Last week we had “Butt-gate” and now we have “Fireman-gate.” Another day, another ridiculous storyline in the Florham Park Zoo.
I’m not sure what angers me more – the fact that Jets “superfan” Fireman Ed chose to publicly step down in his role as chief Jets cheerleader, or the fact that he did so during what was already a tumultuous week or the fact that is even a news story! Can you think of any other team in the NFL right now where a fan would make front page news on ESPN.com or the local papers? It’s pretty ridiculous if you step back and think about this and it just once again highlights the media circus that surrounds this team on a daily basis.
My personal history with Fireman Ed goes back to the early 80s, when the Jets moved to the Meadowlands from Shea Stadium. Our seats were in section 133; Fireman Ed was in the section next to us. As a kid, I remember marveling at how he could single-handedly get a crowd of 80,000 people, chanting “J-E-T-S” in unison. No easy feat, especially when the majority of the time, the game and team on the field were miserable. He was intense as they come; often borderline scary. And he seemed to carry that intensity into every conversation he would have with other Jets fans. And I suspect that’s why he became the divisive figure he has been in recent years. Ask any Jets season ticket holder what they think of Fireman Ed, and you are likely to get a very strong response – there’s no middle ground with him.
In his “farewell note” to Jets fans, he cited the increasing number of aggressive confrontations he was having with Jets fans: “On Thanksgiving night, I left the Jets game before halftime… I decided to leave Thursday because the confrontations with other Jets fans have become more common, even though most Jets fans are fantastic. This is an indication of how society has lost and is continuing to lose respect for one another…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.”
I can’t say I have a ton of sympathy for him. No one forced him into this role. No one forced him to appear in NFL or Pizza Hut or Budweiser commercials, or on the field with the Jets, etc. And no one forced him to adopt the intense, intimidating persona that he took on. Fame has its downside.
So this marks just another chapter in the bizarre and surreal and sad history that is the New York Jets. I hear they are taking auditions for someone to take over from Fireman Ed. I was thinking of volunteering, but for some reason, “Salesguy Bry” doesn’t seem to have the same ring…
(and no it’s not lost on me that I’ve just added to the same sorry media focus on this story that I just criticized)