Woody Johnson's carnival has lost its barker.
Days after the New York Jets were subject to a public dismantling by the New England Patriots and authored what is widely hailed as the most failtastic flub of this -- or any -- NFL season, the club has managed to sink a bit lower.
Fireman Ed, the Gang Green superfan who led the "J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets!" chant during games in the Meadowlands, has hung up his helmet. In an editorial published by Metro on Sunday, Ed Anzalone announced that he is stepping down as "Fireman Ed," citing increasingly frequent confrontations with other fans. According to the New York Daily News, Ed began the fan tradition, with the support of his brother, Frank, back in 1986.
While taking pains to make clear that he was not going to stop rooting for the Jets, Anzalone wrote that the team's struggles -- and his own support of beleaguered starting quarterback Mark Sanchez -- have created an unfriendly atmosphere unlike any he has been around.
This is an indication of how society has lost and is continuing to lose respect for one another. The stadium has become divided because of the quarterback controversy as well. The fact that I chose to wear a Mark Sanchez jersey this year and that fans think I am on the payroll — which is an outright lie — have made these confrontations more frequent. Whether it’s in the stands, the bathroom or the parking lot, these confrontations are happening on a consistent basis.
The move came days after Anzalone was spotted leaving early during the Thanksgiving debacle. He also deleted his Twitter account during the game, as reported by Newsday.
Ed's departure and subsequent Twitter action was noted on Thursday and the backlash began, with former Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins among those to weigh in.
Jenkins' dig refers to the fact that Anzalone was reportedly a Dolphins fan as a child before embracing the Jets in 1975, per his byline at Metro. Regardless of when he first donned a Jets jersey, "Fireman Ed" has been a staple of the fan experience for years, for better or worse.
"I will always love the Jets because they are in my heart, and I will attend games as usual, just not as Fireman Ed," wrote Anzalone in closing his open letter. "God bless and, as always, let’s go Jets!"
CLICK HERE to read entire column at Metro.
Anzalone's decision to publicly step down from an unofficial job to which he appointed himself has drawn mixed reactions, to put it mildly.
"I know people have mixed feelings about Ed," wrote Brian Bassett at The Jets Blog, "but no matter how you might feel it’s hard to not get a little depressed to realize that the guy can’t even hang out among fellow fans without getting blasted for it."