago have already received more play time on TV than 1995, 2000 and 2003 combined.
New Jerseyans have even been denied Liberty. Lady Liberty, that is. In 1668, Captain Christopher Billopp was given 24 hours to sail around—and claim for the New York colony—as many islands in the New York Harbor as possible. Upheld by Congress in 1834, Liberty Island, Ellis Island and Staten Island were all supposedly circled during Billopp’s journey and have since been considered New York State, despite geographic proximity to New Jersey. No credit where credit is due.
But this year can be different.
In the South, or the hole at the bottom of Franklin’s barrel, a plug was formed and wedged into the opening. The Flyers were defeated in five games and—for the first time in the history of the world—the mouths in Philadelphia are speechless.
In the North, the hole at the top of the barrel has yet to be decided. It can continue to widen. It can continue with the trend set in motion during those extra innings in 1994 or during the Congressional ruling in 1834. Or even that ridiculous sailing excursion in 1668.
Or … the tap can be removed and the hole can be plugged. For the first time in New Jersey history, the State may finally stand on its own as a unified and independent entity instead of a spit of land devoted to serve outsiders. Unification and independence will only be accepted if it includes the defeat of both cities that have controlled New Jersey for centuries.
Two dozen guys with sticks and skates can do what 400 years of history has failed to do. Plugging both ends of the barrel and creating a self-sustaining state—even if it’s only in the sports world—is a step in the right direction for New Jersey. If it happens, it will be wonderful. If it happens, it will be long overdue.