Monday, April 18, 2016

Where is the New York/New Jersey-Philadelphia Sports Border?

Tonight, the Mets and Phillies begin a series in Philadelphia.

Where is the line in New Jersey that separates the 2 fan bases: Yankees/Mets, Giants/Jets, Knicks/Nets, Devils/Rangers on one side; Phillies, Eagles, 76ers and Flyers on the other?

It isn't just a question of distance, although that's one way to judge. The following locations, running from north to south, show these locations' mileages from Times Square in Midtown Manhattan and from City Hall in Center City Philadelphia. If it's closer to New York, I've listed it in Yankee blue; if Philadelphia, in Phillie red:

Delaware Water Gap, Warren County: 84 to 113
Warren County Courthouse, Belvidere: 72-74
Phillipsburg-Easton Bridge, Warren County: 73-78
Somerset County Courthouse, Somerville: 47-60
Hunterdon County Courthouse, Flemington: 51-60
Old Queens, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, Middlesex County: 38-68
My current residence, East Brunswick, Middlesex County: 35-60
House where I grew up, also in East Brunswick: 39-61
PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, Monmouth County: 42-74
Cranbury, Middlesex County (despite being 609): 48-51
Nassau Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, Mercer County: 45-54
Englishtown Auction Sales, Manalapan, Monmouth County: 46-59
Quaker Bridge Mall, Lawrence, Mercer County: 42-55
Convention Hall, Asbury Park, Monmouth County: 60-78
College of New Jersey, Ewing, Mercer County: 38-62
Monmouth County Courthouse, Freehold, Monmouth County: 49-62
State House, Trenton, Mercer County: 32-62
Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, Ocean County (despite being 732): 53-70
Boardwalk police station, Point Pleasant Beach, Ocean County: 65-77
My Grandparents' retirement house, Brick, Ocean County: 65-78

FirstEnergy Park, Lakewood, Ocean County (despite being a Phillies farm team): 62-69
Fort Dix, Wrightsville, Burlington County: 38-74
Ocean County Courthouse, Toms River (despite being 732): 57-77
Midway on Boardwalk, Seaside Heights, Ocean County (despite being 732): 65-83
Surf City, Long Beach Island (LBI), Ocean County: 62-102
Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, Atlantic County: 61-128
Music Pier on Boardwalk, Ocean City, Cape May County: 65-132
Convention Center, Wildwood, Cape May County: 91-158
Washington Street Mall, Cape May, Cape May County: 93-160 

As you can see, there are some places that are New York-oriented that are nevertheless closer to Philly, and some places that are all Philadelphia are further from Center City than some places that are all New York are from Midtown.

For the record, Seaside Heights is as far south as Philadelphia the famous Mason-Dixon Line that divided Pennsylvania and Maryland would (if extended) cut across LBI; Atlantic City is as far south as the northern edge of Baltimore City; and Cape May is as far south as the northern corner of the District of Columbia. Indeed, some parts of South Jersey, such as Salem County and Cumberland County, often seem more Old South than the New South.

If you draw a straight line between Philly's City Hall and New York's Times Square, the exact midpoint will be in Plainsboro, Middlesex County; between Citizens Bank Park and Yankee Stadium, in South Brunswick, Middlesex County; between Citizens Bank Park and Citi Field, in Monroe, Middlesex County; between Lincoln Financial Field and MetLife Stadium, in Franklin, Somerset County; and between the Wells Fargo Center and the Prudential Center, in Princeton, Mercer County.

Road-wise, the midpoint of the 99-mile trip between the centers of the 2 cities would be on the New Jersey Turnpike, in East Windsor, Mercer County, between Exit 8 and Exit 7A.

In addition, while Princeton is closer to Philadelphia than to New York, its bus and train service is direct to New York, but not to Philadelphia. To get from Princeton to Philadelphia without a car, you'll have to change in Trenton.

And while Trenton is 30 miles closer to Center City than to Midtown, it offers direct rail service to both cities. That should not be the case: There is no place in Illinois and Wisconsin that offers direct service to both Chicago and Milwaukee; or in California to both Los Angeles and San Diego; or even in Connecticut to both New York and Boston. (MARC, MAryland Commuter Rail, offers service to both Baltimore and Washington, but the distance between those cities is about half that of New York to Philly.)

New Jersey Transit offers bus service to both New York and Philly from Point Pleasant Beach, Atlantic City and Wildwood; but direct rail service from Point Pleasant only to New York, and from A.C. only to Philly (and to neither from Wildwood: You'd have to change in A.C.).


In 1686, what were then the provinces of East Jersey and West Jersey were divided by the Keith Line, which can still be seen in places today: The border between Burlington County on one side, and Ocean County and Monmouth County on the other; and on Province Line Road in Mercer County.
The 2 provinces were united in a single colony in 1702. But the Keith Line still essentially divides the State today, over 300 years later.

The classic definition is as follows:

North Jersey, New York-oriented: Sussex, Passaic, Bergen, Warren, Morris, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex, Monmouth and Union Counties.

