I feel like a lot of people don’t fully understand the amount of vitriol, hatred, and flat-out bad feeling there is between fan-bases in the NY/NJ area. I think the reason that people don’t understand is because it is a difficult thing to understand. There are few cities in the country that have more than one professional sports team in the same sport. There are the White Sox and Cubs, the Lakers and Clippers, and… and… well there are probably more. The Giants and Jets situation is uniquely different, not only do they play in the same state (NJ), and the same City (NYC). They are also fighting for the exact same fan base, and the only team that shares a stadium. In other sports when two teams share a city and a residence, they support each others success, New Jersey Devils and New Jersey Nets for instance.
The closest two NFL teams play to each other is I believe, the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins who are about an hour away from each other. It takes longer to get from East Rutherford to Philadelphia. No other team in the country merely has to walk to the next locker room over to see another franchise. That generates a lot of hate right there.
There is a sort of Palestine-Israel type war of one team trying to injure the other teams players in this series, and the casualty list is full of notable players. In 1998, Jason Sehorn effectively had his career ended by the Jets when he tore pretty much every ligament in his knee returning a kickoff in the Giants pre-season war that year. In 2003, Chad Pennington suffered a wrist injury that sidelined him for a large chunk of the season, and forced people to question his arm strength and durability for the rest of his career. Then of course on 2008 Osi Umenyiora suffered a season ending knee injury against the Jets. People say that it is stupid to play so fiercely in a pre-season game, but as you can see there’s a reason. Every year there is a new perceived slight to be avenged, and the war continues. You can bet that the next time that they play the Giants will be seeking revenge for that murderous (and late) hit on Eli Manning in the game yesterday. Every time they play, it’s an on-field MMA fight, and people will be hurt.
People in the NYC/NJ area read and know about the players on their team intimately, as most fan bases do. Outside of this area, people obviously don’t know the personalities of the players. I don’t know a lot about the personality traits of Marshawn Lynch, for example.
Watching Skip Bayless and Bomani Jones talk about the Jets and Giants today, I was struck by how little they know about the team. They spoke about the seeming insensitivity of the Giants’ players comments about Eli. Around here, those comments where chuckled at, because Giants fans know that the team is full of guys who like to make jokes, and Shaun O’Hara is definitely one of those guys. His comments about Eli were clearly tongue-in-cheek, but are being taken seriously by people outside of the area. This makes me wonder how many other stories are misrepresented in the media concerning athletes and their predilections. Eli and his teammates are very close, and I think they have adopted his “Meh” attitude towards most things, hence the remarks.
We, the People
As previously stated, the Jets and Giants share a fan base. You could probably divide up the NYC/NJ area by Jets territory and Giants territory. I believe that more native New Yorkers and people from North Jersey are Giants Fans, and people from Long Island and Central Jersey are Jets fans. These ties run back generations, and are deeply ingrained. That’s where the animosity begins. Geographical differences are what really make the rivalry. It’s New York vs New Jersey (Giants fans generally consider the Jets to be the NJ team, possibly because all of Woody Johnson’s business headquarters are in NJ). It’s upper class vs working class (Jets fans are generally more blue collar than Giants fans, but that is by no means a blanket categorization). There isn’t too much of a racial component, it seems like Black people are just as likely to be Jets or Giants fans. The one strange correlation is that Yankees fans are usually Giants fans, and Mets fans are usually Jets fans. Probably some sort of weird projected youngest-child syndrome.
Rivalries interest me, so if you have some insight on the rivalries in your area, I would love to talk about.
John Minus is a noted Bon-Vivant and raconteur. He has a podcast called the Alter Negro Sho and can be contacted on twitter: www.twitter.com/DonCoyote