NEWARK, N.J. – Mike's Coffee Shop and Pizzeria on Broad Street here was just a Peyton Manning pass from Tuesday's Super Bowl media day, although you could hardly tell. A couple thousand NFL media members, NFL players and NFL personnel were just down the block, but inside the cocooned and catered Prudential Center. So Tuesday's lunch rush featured mostly locals and regulars nibbling on oversized slices.
Mike's is just a few miles from MetLife Stadium over in East Rutherford, where Seattle and Denver will play Sunday, although you could hardly tell since there is no obvious signage or bustle. It's right downtown in the biggest city in the state hosting the big game, but, well … you get the point.
New Jersey is playing host to the Super Bowl, and as forever seems to be its fate, it's getting none of the credit as virtually every bit of positive attention, prestige and money get gobbled up by New York City just a few miles away across the Hudson.
This has been dubbed the New York Super Bowl, even if it isn't. And don't think the folks in New Jersey haven't noticed.
"It's been a conflict for all the years of my life," Bill Parcells, the Hasbrouck Heights native, legendary former Giants coach and prototypical Jersey guy told Yahoo Sports. "People from New Jersey feel like they get lumped in with New York. I never took exception to that, but when people ask where I am from, I always say 'New Jersey.' I never say 'New York.' "
The Super Bowl is the opposite. It feels like no one is saying it's in New Jersey.
Take a look at the cover of the NFL's official game program. New York gets listed first, and you'd have to be a geography buff to even find the sliver of Jersey City that got included. The halftime show? No Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi or anyone else from this music rich region around here scheduled to appear. Hawaii's Bruno Mars and Los Angeles' Chili Peppers get the honors.
The parties are in New York. The events are in New York. The revenue is in New York.
The frustration is over here.
"What do they think, that New Jersey is a suburb of New York?" 50-year-old Robert Gentry said during lunch with his cousin at Mike's. "It's the sixth borough?"
Are you from Newark?
"From Newark," Gentry said.
And proud of it.
"Well, not that proud."
And with that, he and everyone around him burst into a big laugh. Maybe that's New Jersey's problem: It doesn't take itself too seriously. This is cool, except it has opened itself up for everyone else to rain scorn down on the place ("what exit?"), link it to organized crime ("try the onion rings") and pull out their best swamp and industrial dump jokes. Jersey is somehow so toxic; few want to admit where the game is being played.
"They should say the Super Bowl is in New Jersey, why should New York get 90 percent of the advertisement and 90 percent of the money?" said David Johnson of Newark.
No one seems to mention the state's glorious beaches or the opulent neighborhoods of Bergen County or the bucolic rolling hills of the Delaware River Valley. Meanwhile, fancy little Manhattan chuckles across the way, coming over to watch games of their geographically challenged NFL teams and then retreating quickly. Stealing the thunder. Stealing the tourist cash.
The idea that the NFL is ignoring them has actually rallied the troops, which is big. Jersey has always been its own worst enemy. Frank Sinatra gets generations of little-town blues to melt away so they travel and make it in New York, New York … and he's from Hoboken.
So Parcells went on about all the great football players the state's high schools have produced through the years and the recent rise in stature nationally of the Rutgers program as signs of Jersey strength.
Newark native Shaquille O'Neal starred in a promotional video about the greatness of his hometown. Local tourism officials handed out Portuguese pastries from the Teixeira Bakery. And Gov. Chris Christie noted that while Manhattan has "a few good restaurants," when kickoff comes "they're not going to say, 'Live from New York City,' because that would be a lie."
Others aren't being as polite and are instead attacking the Empire State right back. Newark Star-Ledger sports columnist Steve Politi has embraced a New York boycotting for all of Super Bowl week – "I will not set foot on its soil." Eric LeGrand, the paralyzed former Rutgers star and state hero, declared the pizza better over here.
"My spot, Strawberry's Pub in Woodbridge, N.J., is better than anything in New York," LeGrand said.
And back at Mike's, the customers took turns bashing New York for its ridiculous cost of living, traffic and general snobbery. "We aren't crowded on top of each other here," said Will Ferguson of Newark.
"You know what the best thing about New Jersey is?" Gentry asked. "It ain't New York."
This is the state where the first football game was played – Princeton vs. Rutgers in 1869. It has a rest area named for Vince Lombardi. And many of the most annoying people from "Jersey Shore" – Snooki, Ronnie, Vinny, etc. – aren't even from Jersey. They're from New York.
"New York just gets the attention because they have more advertising over there," Ferguson said.
Well, maybe it's more than that, but, look, the diners are better here. The Italian Ice is better here. "Cake Boss" is here. If they didn't invent the food truck, they perfected it. The Shore is way, way better because it's not like you can afford the Hamptons.
This was the home of Einstein and Edison … the Bada Bing is a real place … Atlantic City isn't that bad … the Nets are gone.
So New York City can have its highfalutin parties, its young hipsters sipping designer whiskey and its overpriced shoebox apartments. It can continue its egomaniacal attempt to glom onto Jersey's rare moment in the spotlight.
The truth is the Super Bowl is being played in New Jersey, and in New Jersey, where the game matters more, that truth will soothe them no matter how late the parties over in Manhattan rage.
"Look," Parcells said, "obviously you're talking to someone who is very prejudiced because of where I'm from and all the time I spent at the old Meadowlands, but the game is in New Jersey, not New York.
"And that's great. That's just great for New Jersey."
You want to argue with him?