Here's a good trivia question for you to share with family and friends on your next Zoom get together: What do Harriet Tubman, Frank Sinatra, Thomas Edison and Eli Manning have in common?
They're all proud members of the New Jersey Hall of Fame, of course!
Though several New York sports greats have been inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, including Derek Jeter, Patrick Ewing, Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto, the fact that they played for New York teams had nothing to do with their induction. That's why Shaquille O'Neal, Vince Lombardi and Larry Doby are also members of this Hall of Fame.
That's because all of these great athletes, along with several other inspirational figures and influential celebrities, were born in or are residents of my home state, the "Armpit of America," New Jersey.
And you can't talk about New Jersey sports without mentioning the New York Giants, who play all their home games in East Rutherford, New Jersey. But, again, it wasn't because Eli Manning was a career New York Giant, but because he resides in Summit, New Jersey with his family.
According to the official website of the NJ Hall of Fame, residents of New Jersey can recommend "deserving New Jerseyans" through a public server, whereupon a list of the top 100 potential nominees is made. After the NJ Hall of Fame Academy whittles the list down to 50, the public gets a month to vote on final nominations.
That at least settles one Hall of Fame debate surrounding the career and legacy of Eli Manning, but the bigger one remains. Recently, Victor Cruz appeared on WFAN in New York and said that the longtime quarterback is "absolutely" a Hall of Famer, though many will disagree with that sentiment based on his overall statistical production and tendency to throw the occasional interception.
But if he's not Canton-bound -- at least not right away -- Eli can still have some fun with this honor. After all, how many people can say they're in the same Hall of Fame as Bruce Springsteen, Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, James Gandolfini and a bevy of sports superstars?
Manning follows the 2012 induction of Wellington Mara, the iconic general manager of the Giants from 1937 to 1974 and co-owner from 1959-2005, along with those of Harry Carson and Bart Oates in 2018.
Notable New Jersey-born athletes who are not yet in the Hall include Dennis Rodman (Trenton), Jim Bouton (Newark) and frequent baseball trivia quiz answer Johnny Vander Meer (Prospect Park).