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Thoughts on Fireman Ed

The news broke yesterday that Fireman Ed Anzalone has decided to step down as leader of the Jets chants at the home football games. I think that’s a shame. What’s worse is that he is stepping down because of the abuse he has begun taking at home games for the failure of the team. In today’s age of social media there is no need at all for anyone to take their anger out on someone who just happens to be a famous fan. It’s a job every Jet fan in the world would have enjoyed to have. Players, both home and visiting, knew who that fireman guy was. He at least gave the Jets some identity. Certainly much more of an identity that the awful “flag boys” or whatever they were called that would run on the field after a score. Certainly much more than the horrible “Game Face” mascot attempt. Certainly much more than the “Jets Flight Crew”. Ed kind of typified the Jets fan. Hard working, blue collar, tough…maybe a little crazy sometimes too.

For about 25 years Ed was synonymous with the Jets. The games were never the same without him. There was one season where Ed did not attend the majority of Jets games. I cant recall if it was 2005 or 2007. Ed just kind of vanished. Some speculated that he was upset at the organization for not making the move to New York. Later Ed would said he was injured and just couldn’t attend. The stadium wasn’t the same without him. The first game without Ed I remember the camera trying to find him to lead a chant and he was nowhere to be seen. Instead someone sitting in his section went and bought a “Game Face” jersey and decided he would be the new Fireman Ed. At first fans rose to their feet since he was in the same section, then they realized it wasn’t Ed. Fans sat down and stayed down the rest of the year.

After that the Jets seemed to try to phase him out of the games. They went through a spell where they went through the crowd each game to have multiple people lead the team in a Jets chant. The problem is it wasn’t a spontaneous thing anymore without Ed. He was the leader. The guy who let the fans know when it was and wasn’t time to try to get going before and during a game. It died out without him.

In many ways I kind of feel that this marks the end of an era. The Jets had their Shea Stadium era which I wasn’t really around much to remember. They then had the Giants stadium era. While it took some time to rebuild the fanbase after the damage caused by leaving Shea they did it. And Ed was right there during the whole time leading the fans through thick and mainly thin years. Now that Ed is gone I think we can officially close the book on another era of Jets football.

When the Jets made the decision to co-own MetLife stadium with the Giants and institute a similar PSL policy it crushed a lot of the fanbase. For the first time ever the Jets openly catered to a different crowd than the one that had filled up Shea and Giants Stadium on Sundays for all those years. A lot of the old crowd was pushed out. Many of the real diehards, like Ed, were pushed into the end zones where seats were more affordable. I’ve sat in the end zones plenty of times. You cant lead anything from that spot on the field. Its too far removed from half the stadium and with so many ads played on the big screen it takes too long to even get someone on camera to get the chants going.

I think there are many younger Jets fans that don’t remember the bad. For as much as I complain about the team the reality is its been a good team since 1998. That’s 13 years of decent football before this seasons crash. For fans younger than 25 this is all they know. Heck even for fans who are probably 30 this is what is best remembered. Kotite was a distant memory. Coslet and Walton probably didn’t exist. To them this is the worst and they have to take things out on someone.

Ed retiring from his role just reinforces the damage the Jets did with the new stadium. They now have the job of rebuilding an entire gameday fanbase that has left in droves because this stadium isn’t home. For all the complaints of sharing a stadium with the Giants there was still a sense that on Sunday this was your house even if the seats weren’t your color and you read Giants as you walked in the door. With the catering to a whole different type of fan to fill this stadium I think that older generation, those in their early 30s and certainly those upwards of 40, I don’t think anyone feels at home anymore in the new ballpark.

With the team struggling it becomes easier to take your anger out on a guy like Ed who, to many new fans who weren’t fans before, is seen as an employee for the Jets. It’s really not right. Go online and post on a message board about how much you dislike the Jets. There are a million of them online and the Jets monitor every one of them. Go onto the Jets website and email them your thoughts. Don’t go to the stadium. Don’t buy concessions if you do. But Ed doesn’t have a special red phone in his office to call up Woody Johnson and tell him that you don’t think Sanchez is a very good QB or that you don’t think they are making the right decisions for the team.

That’s not to say that this is the final nail in the Jets coffin. Ed had every right to leave his role and was always going to leave that role one day. By next year or the year after most people will have forgotten anyway. I think it was just the circumstances that hit everyone hard here. For those in that Giants Stadium era he was really the last line to that fanbase that you sat with for all those years. Now its officially a new crowd and a new era for the Jets, one without Fireman Ed and those who grew up watching him.

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