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Best Of Jersey
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Best Of Jersey: Sports

Posted March 10, 2008

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Best Upset

To grasp the magnitude of what the Jersey Giants (yes, we claim them) pulled off in the most-watched Super Bowl of all time, think of Northrup vs. Grumman. That’s what NPR, CNET.com, and other media did (in reverse) in reporting that the Air Force had awarded a $40 billion contract to build aerial refueling tankers to deep underdog Northrup Grumman and its European partner, Airbus, shutting out Boeing, which has built all Air Force tankers for decades. As NPR defense correspondent Guy Raz said on March 1, it “is the equivalent of the Giants winning the Super Bowl over the undefeated Patriots. It’s that big.” Hats off to Big Blue (and we don’t mean IBM). Winning four straight road games to cap their most improbable season, they went from doormats to international business benchmarks.

Best Whammy: The grass the Giants played on to beat the Green Bay Packers

In the NFC Championship Game at frozen Lambeau Field on Jan. 20, the turf underfoot was grown by a Jersey company, Tuckahoe Turf Farms in Hammonton, which also grows the grass at Montclair High School. Okay, the Patriots, Steelers, Browns, Eagles, Ravens, Red Sox, Phillies, Monmouth Park, and a lot of other big-time operations have Tuckahoe bluegrass game or practice fields, but we still like the Jints’ turf grass karma.

And that brings us to another Garden State best: Ag Export. It’s not fruits and vegetables, but rather nursery, greenhouse, and sod products, totalling about $390 million in sales in 2006.

David & Goliath

After Montclair’s David Tyree used his helmet to make what is being called the greatest catch in Super Bowl history (left), setting up the Giants’ winning touchdown seconds later, one obvious Goliath toppled over. But Tyree, 28, wouldn’t even have been on the field had he not defeated a bigger Goliath, the one formerly inside his now famous helmet (which is on display at the Yogi Berra Museum at Montclair State University).

That was the Goliath of drug and alcohol abuse, which ruled Tyree even at Montclair High School, where he was a football superstar. Jailed for selling marijuana in 2004, he bottomed out. Then he began to rebuild his life with the support of his now-wife, Leilah, his coach, Tom Coughlin, and most of all his God, with whom he connected while sobbing in a back pew of a near-empty church in Bloomfield about a month after his pot bust. In retrospect, that was David Tyree’s greatest catch of all.

Mixed Martial Arts Fighter

Frank “The Answer” Edge, 26, of Toms River, still works for his father’s plumbing company, but he’s considered one of the top ten MMA pro lightweights, with an 8-0 record, and a favorite to earn a title shot this year.

Equestrian Twins

Hillary and Heather Dobbs are the 19-year-old fraternal-twin daughters of CNN anchor Lou. Hillary, a Harvard sophmore, won the U.S. Equestrian Team’s 2007 award for horsemanship and sportsmanship in a young rider, and with victories this year is a contender for an Olympic spot. Heather has won events on the pro circuit.

Smokin’ Strokers

Carnegie Lake Rowing Association of Princeton beat out more than 1,000 other clubs around the country to be named 2007 Club of the Year by U.S. Rowing. The club’s 200 members were honored for community outreach and safety as well as regatta prowess.

College Coach

C. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers women’s basketball. With more than 800 victories to her credit, and a new memoir, Standing Tall, she is a towering figure in women’s sports (Just ask Don Imus.) Her team is not just players, but disciples, many of them honor roll students, and more often than not Jersey-bred.

Sports Shrink

On the Rutgers campus, he is Dr. Charles A. Maher, professor of psychology. But in the clubhouses of the Cleveland Browns, Cavaliers, and Indians, he is Charlie, the affable shrink. Maher has been a leading sports psychologist for two decades, confidante of LeBron James, Manny Ramirez, and many others who have sought his advice.

Sports Anchor

Jim Nantz was raised in Colts Neck, co-captain of the basketball and golf teams at Marlboro High. Went to the University of Houston on a golf scholarship and played there with PGA Tour standout Fred Couples, but also learned sports-guy chatter. Now in his second decade of announcing the NCAA Final Four and the Masters.

Hockey Hope
Selected by the Philadelphia Flyers last year with the second overall pick in the draft, left wing James van Riemsdyk, of Middletown, had a strong freshman season at University of New Hampshire and is considered a complete package, with size (6’3”, 191 pounds), speed, and unquenchable competitive fire.

H.S. Winning Streaks Stopped
Eastern High School in Voorhees had a nine-year, 209-game unbeaten streak in field hockey against New Jersey teams—until it ran into Oak Knoll School, in Summit, in the state Tournament of Champions last November.

Paul VI High School in Haddon Township had won 244 consecutive cross-country meets in a span of 28 years. But Camden Catholic finally shut them down last October. Collingswood High School beat Paulsboro High in wrestling in January, breaking the latter’s 307-win, 37-year Colonial Conference victory streak.


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Getting in the Game: The Garden State Sports Scene
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