Commentary

Call 'em the N.Y. and/or N.J. Giants

Christie's snub reignited an ancient debate -- which state is Big Blue-est?

Updated: February 10, 2012, 2:02 AM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

Hey Ed Koch, the New York Giants just won the Super Bowl! Any temptation to show your face and settle an old beef?

And you, all you mooks in Moonachie, N.J. -- what do you have to say for yourselves now that your governor, Chris Christie, has re-ignited the sports border war between New York and New Jersey that Koch sparked 25 years ago?

Exactly who owns the Giants, and where should their Super Bowl victory celebration be held today?

For the past two days Christie has behaved as if the dog ate his invitation to today's ticker-tape parade in Manhattan. He didn't formally RSVP by the close of business Monday, but he did say he would attend the 3 p.m. rally that he campaigned for -- at MetLife Stadium, for Jersey fans.

[+] EnlargeChris Christie
AP Photo/Bill KostrounChris Christie loves a good controversy as much as he loves a good cannoli.

He also thinks it's the only one that should be held.

This is not the first ParadeGate a Giants' Super Bowl victory has sparked.

In 1987, Koch was still the shoot-from-the-lip mayor of New York, and he declined to reprise one of those silly politician's bets with San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein when the Giants and 49ers met in the NFC playoffs. Koch was still steamed that the Giants left New York in 1976 for a new stadium and some mighty fine tax breaks in the Meadowlands -- a very pastoral-sounding name for some swampland that lies a few miles from Manhattan, just off Exit 16W on the Turnpike. (This was long before Snooki. Nobody bragged much on Jersey then except Bruce Springsteen. Even the "Real Housewives of New Jersey" were still wailing in their bassinets, not sending back their arugula salads and stealing husbands.)

Koch won steaks from Feinstein the first time around -- nice swag, right? -- but the second time he said if it was another wager Feinstein wanted she'd probably find they make a passable cheesesteak sandwich in Moonachie. But he added insult to injury by botching the pronunciation and saying "mah-NOO-chee" instead of the proper "moo-NAH-key." A Catskills comedian couldn't have mangled it better.

Then Koch refused to issue a city permit for a Canyon of Heroes parade when the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl.

"If the Giants want a parade," Koch sniffed, "let them parade in front of the oil drums in ..." (oh, no) "... Moonachie."

Again with the Moonachie?

For the record, Moonachie is an unassuming little place that sits right next to East Rutherford, the suburb where the Giants' and Jets' stadium sits.

New Yorkers may have hardly noticed that Koch mangled the name. But they surely loved his tweaking of New Jersey. And the border war persists to this day. Like football and alternate-side parking, it qualifies as a blood sport around here.

As anyone who lives in New York City knows, a die-hard Manhattanite hopes to never have to cross a bridge or tunnel to go elsewhere unless they're in a casket, at which point they won't care that they can't get a bagel at 4 a.m., or fresh flowers at any damn corner deli they like, thank you.

When New Jerseyans brag how life is better there because they don't have to pump their own gas, New Yorkers guffaw, "HA! You need a car?" To many New Yorkers, even Fort Lee is "upstate," though it sits just across the George Washington Bridge. And Brooklyn might as well be Tasmania.

Koch's "oil drum" crack was a reference to the many refineries and storage vats that line the Jersey side of the Hudson River and are clearly visible from the New York side. This vista would seem to be an inarguably poor tradeoff for the breathtaking Manhattan skyline that New Jerseyans gaze back on.

But New Jerseyans are liable to fire back that, on the whole, they still prefer their surroundings to Manhattan, a loud, crowded, aggravating place that crackles with energy and has some world-class attractions, all right -- if you don't mind people crawling over each other like crabs in a bucket trying to get ahead. Who wants to have to master Giants pass rusher Justin Tuck's "rip" move just to get a freaking subway seat?

In Jersey, a bag lady is not someone who spends the night on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's someone who decamps to one of the Garden State's many malls and scores a five shopping-bag day at Lord & Taylor's.

Booyah!

Now here comes Christie, a self-declared Jets fan, wading into this fight. He's been called the Rex Ryan of Governors because of his big girth and big-talking ways. He started this latest round of ParadeGate a few weeks ago when he went on NBC's "Today Show" and told Matt Lauer the Giants should be called the New Jersey Giants and host the parade in Jersey since they play there and they're headquartered there.

Told the "NY" logo is still on their helmets, Christie snorted, "That's about it."

You can't tell Christie that a ticker-tape parade down the same Canyon of Heroes route that's hosted everyone from war heroes to presidents to adventurer Charles Lindbergh is better than the home-style stadium rally he pushed for. (And shhh ... don't tell him it's officially scheduled to last only a half-hour, a fraction of the time it will take the Giants' caravan to snake through the streets of lower Manhattan. He could always sneak off in an official state helicopter again, like he controversially did once to see his son's Little League game, and time the procession himself.)

Christie won't be the first Jersey governor to stay put during the Manhattan parade. Jon Corzine didn't attend after the Giants won the Super Bowl four years ago.

But to be fair, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has not said he intends to safari to today's Jersey stadium extravaganza, either.

The most important thing to remember is this surprising Giants team has traits that should resonate with folks on both sides of the river. They have a bit of Broadway Joe swagger in them, and a bit of Sopranos, too.

They bumped off six straight opponents after predicting they would. Now pass the cannoli.

Where's Tony and Paulie Walnuts? Time to dance on some graves!

So enjoy today's celebrations, New York and New Jersey. The Giants will.

And with any luck, we'll all repeat ParadeGate same time next year.

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