USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Jersey’
general

The Jersey Devil

This piece was collected from my friend who grew up in New Jersey. To her, it wasn’t a very important part of her life, but it was well-known where she was from because it’s one of the most popular pieces of folklore from New Jersey.

This is how she explained it to me:

“I’m from New Jersey, and there’s a southern part of the state called the Pine Barrens, it’s filled with trees, it’s a very forest-y area. And for years and years it’s been said that there’s the Jersey Devil that lives in the pine barrens, hence the name the New Jersey Devils, the hockey team… there’s ben songs written about it…stories written about it. There are lot of versions of what it actually is. Some say it’s an actual devil or it’s more like a beast, like an animal. It’s kind of like a yeti or something, to this day people still say they see when they go to the pine barrens. I think I learned about it honestly in school when we learned about New Jersey myths, I’m pretty sure it was mentioned, and the only way is just through word of mouth”

Even though the Jersey Devil is very popular, there’s still not a consensus on what it looks like (or even what it is exactly) So, the legend can be interpreted differently by each person. However, it has been incorporated into things like sports teams, where it might become less folkloric because it would be portrayed in a certain way and would probably be trademarked. Also, the informant described it as a New Jersey myth, however, it would more accurately be categorized as a local legend or folk belief.

Customs
general

Dirty Jersey and Trophy Helmet: Sport Customs

A Rugby ritual and a Football tradition as told verbatim by informant:

“One of the team rituals we had playing rugby in college was that we wouldn’t wash our jerseys from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. Um, and so, um, I I don’t know what the why it started but that’s how it was told to me and and uh some people believed it made you look like a rougher tougher team um it certainly made us smell worse. And you know I stuck to that tradition um and you know rugby of course can be a very dirty game and particularly if you play in the rain you’d get incredibly muddy and so you know your shirt you could hang outside if it was really full of mud and then it would dry and cake and you could beat your shirt and get the mud off it but still you had to put it on for the next game, so. I tried to instill a similar tradition uh you know when I played rugby in medical school but the, the other guys weren’t as interested in keeping the tradition. (wife interjects, they both laugh, and he repeats) Some of them did it. It bonds you as a team but also again it was for some players a form of intimidation. If you went out there with a clean jersey you looked like a rookie. But if you went out there with a dirty jersey you looked like you really knew how to play the game.

There was a tradition in football too where in um in football you wear a helmet and in the beginning of the season usually the helmet’s nice and clean, it’s been freshly painted. Well, during the season your goal was to collect as many marks on your helmet as you could uh because we use our helmet to hit people and so you wanted to get scratches and scuff marks and you wanted to get at least a color from every team you played against. It was like a collection of trophies from the other team so you wanted to get a color of every single team you were playing against. And that showed you were always hitting people, that you were a tough guy. And you never wanted the coach to re-paint your helmet during the season. In college it’s a little tougher to do because they wanted to re-paint your your helmet all the time. So literally you had to sometimes take your helmet and keep it with you against team rules so that they wouldn’t paint it. I did it in high school for sure and then I tried to do it as much as I could in college.”

While both customs hold little symbolic or abstract meaning, as the informant suggests the factors of team bonding and intimidation signified by the dirty jerseys and marked up helmets play a big role in physically brutal sports like rugby and football. These traditions provide solidarity while still playing the mental game inherent in any competition. Rugby and football also are particularly dangerous, difficult, and “macho” sports, thus jerseys and helmets function like war-paint in battle, as players animalize themselves in the face of their opponents.

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