South Jersey, Philadelphia-oriented: Mercer, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, Atlantic and Cape May Counties.

Thinking of a separate "Central Jersey" doesn't help, because Mercer County, home to State capital Trenton and Princeton University, throws it off. In a way, so does Ocean County.

A similar divider was the old Area Codes. Initially, the entire State was in 201. But in 1958, it was divided into 201 (New York-oriented) and 609 (Philly-oriented).
As those Area Codes got split up in 1991, and again in 1999, the old loyalties remained: Nearly all of the old 201 (new 201, 551, 732, 848, 862, 908 and 973) remained Yanks/Mets, Giants/Jets, Knicks/Nets, Devils/Rangers -- there haven't been many Islanders fans in New Jersey since the Isles' Cup dynasty ended and the Devils got good in the late 1980s -- and nearly all of the old 609 (with 856 split off) remained Phils, Eagles, 76ers, Flyers. Most of the overlap is on the northern edge of 609, along with 908 and 732/848.
But this is hardly a guarantor. As you can see, the Area Code boundaries do not follow the County Lines: Southernmost Middlesex County is in 609, and there's a lot of Phillies/Eagles/Flyers fans there.

The NBA seems to have dropped off the map, or so to speak. New Jerseyans seem to prefer their local high school basketball teams to Rutgers, Princeton, Seton Hall, the Knicks, the Nets, the 76ers, and Philly's "Big 5": Penn, Temple, LaSalle, St. Joseph's and Villanova.

Even before the Nets moved to Brooklyn, they didn't draw well in their 2 years at Newark's Prudential Center, as I thought they would, possibly making the new owner decide this was good and not move them to Brooklyn. They certainly didn't draw well at the Meadowlands, not even in the Jason Kidd years, let alone in the Buck Williams and Mike Gminski years. And as for the 76ers, well, they haven't really been relevant since Allen Iverson was considered a man with a future.

Also, a large number of retirees from New York and North Jersey, having moved to Monmouth and Ocean Counties, tend to keep their Yanks/Mets/Giants/Jets/Rangers fandom. (The Devils have only been around since 1982, so there aren't too many retirees who supported them as kids and still support them now, or who have switched their support as they've left the Rangers' main territory.)

Met and Jet fans may want to scroll down, as these next 2 maps not only don't make them look good, but don't even acknowledge their teams' existences.

Here's a map that shows the Yankees/Phillies divide.
You don't see this as much in Princeton and Trenton as you do on the Shore. In Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights and Long Beach Island, all in Ocean County, it's Yankees 1st, Mets 2nd, Phillies 3rd, despite being closer to Center City than to Midtown.

But the island of Atlantic City, which (by population of the casino-hotels, if not by the strollers on the Boardwalk) is kind of a NY-Philly neutral zone, is mostly Phillies. It's even more pronounced on an Eagles Sunday in the fall, when New Yorkers and North Jerseyans won't be going to A.C. for the beach, only for the gambling.
As you can see, this map is almost identical: Places that are solid to the Yankees are solid to the Giants; leaning Yankees, leaning Giants; leaning Phillies, leaning Eagles; and solid Phillies, solid Eagles.

Perhaps the Flyers' success in the 1970s, the golden age of TV sports, gave them more of an advantage in Central Jersey than the Phillies, the Eagles or the 76ers. Take a look at this map, with New Jersey Turnpike exits as the guide.
Exit 8 is about where it changes. Get off the Turnpike there, and you get a lot more Phillies & Eagles fans, too. (76ers, not so much.)

Ocean County is still Yanks/Giants/Devils territory, but Atlantic City, in Atlantic County, is nearly all Philly. Ocean City, Wildwood and Cape May, in Cape May County, are definitely Philly-centric. I see a few Yankee caps there, but rarely a Met cap, lots of Phils; and hardly any Giants, Jets, Devils or Ranger Scum stuff, all Eagles & Flyers.

Occasionally, in Ocean City, I'll see houses with flags of Penn State and the "Big Five" Philly basketball schools (mainly Temple, St. Joe's and 'Nova, much more than La Salle and Ivy Leaguers Penn); and, due to the Catholic influence, Notre Dame, even though South Bend, Indiana is 667 miles from Philly's City Hall. (Penn State's Beaver Stadium is 193 miles away.)

But while in Ocean City, I don't see much in the way of advertising Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (you know, the State that Ocean City is actually in), except maybe T-shirts on the boardwalk. For comparison's sake: Ocean City is 733 miles from South Bend, 259 from State College, 88 from Villanova, 71 from St. Joe's, 66 from Temple, and 117 miles from Rutgers Stadium.

The newspapers tell a contradictory tale: The Trenton papers, The Times and The Trentonian, favor the Yankees more than the Phillies, but they also discuss the Eagles more than the Giants. The Asbury Park Press, the historic media voice of Monmouth and Ocean Counties (and, despite the name, currently headquartered in Freehold), is all New York-oriented, paying lip service to the Philly teams due to the distances, but covering the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Devils and Rangers much more than the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers and Flyers. But The Press of Atlantic City? All Philly, with the Devils and the New York City teams barely mentioned.


