MONTGOMERY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (PIX11) — Saturday’s big football matchup between New York and Philadelphia points to another important thing between the two cities: the state of New Jersey.
Team loyalties in the Garden State vary, depending largely on a person’s location, and the two sides tend to split along one line — a literal one that has divided the state for three-and-a-half centuries.
The split in team loyalties was evident at the Tiger’s Tale sports bar on Highway 206 here.
At a table in one of the popular eatery’s two dining rooms sat Simon Marchand and his granddaughter, Charlotte Goldman.
“I grew up a Giant fan when the Giants were at the Polo Grounds,” Marchand said, referring to when the football team played in Upper Manhattan from 1925 through the 1955 season. “And I’ve been a Giant fan ever since,” he said.
Despite that, said Goldman, his granddaughter, who happened to be wearing a green and silver hoodie, the colors of the Eagles, she still loves her grandfather.
“Even though he is a Giants fan,” she said over lunch. “I put those feelings aside.”
The Tiger’s Tale, where they shared a table, is in the heart of Central Jersey.
In this region, roughly equidistant between the two cities playing in the next round of the playoffs on Saturday, clashes in loyalty like that between Marchand and Goldman are very common.
That’s what film director and instructor Steve Chernoski discovered when he made his documentary “New Jersey: The Movie.”
He made a map showing where New York Giants’ and Philadelphia Eagles’ loyalties are strongest and where they tend to diverge.
He explained how he came to his cartographic and geographic conclusions, “it’s tough to say scientifically, but I would say anecdotally, with some data.”
The map shows that Central Jersey is split between Philadelphia fans and New York fans and that for a big section of the region, the split is along one border, which he explained.
“Before New Jersey was a state, it was the province of New Jersey,” he said, “and for a while, it was split into the province of East and West Jersey.”
In modern Central New Jersey, that line is clearly marked by a roadway named, aptly, Province Line Road, less than a mile east of Hopewell.
Next to the road is a historical marker with a plaque that shows that the province line runs more than 75 miles straight to the Atlantic Ocean.
Contrast that actual line with Chernoski’s fan map, and the similarities are striking. On the side of the line closer to New York, there’s a higher percentage of Giants fans. On the Philadelphia side, Eagles fans dominate.
There’s also a more modern breakdown of the divide, as Vernon Byrd, a Central Jersey Eagles fan, explained.
“This side,” he said outside of the Tiger’s Tale, which is just barely on the Giants’ side of the line, “they only get the New York [television] stations” over the air. “Where I live, in Princeton,” about five miles away, “we get New York and Philadelphia stations.”
Inside the Tiger’s Tale, the split continued to play out.
At one table sat three friends taking a lunch break from work. Vincent Bonanno explained the loyalty situation.
“I’ve been here 23, 25 years, and the line is half Eagles, half Giants,” he said, “and obviously, the better half is the Eagles half.”
Also at the table was Sharon Pellicane, who made clear that she’s a New York football fan, but not the way many others in the region are.
“I’m for whoever is playing against the Giants,” she said. “I’m a Jets fan.”
Her friend Debbie Burke sat next to her.
“I’m a Giants fan only for my brother,” she said, “‘cuz my brother is a Giants fan. I’m not into football.”
Still, other rivalries are played out between the two sides of Province Line Road, including whether to call rice-like candy sprinkles or jimmies, whether to call a cold summer treat water ice or Italian ice or if a sandwich on a long bun is called a sub or a hoagie.
The football version of that rivalry will be played out Saturday evening at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.