I admit it. I love New Jersey. In fact, I’m obsessed with our state—in a healthy way, of course. But I wasn’t always so positive. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate so many things about New Jersey, including our idiosyncrasies and foibles, whether it’s how we talk (or at least how others perceive the way we talk) or the over-the-top “reality” shows that we inspire.
I love our diners, our sports teams (okay, some are tied to the name New York), our musical icons, the Jersey Shore in the summer. But, above all, I love our people. There is something about us, don’t you think?
We have an edge. We have attitude. And I’m not talking as an offshoot of New York City. I am talking about a distinct Jersey attitude. Don’t believe it? I’ve got two words for you: Chris Christie. You think it’s an accident that the rest of the country is fascinated by our governor? Chris Christie is New Jersey through and through. The way he carries himself, the way he gets in your face, the way he negotiates, and the way he tells you exactly what he is thinking, whether it offends you or not. Consider a classic Christie moment, when Star-Ledger columnist Tom Moran asked the governor how his “confrontational tone” was working for him in Trenton. Christie’s reply: “If you think that’s a confrontational tone, then you should really see me when I’m pissed.”
But it isn’t just our toughness that makes us special. We’ve got heart. Did you see how New Jerseyans came together recently when Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand from Avenel was paralyzed making a tackle during a game against Army? New Jerseyans care deeply when one of our own is facing adversity—and we show it not just in our words, but in our actions.
Another thing: We don’t like people poking fun at us. Oh, we can make fun of ourselves, but I’ve lost my patience with Jersey jokes. When I got out of graduate school at Rutgers, I moved to Washington, D.C., to work on Capitol Hill. When I came back, I shared an apartment in Brooklyn Heights with a friend. It was during that brief period that I really began to get a sense of how some people looked down their noses at us.
When I would tell people I was from New Jersey, it would bring out the snide, hackneyed Jersey comments—like somehow we were lesser beings, not as smart as, or as cultured as, those in other states. At the time, when people would ask where I was from, I might reply, “I’m from the New York area,” leaving out the small detail that the area was a state of 8 million people that was not part of New York at all. Today, I know there’s no reason to apologize for being from New Jersey.
Ultimately, the vast majority of us choose to live here despite our ridiculously high property taxes, insufferable traffic, and all those awful jokes. That’s right, we choose to be here because every state has its problems, but at least in New Jersey we know who we are—and most of us try to make things better every day, not just for ourselves and our families, but for our neighbors and our community. Does it sound corny? Sure. But it’s true.
Sometimes even the unconvinced come around. For years, my in-laws vacationed on the Outer Banks in the Carolinas. (One year, my wife forced me to go there. I wasn’t impressed.) My in-laws believed that if you vacationed outside of New Jersey, it was somehow a better vacation. What a crock. Twelve or more hours of driving to get to a beach area that had nothing on our beaches? (Plus, I was looking for some Outer Banks attitude but couldn’t find it anywhere.) Guess what? They are looking to rent this summer at the JRZ Shore and have said goodbye to the OBX.
In the end, our love affair with our state is summed up best by Jon Bon Jovi, who isn’t Springsteen but is still pretty great. Listen to the words, “Who says you can’t go home?” You can go home, and for some of us who have been other places, when you finally get back to New Jersey you appreciate it more than ever—in spite of our quirks and kookiness and all of the critics.
Like I said, I love New Jersey, and I make no apologies about it.
Steve Adubato, PhD., is an Emmy Award-winning anchor for Thirteen/WNET and a media analyst and columnist for MSNBC.com, who also appears regularly on CBS 2. He is the author of the book Make the Connection, as well as his newest book What Were They Thinking?, which examines highly publicized and often controversial public relations and media mishaps. For more information, log on to stand-deliver.com.