For 26 years now, Ed Anzalone has gotten transformed eight Sundays out of the year into “Fireman Ed,” the most iconic football fan in the nation. Anzalone, sitting atop his brother’s shoulders, his image displayed on the stadium’s big screens, leads the green-clad crowd in the “J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!”
The franchise will turn to a new era on Dec. 2 when the Jets host the Cardinals, as he will be “Fireman Ed” no more.
The retirement of Anzalone in his special role in the game day experience at MetLife Stadium is the end of an era for Jets fans used to his presence in section 124. On Thursday night, with the Jets down 35-3 at halftime of what turned into a 49-19 home loss to the Patriots, Anzalone left the stadium. It had nothing to do with the team’s 4-7 record this year or the fact that they likely won’t make the playoffs for a second straight year.
“Listen, I went through the Rich Kotite era — we were 4-28 in that era. Any Jets fan knows this isn’t the worst of times; it isn’t close,” Anzalone told Metro. “It’s been about the nastiness. I just think society in general — you’re out in your car there’s no respect at all. I don’t want to put up with that from people taking it out on me anymore.”
Anzalone said fans have gotten nasty and confrontational with him, often mistaking him as part of the organization when he is merely a season ticket holder “who has never received a dime from this team.”
He said he will still go to games and that he never, ever can quit on the Jets. It isn’t the mounting losses or the lack of wins that is bothering him, but rather the boorish behavior of fans.
“That is right. For me to write a letter, I think it is best that I move on. I’m sure there will be somebody else that takes over. I wasn’t the originator of the chant and I won’t be the last one. It’s got to end,” Anzalone said.
“I wouldn’t go to my same seat. I’ll be in different seats. I have a ton of guys that have 10 or 12 seats that sell and I’ll grab a couple of theirs. I can’t be in the section that I’ll be in. I can’t be in the same section and not be ‘Fireman Ed.’ But I am thankful to have been the maestro of that chant all those years. The fans humbled me by getting behind me and joining me.”
Anzalone, a New York City firefighter, would spend his pregame time not with his buddies drinking beers and grilling burgers but rather visiting children’s birthday parties in the parking lot or posing for pictures with children battling cancer. He was everywhere before the game but minutes before kickoff he’d walk down the stairs to his seat, often to a standing ovation from Jets fans in his section.
A season ticket holder since 1976, he was first put on the big screen at the old Giants Stadium 10 years later to fire up the crowd.
Anzalone hasn’t informed the Jets of his decision to hang up his fireman helmet.
“No, I haven’t notified them of anything. I’m not on their pay roll,” Anzalone said. “I don’t owe the Jets anything.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.