September 16, 2019 | 63° F

New Jersey Civil War

If the New York Giants and Jets played in the Super Bowl — which seemed like a possibility before quarterback Mark Sanchez pulled a JaMarcus Russell for the Jets — people throughout North Jersey and New York would care, but hardly anyone would be thinking about that in the South. They would just be wondering how Donovan McNabb choked again. If the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers played, few would really even look at them. Basketball is just not big enough in this part of the country and it does not matter, since the chances of the Knicks going to the Finals any time soon are about as big as the University winning the national title in football this year. If the Flyers and Rangers met — oh, that's right, nobody cares about hockey. But the one matchup that would capture the imagination of all of the state and the University is on the verge of happening.

The New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies are perilously close to a World Series the likes of which our generation has never seen. Sure, there was the Subway Series in 2000, but that was a much smaller area with one team clearly superior to the other, as the Yankees were in the tail end of their dynasty years and the Mets proceeded to fall apart over the next couple of seasons. But this matchup would be of two seemingly even teams whose fans occupy two large geographical areas that push right against each other.

Most Mets fans reside in places like Queens and Long Island, while a lot of Yankee fans live in North Jersey — one reason Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner was threatening the Bronx by moving there if he didn't get his new stadium. And all of South Jersey is made up of Philadelphia sports fans. They are two much larger areas going at it that already have an ongoing rivalry.

People from South Jersey always proclaim that it is better down there — from the Wawas to more rural kind of environment. They've also got the shore, which you cannot take away from them. North Jerseyans see their southern counterparts as hicks who live on farms and can't pronounce the letter "O." It's seen as the Pine Barrens vs. the Concrete Jungle of Bergen County, or Philadelphia vs. New York — even if this is the most lopsided contest. Bragging rights for the next year will be on the line.

The Phillies traditionally have been rivals more with the Mets since they are usually in an annual battle for the National League East title. However, this year, the Mets put up one of the most laughably terrible seasons to date — from the injuries and the infighting, to Tony Bernazard taking off his shirt and threatening the Double A team. So they made the playoffs rather easily and blew through the Colorado Rockies in four games in the National League Division Series. They even destroyed the chance at the most romantic World Series by eliminating the Joe Torre- led Dodgers, preventing Torre from facing his former team.

Yankee fans usually concern themselves with the Boston Red Sox and laugh at the Mets but neither of those teams really entered the consciousness of the fans, as the Yankees ran away with the division and the Mets put up their aforementioned hilariously terrible season. They blew through the Minnesota Twins and are having their way with the Angels in spite of Joe Girardi's Bobby Valentine-esque over-managing.

In a season where both teams' chief rivals faded away and posed no threat, it almost seems right that these teams could form a new, nasty rivalry by meeting in the World Series. No fan base has anybody to worry about, at least since the Yankees started pounding the Red Sox into submission late in the season. Throughout the season, it just seemed like it would be another ho-hum playoff season as a Yankee-Red Sox series seemed unlikely with the rise of the Angels' and the Phillies' bullpen was in shambles all year. But everything broke right in the end, and now the two teams that play in some of the most home-run friendly stadiums in baseball will get the chance to play for the soul of New Jersey.

The tough-as-nails Phillies and the new fun-loving, pie-throwing Yankees seem almost too good to be true. If the Yankees win, it will show just how superior the American League was and has been for the past few years. But if the Phillies win, we have a potential dynasty on our hands.

For the foreseeable future, our home state could be divided into two warring factions: the ones that have always been there before and the one that has been there recently. Between all the trash-talk and jersey wearing, it may just be too much to take.

Matthew Torino is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. His column, "From the Sidelines," runs on alternate Thursdays.  

Matthew Torino

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