I somewhat understand why Jersey gets the rap it does.
Most people fly into Newark Airport, take a taxi to New York City, only see the highway, get that questionable whiff in the Meadowlands, ask the taxi driver how far the Sopranos house is from the airport (20 minutes), and then end up in beautiful New York City.
So yeah, I somewhat understand why Jersey gets the rap it does – but I will never agree with it or accept it.
Jersey is much more than what you see on Jersey Shore or what you notice on that short ride up I-95; Jersey is one big, loving, tell you how it is, loud mouth, family. You know how people in some small towns say everyone knows everyone? Well, sometimes it feels like that’s how Jersey is, on a much larger scale.
Three things most New Jerseyans have in common:
1. A strong opinion
2. A sense of pride
3. A love for The Boss
Growing up in Northern New Jersey was such an unbelievable experience for my family and me. I lived in the same town my whole childhood, and to this day I have the same friends I had back then, since I was five years old. I firmly believe that the state of New Jersey played a big part in that.
Just like the residents of any county or state, we like to do things our own way. The Jersey mentality has instilled in me some ideas and values that made me who I am today. Here are a few:
Work your ass off. That “blue collar” attitude is a concept that has been thrown around for a while. The notion is that regardless of the job you have, if you work hard, good things tend to happen. Growing up, I personally saw this with my parents and uncles, they’d truly bust their ass and lead by example. Then when I was at my high school (St.Joes) in Northern New Jersey, I began to notice it again. The more effort and time put into something usually led to greater success. And a good number of kids at my high school did put in that extra mile; they did something until they got it right, not just until when the bell rang. There is a reason why New Jersey high schools tend to be up there with the bigger states in most major sports… and I think it’s largely due to the work ethic bred in the tight knit communities and also the people who come back to teach and coach, closing the circle.
I also have to thank Bergen County for its diversity. I grew up with kids from all different backgrounds. Nobody really cared what religion or race or gender you were or how rich or poor you were. Honestly, nobody gives a shit. The only real “judgement” that was passed was entirely based off a person’s character and how he or she treated others. You pass that test and all else becomes irrelevant.
Being in pro baseball, I meet kids from all over the world. Honestly, I’d bet that for some of the kids I have met, I am the first Jewish kid and/or first New Jerseyan they’ve ever met. New Jersey taught me to be accepting of all, and for that I am grateful. The melting pot of New Jersey has helped prepare me for my career and my life.
I want to end on one particular lesson Jersey taught me, and that is: without being arrogant, be damn proud. Most people within minutes of meeting me know that I’m from New Jersey. How? Maybe it’s my accent (though I don’t hear it); maybe it’s the gold chain I wear around my neck (though, believe it or not, not everyone wears one); maybe it’s the chip on my shoulder, (which I’ve been accused of having); or maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Jersey attitude and demeanor have been drilled into my bones, and I could not be more proud of where I came from and who it made me. We Jerseyans carry New Jersey with us wherever we go, and we try to represent it at all times. It is something that is in us.
Regardless of what other people might think, every single time I am asked where I’m from, I am proud to say..
Beautiful, New Jersey.