In 1996 Time Magazine rated Newark, New Jersey, as ‘The Most Dangerous City in The USA’. However you’ll be pleased to know that things have improved considerably since then and in March 2010 the city celebrated its first month without a homicide for forty-four years. This was a cause for major celebration amongst the handful of the town’s population that were still alive.
We must give Newark’s administrative bodies some credit for this improvement. The city’s leaders, for instance, have always led from the front in the fight against crime. Unfortunately some of them have been so far in front that they’ve left the law trailing behind, as five out of the last seven mayors have been indicted on criminal charges.
So, on your visit to the USA, if you wanted a little taste of the old Wild West (on the East Coast) then Newark is the place to be for a rootin’-tootin’ shoot-em’-up time. However in the four days I was due to be in New York I was looking for some more organised violence in the shape of American sports.
I didn’t have the second mortgage that is required to watch an early season baseball game at the New York Yankees. Also the rules of baseball remain a complete mystery to me as I just don’t understand why they aren’t allowed to hit the ball now and again. So instead I decided to look for an end of season NHL ice hockey fixture. Hockey is a game that subtly combines all the thrills of sporting endeavour with sharp sticks, a solid rubber projectile that travels at 80 mph and a large dose of mindless brutality. Hence it has a lot going for it.
The New York Rangers were full up at Madison Square Garden and the New York Islanders play somewhere called Long Island…which is probably aptly named because is it is a bloody long way from Manhattan. So I elected to go and lend my support to the New Jersey Devils, who appear to be both unfashionable and cheap…hence I felt they had a bond with me on at least two levels.
I was with my young son on this trip to New York so the prospect of taking him to Newark, a city that made Naples sound chummy, was a little daunting. Fortunately my fears were unfounded as we had no run-ins with organised crime whatsoever during the seven-minute walk from Newark’s Penn Station to The Prudential Centre arena, which is home to the NJ Devils.
Incidentally Newark’s Penn Station is named after ‘Pennsylvania’ and not ‘Penitentiary’. So there’s no need to worry about tattooed inmates, armed guards or shenanigans in the showers.
The game I went to see was against the Buffalo Sabres. Before I left for the States I placed a wager on the Devils to beat them. They didn’t disappoint me and they managed to score the winning goal a mere three seconds from full-time. Thus the Devils confirmed their spot in the end of season play-offs, my undying gratitude and my lifelong support.
Unfortunately for them, like any team cursed with my support, they then fell at the first hurdle in the subsequent play-offs and didn’t make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
I’m not sure I’ll be welcome back.
Note: There is Newark in the UK too. However you are very unlikely to be a victim of crime there, unless you start asking too many questions about in-breeding.