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.