New York Jets superfan Fireman Ed, who for decades has fueled home crowds with his famous "J-E-T-S!" cheer, has decided to "R-E-T-I-R-E!"
Ed Anzalone, who created a stir Thanksgiving night when he left MetLife Stadium at halftime of the Jets' 49-19 loss to the New England Patriots and deleted his Twitter account, announced Sunday night that he no longer will attend home games as Fireman Ed.
The hits just keep coming for the 4-7 Jets, who became a national laughingstock with a mistake-filled performance on national TV.
Anzalone, in a guest column for Metro New York, explains that the Jets' poor season isn't the reason why he has decided to hang up his fireman's helmet. He writes he left the game because "confrontations with other Jets fans have become more common, even though most Jets fans are fantastic."
He says he also left early during the previous home game, a 30-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Anzalone cites his loyalty to embattled starting quarterback Mark Sanchez as the cause of the confrontations.
"The stadium has become divided because of the quarterback controversy," he claims. "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."
Fireman Ed always used to wear No. 42 (Bruce Harper's old jersey), but he switched to Sanchez in a show of support. During the 2010 season, Anzalone, who rarely attends road games, flew to Pittsburgh and sat near the Jets' bench because he wanted to be there for the then-slumping Sanchez.
Like Sanchez's father, Anzalone is a retired firefighter. He didn't return messages seeking comment.
"For people to be harassing him at the game, I don't know. He's not in the locker room with us. He's not on the payroll. He's a regular fan like everybody else is. I don't know why they'd harass him. That's crazy," linebacker Bryan Thomas, the longest-tenured Jets player, said Monday.
Fireman Ed, 53, has been a Jets fan since 1975. He popularized the cheer that's known around the NFL: "J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!" For the 2012 season opener, he was invited by the team to participate in the pregame ceremony, leading the cheer from midfield.
He was a staple at Jets home games, leading his cheer from his seat at MetLife Stadium. He always appeared on the JumboTron and often received face time on the game telecast. In September 2009, he received a game ball from coach Rex Ryan after the Jets upset the Patriots at home.
Anzalone was well-known throughout the league. He once said he was walking through a stadium parking lot when Patriots owner Robert Kraft drove up in a limo, rolled down the window and complimented him for being a positive influence on the league.
Fireman Ed said he will continue to root for the Jets and attend games, just not in his usual garb.
"I have enjoyed my time in chanting the greatest chant in all of sports," he says. "I have enjoyed meeting all the wonderful Jets fans around the world and look forward to the day we all can raise the Lombardi Trophy as one and celebrate a world championship down the Canyon of Heroes."
Ryan on Monday said he was "disappointed" that Anzalone will no longer appear as Fireman Ed at Jets games.
"I like Fireman Ed. If he could play linebacker, I'd use him," Ryan said.
"I love that guy's passion and energy he would bring. He's a great fan. I really admire him. He was great. If we do our job on the field, that 'Jet' chant will continue," Ryan said.