An online petition to bring back Ed Anzalone as the famed "Fireman Ed" just might be working.
Retired from his role as "Fireman Ed" for over two seasons, the "J-E-T-S" chant that Anzalone once led at the Meadowlands and at MetLife Stadium just hasn't been the same. Two years ago, the Jets tried incorporating the 'Aviators' drum corps into the chant with a certain amount of success, a move that kept the chant alive but maybe lacked the personal touch that Anzalone brought. Then last year, in a season where there wasn't much to cheer about, a different fan was picked by the Jets each game to lead the chant, a move that seemed to garner some more success in terms of fan interaction.
But no one can compare to Anzalone and his ability to whip up the fans. On Thursday, Metro New York broke the news about a website called BringBackEd.com which has launched a petition with the hope that Anzalone will come back.
On Sunday, in his first interview on the topic, Anzalone told Metro that he is still retired from the role. But when asked if he could return, he didn't squash the idea.
“I don't know. I told you the way I feel. Will I come back? I'd rather see someone else make that thing happen then me come back. I'd rather see them give a young guy a fair chance. If that thing needed my help, I'd help,” Anzalone told Metro. “If they needed my help I would try to help them in any way I can.”
There is no criticism from Anzalone towards the Jets organization, who he says tried to recruit him back last spring to reclaim his role with the team. A retired New York City fireman, Anzalone was prominently featured several times a game on the big screens at the stadium where his familiar fireman's hat and his passionate displays would lead to lusty chanting from fans.
Now, it is those same fans that are reaching out to him, asking this giant of a fan to come back ahead of a season of optimism.
“The fans will ultimately decide what is going on, not me. What the Jets did with that contest – they tried – but they tied the hands of those guys. They tried but they didn't do their best effort. They need to give them access. If I can help out in any way, if I can help out to make that experience what it used to be, I'd never turn my back on the Jets or the fans,” Anzalone said. “I can't live forever. Even if I came back for a short period of time, someone has to take over. I'm double-nickel, I'm 55 years old. They need a young guy in there, there are plenty of guys willing to do it but the Jets need to help them do it the right way.”
As of Sunday afternoon, after just four days online, there were nearly 1,800 signatures on the BringBackEd.com website, founded by Jason Koeppel. It was Koeppel and his friends who initiated the FireJohnIdzik.com movement that gained national attention in its successful push to oust the team's old general manager.
“I'm honored, people want you back," Anzalone said. "It's an emotional thing, no doubt about it. My love for that team will never die. I never will quit on that team. I won't quit on this team I love. I stopped being Fireman Ed. That was my choice. I started Fireman Ed and I ended Fireman Ed. That was my choice. Did I want to? No, of course not. Did I leave because we were losing to the Patriots? No.
“That was just one of many times during the years that we lost and got crushed. There were a lot of circumstances. When you go into the bathroom and get accosted, it might be time to go. That time, I couldn't say it but now I can. When it comes to the point that you have to worry about your family, your well-being, it might be the time to move on. That's the reality of it.
“My love has never stopped.”
Just as Anzalone doesn't sound like he's ready to slam the door on a possible return, the Jets as an organization sound open as well as they continue to try to keep the chant alive.
“The chant belongs to the fans and we will continue to be responsive when fans ask for our assistance in identifying chant leaders," a team spokesman said in a statement. "Fireman Ed has been big part of the Jets gameday experience for a number of years. He made a personal decision to step away that we have respected. He would be welcome if he decides to return.”