The classic debate of "what's the worst state in America?" came up yesterday as my colleagues and I road tripped up to the extreme north of Michigan for a perfectly-timed February work excursion, so I decided to revisit my inaugural rankings of the 50 states from a few years ago. Maybe naivety and a lack of travels bested me, but I couldn't have botched the blog harder if I tried. Especially when it came to giving New Jersey the 50th spot right off the bat. After having lived there for nearly a year and meeting several incredible coworkers and friends from the Garden State, I can confidently say that I fucked up tremendously and owe them an apology. Sure, it probably would've been easy to “troll” a group of people whose fuses are shorter than their life-size effigies of Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, and tempers quicker than their stints at out-of-state junior colleges, but I'm here to right my wrongs and prove that I'm aware of my mistakes. Here's just a few reasons why New Jersey is not the worst state in the nation by any means and, in fact, one of the best.
You know the culinary scene in a state is of the toppest notches when the people there feel a sense of pride and superiority about...sliced ham. Until I moved to NJ, I didn't know it was possible to feel delusions of grandeur about your regional derivative of Canadian bacon. From purely a psychological standpoint, it's fascinating to watch them furiously defend the honor and namesake of their favorite bagel ingredient. Almost as if each of them personally domesticated pigs and invented pork-based processed meat, people from New Jersey stride into their neighborhood deli and pridefully smirk at the Taylor ham behind the counter like they're Alexander Graham Bell respawning in an Apple Store.
Hustle & Bustle
Sure, Manhattan is cool, but why pay all that money when you can live right across the river in New Jersey for just 95% of the cost and 15% of the thrills? As the most densely populated state in the union, you get to experience all the crowds and congestion of the Big Apple without having to actually reside there and only having to commute there on a daily basis. Plus, New Jersey's largest city is conveniently a transcription of the state’s average female resident trying to say “New York” after getting a fresh batch of lip injections amidst an HSV 2 flair up.
Wonder & Awe
The only thing people from New Jersey are more afraid of than Megan's Law and standardized testing is being in a situation where they need to pump their own gasoline. There's an undeniable charm in such youthful innocence. They look at Pennsylvanians filling up their tanks like they're headlining the World Robotics Expo. "Where the fuck did yous learn to do that?," they'll sincerely wonder with Wawa hoagie juice dripping out of their agape mouths and caressing their neck goiters, as if the two-step process of inserting a nozzle into a hole and pressing down a lever is a Rube Goldberg machine. Their kryptonite is being on E during a road trip or being on E at an under 18 dance club and not being able to get hard.
Say what you want about the intelligence of New Jerseyans, but Princeton is consistently ranked in the top 15 of global universities and Rutgers is consistently ranked in the top 15 of Big Ten standings and Rohypnol consumption. When frat guys at Rutgers say “the night is young” that means the girl they’re about to try to fuck is a high school gymnast on her recruiting visit. The only thing they love quoting more than The Sopranos is Full House, because their answer to the ice breaker question “What is your dream profession and goals for next summer?” is always “DJ, Tanner.” Only in New Jersey does tattooing “SUSSEX” on your bicep double as a representation of your local pride and your coital preference. "Bar Anticipation" is when guys from NJ anxiously wait for girls in Belmar clubs to take a sip of the drink they spiked with Xanax.
Known for breeding physical specimens and producing a vast array of professional athletes, New Jersey is home to some of the toughest motherfuckers on planet earth. And say what you want about guys from NJ being "hot heads," but there's nothing they're more passionate about than beating the shit out of their underage Italian girlfriends. They take Anabolic steroids just to prepare for fights against Anna Boliducci at concert tailgates. They put the "bruise teen" into "going to Bruce Springsteen." And who could forget Rutgers' historic 11-2 season in 2006? Guys from New Jersey still watch Ray Rice highlights to pump themselves up before going on dates to penthouses. The only thing more shameful than wearing a scarlet letter in 17th century puritan Massachusetts is wearing one in 21st century collegiate football games in State College or Columbus.
Pop Culture & Media Influences
When it comes to the art of television, New Jersey is as rich in history as they are in waterlogged corpses. People from NJ have been justifiably obsessed with reality TV ever since Jersey Shore came out, but they’re still in the preliminary stages of grasping the concept of it. They send audition tapes and highlight reels to Chris Hansen like he’s TJ Lavin. For them, the only thing harder than merging onto the highway or pronouncing water is their dicks when they're watching Entourage. Mostly because they think it's a nonfictional docu-series, and they all look like a combination of Turtle and E. If you see a short, chubby Italian guy doing the sign of the cross at the Newark airport, it's because he's praying to James Gandolfini for a hand job from Jamie Lynn Sigler. And if you think New Jersey has a extensive history of television stars, its future is even brighter.
In all seriousness, I was born in NJ and half my family still lives there, so it’s nothing but respect and love for the state. There’s several legitimate reason for why it’s far from the worst state in the country. Next week, I'll be making a case for why Nebraska might actually deserve that crown.