There are non-sports cultural differences, too. New York City and Rutgers University were both founded by the Dutch Reformed Church. Newark was founded by English Calvinists who left Connecticut because they considered the Puritans to be insufficiently, well, pure.

This led to New York's rigid capitalism, where money meant everything, and hard work was the way to get money; but also to the rebellion against this, once the Catholics and Jews who got out of Europe to escape religious persecution came in during the 19th and early 20th Centuries, turning the ethic on its head: They wanted to make money not for its own sake, or so they could elevate themselves and show off to each other, but so they could party hardy, and laugh in the faces of the uptight Protestants.

In contrast, Philadelphia was founded by William Penn and his friends, members of the Society of Friends, a.k.a. the Quakers. True to the name of the city, meaning "Brotherly Love," theirs is a more relaxed religion: Considerably more tolerant and welcoming of outsiders, and pacifist. (Richard Nixon was a notable exception: He certainly didn't govern like a Quaker.) Indeed, the athletic teams at the University of Pennsylvania are called the Quakers -- sometimes, incongruously, the Fighting Quakers. And the first European settlers of South Jersey where Swedish.

The Swedes of South Jersey and the Quakers of Philadelphia got along just fine, and intermarried without much trouble. True, the wealthy Protestants eventually took control, and resisted the Catholic influx (for whatever reason, there aren't nearly as many Jews per capita in Philly as in New York, but perhaps more Catholics per capita), but there wasn't nearly as much Protestant-Catholic violence in 19th Century Philly as there was in 19th Century Manhattan. 

Proximity to a Wawa store is no longer necessarily equivalent to proximity to Philadelphia, as they now have stores not just in their native Pennsylvania and in South Jersey, but also in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and even Florida. As this map shows, they have even begun their encroachment into North Jersey:

And that map is now out of date. Whereas the Wawa in South River, Middlesex County, the one closest to my residence, was once the one closest to Midtown Manhattan, they have now expanded into Kearny, Hudson County; and in Hackensack, Lodi and Garfield in Bergen County. They're not yet in The City, but the one in Hackensack is just 7 miles from the George Washington Bridge, and the one in Kearny is just 10 miles from the Lincoln Tunnel. They'll cross the Hudson River soon, because Jersey commuters will demand it.

S.P. Sullivan of, the website for The Star-Ledger, came up with a North-South divider based on pop culture: Do you call the classic Jersey breakfast meat "pork roll" or "Taylor ham"?

A Trenton native named John Taylor is credited with the recipe for the first batch to be marketed, in 1856. It's called "Taylor ham" in his memory, and Taylor Provisions, still based in Trenton, is still the leading company producing it. But after the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, their product no longer met the legal definition of "ham," so the Taylor company itself began to market it as "Taylor Pork Roll." That should seem to settle it, especially since most people in and around Trenton call it "pork roll."

Generally, it's "Taylor ham" the closer you get to New York, and "pork roll" the closer you get to Philadelphia. But, in preparing his article for, Sullivan found that this is not necessarily the case: In the Shore Counties of Monmouth (nearly all of it closer to New York) and Ocean (some of it closer to New York), "Taylor ham" tends to be the preferred name. And I've lived in Middlesex County for as long as I can remember, and I've only seen it called "pork roll." Never "Taylor ham" here.

The differences in what we call other foods are noticeable, too. The New York side of Jersey calls the long tubelike sandwiches "submarines" or "subs" (even though New Yorkers tend to call them "hero sandwiches"). This is what most of the country calls them, hence the restaurant chain named "Subway." But the chain founded in Hoboken, Hudson County, calls them "Blimpies," because they're shaped like airships, such as the Hindenburg, which burned at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Manchester, Ocean, County. (That's closer to Philly, 54 miles to 70.)

Philadelphians call these sandwiches "hoagies." A hoagie to a Philadelphian is like coffee to a Marine: Never mess with it. And no matter how far north and east they may encroach, Wawa calls the sandwiches "hoagies." Not "subs," not "heroes," not "grinders," not "po'boys," but "hoagies."

I always called that shaved-ice snack you bought on the truck going through the neighborhood an "Italian ice." But Philadelphia, which, thanks to the Rocky movies, has as much of a reputation for Italianness as New York does, tends to call it a "water ice."

You go to the Boardwalk in Monmouth County or Ocean County, and the signs on the stores call them "Italian ice." But at Boardwalk stores in Atlantic County or Cape May County, there'll be signs calling them "water ice" -- sometimes, "Polish water ice." (I'm of Polish descent, but I have no idea what about it makes it Polish -- or Italian, for that matter.)

There is, of course, some crossover, as this map explains:
"Met fans who eat hoagies." Well, as far as I'm concerned, no matter where they live, Met fans can eat it.

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