New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy shares his passion for sports
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and his family love sports. The Massachusetts native loves all the Boston teams and the New England Patriots, but he also cheers for the NFL's New York Giants.
Governor Murphy joined SportsJam with Doug Doyle to share some memories of his favorite teams and sports moments. While the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics have many championships, his home-based baseball and football teams weren't always winners.
"I'll use the Patriots as an example although there were plenty of lean years with the Red Sox. When I grew up, the Patriots were awful. They couldn't get a stadium. They were nomads. They played at Fenway. They played at Harvard, BU, BC and it was just embarrassing. They ultimately built a stadium for seven million dollars. I don't think you could build a suite in a stadium today for seven million dollars. Because of the blackout rules in the NFL, New England's home games never sold out so their home games were never on television. Which is why my second team became and has always been the New York (football) Giants. The AFL pre-merger was on NBC and the NFL and the Giants in particular were on CBS. The Giants sold out at Yankee Stadium, but even if they hadn't sold it out, I grew up outside of Boston and were outside of the radius. So I was an Allie Sherman-Fran Tarkenton-era New York Giants fan. I was always wishing for the Patriots to be good, but they weren't and the Red Sox weren't any good in those days either."
The Governor credits his dad for his love of sports.
"Growing up the memories of my dad are overwhelmingly baseball. For football, it would have been my late big brother who was much more into football than my dad was then. Then we got into soccer. I had a childhood friend whose parents were Scottish. I would sleep over and every Saturday morning his dad would have a transistor radio or a shortwave radio beaming in games from Scotland and I got used to listening to these games. Then I ultimately played the one sport and played badly I might add, was soccer through freshman years in high school. So soccer got to me. I was ahead of the curve on soccer."
That's when the Governor's love of soccer started, but his desire to own a team began in the private sector when I was sent to live and work in Germany.
"This was in 1993. The Germans were the defending Men's World Cup champions and I got into it in a big way then. Then went to Asia and stayed with, moved back to the States and then ultimately became our Ambassador in Germany. I was married with four kids. All of our kids were playing in New Jersey when we went to Germany. That was like a rocket booster in terms our passion. We went to games every weekend. Our kids played on really high-level competition teams. They were obviously young when we went, they were 12,10,8 and 6 years old. That's were the passion really accelerated."
Governor Murphy says he's not giving up the fight to bring regular season English Premier League and Champions League matches to New Jersey, mirroring what the NFL has done with its International Series games.
"People tell me the chances are not high, but I'm going to continue to beat the drum. The Premier League already sends teams as do other European leagues to the United States to play preseason games. Most recent example, in a match I was at, was the Machester United-Arsenal match in July with 82-thousand plus capacity crowd at MetLife and the game meant nothing. Because of the crowd, each coach put their best team on the field and they played like it was the Champions League final. Secondly, the NFL does this already. They are now scheduling, not just here and there, but a whole schedule in Europe. I was with Robert Kraft (owner of New England Patriots) for a bit on Sunday. They're excited that Germany has been designated as a market for the Patriots, Chiefs and a couple of others. The Patriots are playing the Colts in November. That's a regular season game. My point is a big globally important sport league has already crossed that rubicon, why can't the Prem do that or other leagues. I'm told across the Atlantic, that none of these teams would dare give up their home field advantage, both revenue and more importantly fanbase, but I'm going to die trying. I think it's only a matter of time until we see a serious game that matters played in the United States. So, if it is play here, it's going to be played in Jersey."
New York/New Jersey has been selected as one of the host venues for the 2026 Men's World Cup, with matches played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
The Governor and First Lady Tammy Murphy, both part of the Gotham FC ownership team, have been supportive of many other sports in the Garden State, including college basketball. The basketball programs at Rutgers, Seton Hall, Princeton and most recently FDU and St. Peter's have all had success in the NCAA Tournament, bringing much notoriety to New Jersey.
"People talk about Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA and I get all of those great traditions, but if you look at geography and not at a school, you've got some of the great hoop traditions in New Jersey. I'd argue that our traditions are as good as anybody's."
You can SEE the entire SportsJam interview with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy here.