By Peter Schwartz
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I was going to wait until after I returned from vacation to write this, but I decided to do it now for two reasons.
One: so many people have asked about it.
Two: I couldn’t sleep in anticipation of my wife and I surprising our sons Monday morning with a trip to Disney World.
So, as my family gets ready to meet Mickey Mouse and friends, let’s dive into my lack of respect for Fireman Goofy — and what triggered it.
To be honest, I had always liked Fireman Ed Anzalone. I thought he was good for the atmosphere at Jets games. I thought he was a genuine fan. But something happened about 15 years ago that changed my opinion.
Back then I was doing an NFL talk show from ESPN Zone for WABC radio, which often led into the Jets pregame show. At that time, I was also a Jets season-ticket holder. So if Gang Green was home, I would drive right from the show to Giants Stadium for the game.
One day, I parked my car and was walking through the lot toward the stadium when I noticed Fireman Ed “performing” at a tailgate party. I had never met him before, so I waited until he was done and then went up to him and introduced myself. Much to my surprise, he knew who I was. We had a nice chat going for a few minutes.
I decided that he would make a great guest, so I invited him to come down to my show the following week. I figured since the Jets were away, he would be able to do it. He told me that he was going to the away game. So I said to him, OK, maybe another time this season.
What came out of his mouth next really surprised me.
“What do I get for coming on the show?” Fireman Ed asked.
At first I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. I repeated myself, saying I would love to have him as a guest on the show at some point at the restaurant.
“What do I get for coming on the show?” he asked again.
At this point, I’m really taken aback. So I said, well, if you come down to the ESPN Zone for the show, they serve the staff and guests food. You’re welcome to come down, be a guest on the show and have a nice meal on us.
Are you ready for his response?
“I don’t need a free meal,” Anzalone said. “I can get that anywhere. What I want to know is what are you going to give me for coming on the show.”
He said this as he made a gesture with his hand, and it certainly looked like it was a gesture you would make if you were asking for money.
I had waited a long time to meet this guy. Like I said, I always liked him and always wanted to meet him. But in a matter of minutes, I had developed such a distaste for Fireman Ed. I said OK, never mind, and I walked into the stadium to watch the game.
I was really taken aback. And it still bothers me to this day. I mean, this guy is just a fan like me and like the other 77,000 people that were in Giants Stadium that day. Who did he think he was to demand compensation for a one-time radio appearance?
Since then, many fans and reporters have suspected that Fireman Ed — who was at just about every Jets function and served as a spokesperson of sorts when New York tried to build the West Side Stadium — was “taken care of” by the team, and many joked that he was on the payroll. He’s always denied it.
From that point on, he came off to me as someone who thought he was the only Jets fan on Planet Earth.
Well I have news for you, Ed.
There are thousands of others I would want in my Jets foxhole other than you. I know I’m not alone in my feelings.
As I see it, most people look at you as a buffoon.
The reaction from callers on the air after your interview with Sid Rosenberg the other day was proof of that. I also saw plenty of tweets that suggested that you are not as popular among Jets Nation as you think you are.
You walked away as the ringleader of the “J-E-T-S” chant two years ago on a rough Thanksgiving night. It was rough for every Jets fan. If you were really verbally or physically abused by so much as one person in the bathroom that night at MetLife Stadium, that’s wrong, and the people who did that are idiots.
But the fact remains that you walked away from your self-made responsibilities as a ringleader. You took your ball and went home. You did. You may still come to games, but it’s not the same. If you felt threatened that night, you should have come clean with what happened and let everyone know why you felt uncomfortable continuing your role with the organization.
I found it troubling that the Jets took Anzalone out to lunch back in April. Why is this a big deal to the team? Why do they insist on creating scripted atmosphere at home games? Why do they focus on all of these silly off-field things that annoy fans?
Do we really need drummers outside of the stadium before games? This is not college football!
If someone is going to take the reins of the “J-E-T-S” chant, let it happen naturally. Don’t conduct a contest to pick your next “leader.”
I’m somewhat embarrassed by what happened on WFAN on Saturday. When I found out that Sid was having Fireman Ed on, I was all over him. Sid made the point that it was a story because it was in the newspapers, and I understand that. But my point was that most Jets fans don’t like Fireman Ed.
I think that has been proven over the last couple of days.
I called Fireman Ed a “fraud” on the air, and I’m not going to take that back. During his interview with Sid, Fireman Ed called me and Joe Benigno clowns, and I kind of chuckled.
I mean, really. Who has been acting like a clown? Look in the mirror.
And by the way, you don’t need to tell me to stop with the cheeseburgers. That’s okay, I’ve been called worse than fat in my life. Yes, I’m overweight. But let me set the record straight: I don’t like cheeseburgers. I like my burgers with ketchup, if you really need to know.
As for a couple of other things you brought up: I was never picked last for sports in school, and nobody ever stole my lunch money. If guys liked you tried to do that, I kicked their a–es!
Some readers may be surprised, but I would like to say this to Fireman Ed:
I don’t want to be your enemy, Ed. In fact, we share something very important. A love for the Jets. I think we need to hammer out our differences and include Joe in this, too. Maybe we should get together somewhere and just hash things out.
Until then, I’m going to feel the way I feel about you, and so will Joe. And you are going to feel the same way about us. I can’t speak for Joe, but I would like to chat about what has transpired and see if we can’t talk this out. Maybe we can do it in a public forum. But why don’t you make a suggestion too?
What do you think, Jets fans? Should we give Ed a chance to get back in everyone’s good graces, or do we just keep status quo?
Maybe if we can all get on the same page, the Jets won’t have to have a contest for a chant leader. Maybe if we can get straighten things out, the Jets won’t have to look too far for their man.
Maybe that man, once again, could be Fireman Ed. Or maybe, as I wrote about in my Jets blog two years ago, I can take over the chants one day.
And I wouldn’t ask for anything. I would just do it out of my love for Gang Green.
Ed, I think you can figure out how to get a hold of me. Let’s talk about things. We don’t have to be enemies forever!
But do me a favor. Wait until next week. I’m about to get on a plane to Orlando with my family. I’m not thinking about this. I’m not having it ruin my vacation. I’m going to the happiest place on Earth.
I don’t think I’ll run into any clowns. But you never know. It’s a small world after all.
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan.
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