To a Rutgers fan, the most interesting thing about women's soccer over the past few days was not the U.S. Women's National Team's controversial loss to Japan in the World Cup finals, or in debating the relative merits of Title IX. It was reading this story over the weekend in The Record.
They pointed to the state's history of embracing girls' sports, its ethnic diversity and its residents' competitive spirit to explain why nearly one-fourth of the players on the team's roster played high school soccer in the Garden State.
Five players, including team captain Christie Rampone, hail from New Jersey. The only state that produced more is California, which has year-round warm weather and a population four times that of New Jersey.
New Jersey is unambiguously awesome by divine right? Have to say, not exactly breaking new ground with that statement. Way to go out on a limb there. Hope your brave little bit of hard-hitting investigative journalism is rewarded when they hand out Pulitzers this year. That's not the distressing part though.
Rutgers has alum Carli Lloyd playing for the USWNT, but even in women's soccer we cannot escape the dastardly clutches of out-of-state interlopers like Notre Dame and North Carolina looking to mine our state's most precious natural resource: its residents. Horror of horrors, two Tar Heel alumni from right in the heart of Rutgersland (Basking Ridge and East Brunswick) played in the World Cup. Rutgers is pretty darn good in women's soccer mind you, but the Tar Heels have twenty national championships in the past three decades. Per capita, that makes their men's basketball program look like a JV squad. This is a blog less concerned with Rutgers sports than a vehicle for broad beating all facets of the university community to excellence, and as such this caustic reaction should come as no surprise to loyal readers.
Indeed, whether it comes to low property taxes or the mild winters, New Jerseyans have hardly been able to resist the siren's call of the Tar Heel State. Steve Politi did four years in Chapel Hill, as have members of my extended family. Tobacco mogul James Buchanan Duke made his home in Rutgers-adjacent Hillsborough, but instead chose to bequeath his fortune on detestable Duke University (which, strangely enough, was somewhat of a trend.) New Jerseyans are unfairly blamed for that university's reprehensible character to this very day.
Both Tobacco Road athletic powerhouses were built on the backs of New Jersey and New York talent. Even famed Scarlet Knight alumnus Jim Valvano gifted N.C. State its most recent brush with greatness. Worst of all, the Hurricanes somehow keep beating the Devils in the playoffs, as if any southerner can even contemplate the game of hockey between the endless array of NASCAR races and Toby Keith concerts (sorry, I still think NJ has them beat in the unfair stereotypes department.) No, the Tar Heels deserve your ire, whether in football, basketball, or women's soccer. They should not be seen as an acceptable bandwagon alternative to Duke; being less dastardly than the most reviled basketball program in the country is no accomplishment.
New Jerseyans ought to shun these Southern temptresses, turn away from sin, and embrace our shared Yankee roots. Folks, they're called Blue Devils and Demon Deacons for a reason. Tar Heels? That's a derisive nickname dreamed up by aristocratic Virginians mocking Carolina's apparent fondness for becoming cannon fodder. Are they perceived as poorly in New Jersey as the twin villains of Notre Dame and Penn State? Certainly not, because football rules the roost here. Any athlete wearing Tar Heel Blue does deserve your ire and contempt however; just as any hypothetical obstacle to Rutgers athletics does, whether real or perceived.