By Kristian Dyer
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It’s time to bring back Fireman Ed.
There hasn’t been much for New York Jets fans to cheer about over the past four-plus decades, with sporadic teases of joy followed by long waits of anguish. Those moments when Jets fans could escape the misery were often led in chorus by Ed Anzalone and his ultra-passionate style and flair.
And now every true Jets fan should want him back.
The story of Anzalone, better known around these parts as “Fireman Ed,” and his retirement is common knowledge. What isn’t known as well are the threats and physical altercations Anzalone increasingly faced while simply trying to be a Jets fan. He swears that he never received a penny from the team, that he paid for his PSL at MetLife Stadium and that he has played the role of Fireman Ed leading the ‘J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!’ chant of his own free will and accord. He hasn’t profited from it, he says, but still he received grief and threats from fans who took their frustrations over the 2012 season out on him.
Yet fans will call him a traitor for walking away to safeguard his own health and well-being. For shame.
So when BringBackEd.com was born last week to petition Anzalone for a return, it means something. And that the Jets have said they would welcome him back and that Anzalone hasn’t shut the door on a possible return should lead fans en masse to sign the petition on the site.
He’s been honest that he was a fan of the Miami Dolphins up until middle school, when he attended his first Jets game and summarily fell in love with the team. And he has been forthright about leaving his role as Fireman Ed only due to threats against himself and his family by lowlife fans.
Even more, he still attends games, although he’s switched seats and no longer leads the chant. This isn’t a man who turned his back on the Jets.
So any fan who doesn’t want him back should hang up their Jets jersey right now. You’re either insane or jealous.
Now the Jets, to their credit, have tried to keep the tradition alive of what Anzalone calls “The greatest chant in pro sports.” He didn’t invent it — nor did he ever claim to — but he admits to having been its caretaker in recent years. ‘Fireman Ed’ was his creation but it was born out of fans responding to him.
And while efforts including utilizing ‘The Aviators’ drum corps as well as fans selected through a contest have both worked the past two years in keeping the chant going (and Herculean efforts by people like team president Neil Glat should be praised for keeping it alive), there is no denying that Anzalone brought something special to the role.
He brought raw passion, a vein popping out of his forehead and his mouth clenched in sheer anger that some team was trying to come into MetLife Stadium and steal a win from his Jets. And there were the arms stretched and taut, hushing a stadium to ready them for their lusty throated calls of vigor. His eyes were steel, his nostrils flaring. Every eye was fixed on him.
The fireman helmet would swing, getting the green clad followers into a frenzy, the finger held aloft to let fans know that they needed to chant this refrain just once more.
Everyone knew where Anzalone sat – rather stood – and where to fix their eyes after a big play. He was pivotal in making the game day experience in two humdrum stadiums not just palatable but lively. It hasn’t been the same since he left.
This man has bled green – Jets green – for much of his 55 years on this earth. Time to make 2015 the year when he returns to leading the chant that flows through his veins.
Kristian R. Dyer is the Jets’ beat reporter for Metro New York and contributes to Yahoo! Sports as well as WFAN. He can be followed on Twitter @KristianRDyer.