The Jets have had many faces over the years, Joe Namath, Bill Parcells, Curtis Martin, and more recently, Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. But when you think of Jets fans, there is only one face, and that is the face of Fireman Ed, Ed Anzalone, leading the stadium in the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS chant every home game. Fireman Ed was gracious enough to sit down with the Jet Press for an exclusive sit down;
Jet Press: Fireman Ed, thanks so much for doing this.
Fireman Ed: No problem.
JP: Fireman Ed, let’s start by giving our young readers a little bit of background on you. Where are you from originally? How long have you been a fireman?…etc.
FE: I grew up in College Point, Queens, which was close to Shea Stadium (where the Jets played through 1983 for our young readers). I was a fireman in New York City for over 20 years, Engine 69 Ladder 28, the nickname for the house was the “Harlem Hilton”. I have been retired for 3, almost 4 years now.
JP: Now I read that you were a Dolphin fan until age 10….true?
FE: My father was always a baseball fan, he wasn’t a football fan. When you are a kid, if your old man is not a fan, you go for the best team. I liked the Dolphins, the Cowboys and the Steelers as well, all the teams that were winning at the time. My brother Frank, who is 7 years older than I am, got season tickets to the Jets in 1975, and he took me to my first game. The excitement of my first live game…..I was hooked, even though they haven’t won anything since.
JP: Why the Bruce Harper(running back in the 1970s and 1980s) jersey all these years? How come you haven’t switched to a more current player?
FE: Me and my 2 buddies took the train to Cosby’s in New York City in 1979, and Cosby’s at that time was the only place to get an authentic jersey. Now I always wore #42, I loved Paul Warfield, he played for the Dolphins and the Browns. Bruce Harper was the first guy to wear #42 back then, and I have always worn the jersey since. I might consider a Mark Sanchez jersey, I wore the Titans Sanchez jersey once, I am considering a green Sanchez jersey. His old man is a fireman, and after talking to him and getting to know him, ….man he is a tough guy. But I will never give up my Harper jersey.
JP: Now in the past you have been hoisted up for the chant by your brother Frank, is he OK? How is he doing?
FE: Frank is fine, he just got older and moved out to Utah. He is still following the Jets, but hasn’t been coming out in five years now.
JP: Now let’s move on to the chant. How did it start? I remember in the 1980s that the fans would do the chant, one side against the other…was that you as well?
FE: We actually taped a special on that for SNY. People always come up to me and tell me I started, I didn’t start it alone. Larry Mack, a fireman from the Bronx, would sit up in the upper tier at Shea Stadium, he would wear a colored wig, and J-E-T-S on his behind. He would moon the other team during the chant. When we moved to the Meadowlands in 1984, Dom Velenza, from the neighborhood, would wear a one bar helmet and sit up in section 301. A cop named Donny Schaffer would sit in section 319 would lead the cheer back and forth. My brother and I would get annoyed about how dead it was near our seats in the lower tier. So we would lead the cheer, with about 5,000-10,000 people at that time. In 1991-1992, up in Buffalo, a buddy of mine painted his helmet green, and I asked him to let me wear it to the next game, so that’s where the helmet got started. Donny got sock, stopped coming to the games, Dom stopped showing up after he got married, so I was left to lead it. It really took off during the Parcells era, and now it has a mind of its own. Thanks to the fans for listening, I don’t take it for granted.
JP: How does it feel getting the fans doing the cheer in unison with you?
FE: It’s a thrill….I don’t do it for me, I do it for the home field. You we are the only franchise that has their own chant, the Eagles starting doing their chant recently…they are copycats. The fans are excited about it, it’s always a thrill. I think the players and coaches love it too, you know when the stadium gets quiet, they know it’s coming…they love it.
JP: I was at last year’s pep rally before the New England playoff game, and if I remember you had your son and nephew on the stage with you? How does the family react to what you do?
FE: My son is not into football as much, he comes and goes. He’s 14. I leave that to him, I don’t push him. I would love for him to take the chant over, but I don’t think that is going to happen. He’s his own man.
JP: What is your greatest memory as a Jets fan?
FE: Greatest game, most exciting game, had to be the playoff game up in New England last year. I really thought that the way we beat them, we were winning a world championship. You can’t duplicate the feeling from that night, the only way to make it better would be winning a world championship. The way the fans came down to me after the game that night, …the players going nuts….., it was sick, unbelievable. They had to escort me out of the place. Security told me that there was a bounty on my helmet, they had to bring me on the field and take me out throughout he players’ entrance.
The greatest home game? There were two, the 1998 playoff game against the Jaguars, and the the playoff game against Indianapolis when we won 41-0.
JP: Now I read you were inducted into the Hall of Fame….
FE: That was in 1998. Visa had a contest for number one fans, I didn’t know about it. Visa actually called me and asked me why I didn’t enter. When I told them that I wasn’t aware of it, they said “enter, you will win”. And I did. They flew me and my brother out to Canton, had an induction ceremony and everything. It was the weekend of the championship game in Denver, so they flew me out the next day. If you go there you will see my plaque on the wall in the hall of fans. It was a great honor, I was humbled by it.
JP: Now to the team, how do you we look this year? What moves do you like, not like?….etc.
FE: I would like to have kept Braylon(Edwards), but I knew was not feasible. I am really not upset about losing anyone. I think we got younger, obviously not the two receivers, but people don’t realize that we got younger in other spots. We are not an old team. Everyone said we had to get younger on the defensive line and we did, Taylor and Ellis were old, they are gone, and we drafted the two kids. We finally got rid of Vernon Gholston, Jamaal Westermann will finally get a shot. We have been holding him back, because of Gholston. I think the team is loaded.
I love the DB’s, love that Pool and Strickland came back. We are not weak.
What we need more than anything else is for Calvin Pace to step it up. He was the pass rusher, that we paid a lot fo money to. We don’t need another guy, he needs to dominate.
I was very surprised about Jerricho Cotchery. I always thought he was a team guy. Then, we find out that he was going to Tannenbaum that he wanted to be one of the top wide receivers, wanted more money, stuff like that. Now he signed with Pittsburgh and he is going to be like the 5th wide receiver on their depth chart. He actually took a step back my going over there, I don’t get it.
For the first time in my time as a fan, we have the four major things in place. Number one, we have an owner committed to winning. Woody Johnson is that owner. I didn’t feel that way early on, and I fought with him through the early years. Since then he has really come into his own, and he genuinely wants to win. Woody told me right to my face, “Ed, I promise you we are going to win a championship, but I won’t be happy because I want to win multiple championships.” That’s all you want to hear as a fan.
Second, we have a GM like Mike Tannenbaum. Third, a coach like Rex, and finally a QB like Sanchez.
JP: Is this the year we can make Rex’s prediction finally come true:
FE: I would like to think so. I think the fans need to step it up. If we get home field…they are not coming in hear and winning. People have been waiting too long to see this team win. I am praying that ticket holders don’t give their tickets away. I am going to bring everything I’ve got this year, I hope the fans do the same. I hope we don’t have a lull like we did last year on Halloween for the Green Bay game. Nobody showed up for that one. If we can go 8-0 at home, we can go 5-3 on the road, and 13 wins should be enough to get home field. I just think the people are ready…..it’s time.
JP: Any final words for Jets fans before the 2011 campaign?
FE: I’d like to think we will raise the Lombardi trophy. I am excited for the new year. We have to stay healthy, we have to win the division. We have to dethrone New England. When we win the division this year, we will win the Super Bowl. Put it in the bank. We don’t win the division, no Super Bowl.
JP: Thanks again for talking to me Fireman Ed.