Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

An Ode to the Garden State

With apologies to any New Jerseyites who may read this, your home doesn’t exactly make Jeff Green feel warm and fuzzy. “It’s cold,” Georgetown’s star swingman said when asked what he thinks about the nation’s third state. “That’s about all I can say. It’s just really, really cold.”

Until recently, I too had a chilly outlook on the Garden State. As a Texan, my perception of New Jersey was based solely on Ramapo native Chris Simms, who headed south to quarterback my beloved Longhorns, only to see his golden reputation tarnish to the color of a Linden oil refinery exterior.

But after my first trip up the Turnpike recently, I realized that sports fans take the state of “Liberty and Prosperity” for granted. Since the Hoyas are in the middle of a two-game, Jersey-style scheduling sandwich, and an overwhelming number of current Hilltoppers call Jersey home, I would like to spell out how this great state has contributed to the wide world of sport.

N is for Nicholson, as in Neptune, N.J., native Jack Nicholson, who before winning six Academy Awards was voted class clown of the anasquan High Class of 1954. The shade-wearing, shark-grinning Nicholson never misses a game of his beloved Los Angeles Lakers and insists that Hollywood producers schedule their shoots to accommodate Lakers home games.

Nicholson has used his courtside seat to cheer Newark’s favorite son and former Laker Shaquille O’Neal and jeer Mike Bibby, who plays for the rival Sacramento Kings and hails from Cherry Hill, N.J. Nicholson is an avid golfer and fan of professional wrestling, and in 1994 he combined the two hobbies when he smashed the windshield of a Mercedes Benz with a golf club after a traffic dispute.

E stands for the Elysian Fields, in Hoboken, where the first officially recorded baseball game was played between the New York Knickerbockers and the New York Base Ball Club. Much has changed since that day in 1846, and although the land is currently barren of pro baseball, New York teams in several sports still play games on Jersey’s turf.

E is also for eighteen-sixty-nine, the year in which the first collegiate football game was played in New Brunswick, when Rutgers defeated Princeton 6-4. It was one of only a few shining moments in pigskin history for the Scarlet Knights, who – until this year – had been mired in the muck of football mediocrity. Head Coach Greg Schiano led the Scarlet Knights to an 11-2 record in 2006 and turned down an offer at season’s end to become coach at Miami, snubbing South Beach in favor of the Jersey shore.

Schiano has achieved success by keeping the state’s football talent at home, something which previous Rutgers coaches failed to do when Hall-of-Famers Franco Harris and Joe Theismann abandoned their home state to play college ball at Penn State and Notre Dame, respectively. The state that produced James Gandolfini has always had a thing for payback, and Theismann got his when Lawrence Taylor ended the quarterback’s career with a gruesome hit on a Monday night in the Meadowlands.

W stands for Woodrow Wilson, who was an assistant manager for the Princeton baseball team during his college days. Wilson had been a centerfielder at Davidson College, but he didn’t make the cut for the Tigers when he transferred after his second year. Wilson later came off the bench to lead the Tigers as university president before his days in the White House, where he often practiced his tee shot on the front lawn.

He may have been the nation’s 28th chief executive, but he was the first president to attend a World Series game, watching the Washington Senators drub the New York Yankees 12-4 on April 20, 1916. He was also the first commander-in-chief to throw the first pitch of a game, ensuring that Jersey has a hand in each season’s opening pitch and every Fall Classic’s final out.

J stands for Johnson, as in Georgetown assistant basketball coach Sydney Johnson, who ran the Princeton offense to perfection while playing point guard for the Tigers. “[Johnson] embodied the Princeton offense, dominating games without scoring a ton of points,” says Jon Solomon, editor of https://princetonbasketball.com and lifelong New Jersey hoops aficionado.

Doing more with less has always been the modus operandi for the offense developed by longtime Princeton headman Pete Carril and now practiced by countless teams from the AAU to the NBA. Carril’s 1996 Tiger team used Johnson’s wizardry to take down defending champ UCLA in the NCAA tournament – an upset bested only by Hillside, N.J., native Rollie Massimino, whose Villanova Wildcats felled Georgetown in a David-versus-Goliath match-up 10 years earlier. The game was widely considered to be the greatest shocker in the history of college basketball.

E is also for Englewood, the childhood home of Georgetown forward Patrick Ewing Jr., who, unlike Green, seems to be enjoying his four-day stay in the Garden State. “It’s fun to come back,” Ewing says. “I get to see all my friends and my family gets to come to the games.” Despite his residence west of New York Harbor, Ewing Jr. swears allegiance to his father’s Knicks, proving that blood runs thicker than water – even Jersey tap water.

R stands for RAC, an acronym for the Rutgers Athletic Center, now known as the Louis Brown Athletic Center, the proud home of Scarlet Knights basketball. The 8,000-seat arena makes the list for its high school gym feel and startlingly steep stands. “The RAC is the only college basketball venue named after a part of the female anatomy,” says Rutgers sophomore Chris Trevell with East Jersey eloquence.

“I’ve been in here many a nights as a player and a coach when you can’t hear the person sitting next to you,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III says of the State School of New Jersey’s less-than-state-of-the-art-facility. Thompson was relieved that the RAC was flat Wednesday night when his Hoyas took down Rutgers 68-54.

The facility opened its doors in 1977, a year after Eddie Jordan led the Knights to their only Final Four appearance. Jordan now coaches the Washington Wizards, a member of the National Basketball Association, which is led by Commissioner David Stern. Stern is a Teaneck native who teamed up with Jersey City’s Paul Tagliabue (CAS ’62), the former head of the NFL, to form Jersey’s dynamic duo of professional sports execs.

S, as in St. Anthony’s, the tiny Jersey City Catholic school that has won 22 state basketball crowns under legendary Head Coach Bob Hurley and was the topic of a recent book, “The iracle of St. Anthony.” Hurley’s son Bobby led Duke to back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992 as an all-American point guard and has now returned to Jersey as a thoroughbred racehorse breeder. Hurley hopes to enter one of his charges in the 2007 Breeder’s Cup, which will be held at Oceanport’s onmouth Park Racetrack, one of three well-known tracks in the state.

E is for East Rutherford, home of the Meadowlands Sports Complex, the Mecca of professional sports. East Rutherford residents can watch the New Jersey’s Nets on the hardwood, their Devils on the ice or New York’s Giants and Jets on the gridiron. Major League soccer’s Red Bull of New York recently joined the ranks, making this Bergen County borough the only city in America to have less than 10,000 people and five professional sports teams.

Y is for Yinka Dare, the Nets’ first-round pick in the 1994 draft, who will forever be known as one of the league’s biggest busts. After signing a $9 million deal, Dare proceeded to tally only four assists over four years, earning an astronomical $2.25 million per handout. The seven-footer from Nigeria died in Englewood two years ago at the age of 32 after suffering a heart attack. The Nets’ dubious decision joins The Amityville Horror and Jimmy Hoffa as one of New Jersey’s greatest unsolved mysteries.

Bruce Springsteen hailed from Long Branch but crooned about the “Streets of Philadelphia.” Jon Bon Jovi spent his childhood in Sayreville, but preferred “Midnight in Chelsea.” So here you go, Jersey. Someone is finally singing your praises.

Harlan Goode is a junior in the college and the features editor of THE HOYA. He can be reached at goodethehoya.com.

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