Putting Out the Fire
As usual, one of the more interesting stories of the day involves the New York Jets. This time, though, the story is not about the struggling product on the field. The story seems to be the effects produced by said product upon the fans off the field. Iconic NFL fan "Fireman Ed" has announced his retirement.
The supposed end of an era brings up a few issues that I find interesting.
The first and most obvious issue is how the modern environment tears down anything that is fun. The apparent reason for the personality to be buried is because other Jets fans like to try to bring down Fireman Ed and start trouble with him. Now, I think that being the face of a team and acceptance of the role brings easy criticism, but I also think that the element of a bold, crude, loud minority that breeds on places like Twitter every day is seeping into public areas. Of course, the alcohol does not help, either. Ed Anzalone is actually a retired firefighter. "Fireman Ed" is not actually employed by the Jets, but I bet they will miss him a bit. Rex Ryan says he will.
Will the NFL miss him, too? Fireman Ed was a perfect match for some of the PR that the NFL likes to portray. He was a longtime fan who also was a regular guy. He was the perfect anti-thesis of the idea that the NFL is becoming too corporate on and off the field. Will we see more pictures of "Big Dawg" Thompson within the next few weeks? Or will we learn the name of the Raiders fan with spiked shoulder pads?
Finally, Mr. Anzalone says that he will still go to games, but not as Fireman Ed. Unfortunately, I do not share the hope that he does that the verbal attacks will stop when he stops wearing his Mark Sanchez jersey or when he stops bringing his Jets fire helmet to the game. People don't forget that easily. People in real life would not be fooled when Superman removes his cape and puts on glasses. I once met Muggsy Bogues. He introduced himself as Tyrone. My first reaction was "Why didn't he say Muggsy?" Thankfully, the reaction stayed inward. Owners of personas do not get to say when they stop. The people do. The problem with being recognizable is that it makes you recognizable. Sean Connery has played William Forrester, Captain Marko Ramius and King Arthur. The public knows him as James Bond. Ed Anzalone is still "Fireman Ed."
Another famous New Yorker once said that he didn't start the fire. It will be hard for Ed Anzalone to put this one out because he did help start this one. It is a role he accepted the responsibilities for.